Keynote Speech by Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the 4th EU-Singapore Dialogue on 5 November 2020
Her Excellency Barbara Plinkert, EU Ambassador to Singapore,
Mr Mauro Petriccione, Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action,
1 A very good morning to all. This session’s theme on “Accelerating Climate Action Post-COVID-19” is timely and salient.
2 COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our lives and livelihoods. It has given us a foretaste of the socioeconomic and financial shocks that we can expect if we do not decisively tackle the climate crisis. It has also sensitised us to how vulnerable we are to the forces of nature and underscored the importance of collective action to overcome global challenges.
3 The EU is taking decisive actions to facilitate a green recovery from COVID-19 with the adoption of the Next Generation EU Plan. Singapore has also set ambitious plans to facilitate the transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon, and climate-resilient future. Like the EU, Singapore believes that a green recovery from COVID-19 – one that addresses economic and climate objectives at the same time – will allow us to not only build back, but build back better. To succeed in our efforts, we need to: (i) plan long-term to support the low-carbon transition and seize green growth opportunities; (ii) build greater sustainability and resilience into our systems; (iii) invest in low-emissions solutions, leveraging green finance; (iv) and forge stronger collaborations and partnerships. Let me elaborate.
PLANNING LONG-TERM TO SUPPORT THE LOW-CARBON TRANSITION AND SEIZE GREEN GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES
4 COVID-19 has accelerated pre-existing trends, including rising protectionism, rising inequalities, and global warming. The onus is now on us to continue to look beyond the immediate COVID-19 crisis and prepare for these long-term challenges, notably climate change. This has always been Singapore’s approach to development – to look and plan long-term.
5 This was why we pressed ahead to submit our enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution and Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in March 2020, notwithstanding the challenges of COVID-19. Our LEDS now serves as a lodestar to guide our transition to a low-carbon future amid the other competing priorities we face; and also support a green recovery by unlocking new economic opportunities and jobs in emerging areas such as clean energy, sustainability services, and climate science. More importantly, it sends a powerful signal to other stakeholders, notably the private sector and investors, to act. For instance, Temasek and Singtel have set a net-zero emissions goal by 2050. If we all develop and implement long-term decarbonisation plans, it will facilitate the shifts needed for the transition to a more sustainable post-COVID future. Crucially, it will strengthen the momentum on global climate action by showing that we are all committed to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
6 The Singapore government will support companies in their efforts to make this transition. Our Economic Development Board’s (EDB) Resource Efficiency Grant for Energy, along with enhancement of the National Environment Agency’s (NEA) Energy Efficiency Fund, will help our industries improve their energy efficiency and reduce their emissions. Companies should use this period of lowered activities to consider implementing energy efficiency improvement projects so that they can be more cost-competitive and emerge stronger from this crisis.
7 We will also position ourselves to seize business opportunities in the green economy and support companies to develop new capabilities, products, and services. We aim to anchor new investments and activities in sustainability in Singapore, notably in the clean energy sector. For example, with world-class R&D centres such as the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore and Energy Research Institute at NTU, Singapore has attracted many European companies such as REC and ENGIE to develop clean energy capabilities here. Not many may know, but one of the largest biofuel plants, run by Neste, operates in Singapore. We are pleased that All Nippon Airways (ANA) recently signed a preliminary agreement to start buying sustainable aviation fuel from the Singapore refinery run by Neste. We will continue to welcome global companies which are keen to use Singapore as a base for innovation and collaboration to develop and commercialise sustainable solutions for Asia.
BUILDING GREATER SUSTAINABILITY AND RESILIENCE INTO OUR SYSTEMS
8 COVID-19 has also underscored the importance of building greater sustainability and resilience into our systems.
9 Take food security for example. Singapore imports more than 90 per cent of our food, which makes us vulnerable to external shocks and supply disruptions. Even before COVID-19, Singapore had made early moves to boost our local food production to buffer ourselves against such disruptions. In 2019, we set a “30 by 30” goal to meet 30 per cent of our nutritional needs locally by 2030. Given Singapore’s land constraints, this requires us to push the boundaries of innovation towards productive, climate-resilient, and resource-efficient food solutions. To support the transformation of the agri-food industry, we have made available funding schemes such as the $63 million Agriculture Productivity Fund and awarded over $39 million under the “30 by 30 Express” grant call. In the coming years, we will masterplan our agriculture region and allocate more resources to grow our local food production capabilities in a sustainable manner.
10 To enhance our resource resilience in an increasingly resource-constrained world, we will continue to pursue Circular Economy approaches and work towards our vision of a Zero Waste Nation. We are pushing boundaries in the Circular Economy by transforming waste treatment residue into construction materials (or what we call “NEWSand”) and discarded plastics into higher-value products like pyrolysis oil (or what we call “NEWOil”), which can be used to manufacture plastics and chemicals. Closing our resource loops locally and turning “trash into treasure” will reduce our vulnerability to global supply shocks and extend the lifespan of our landfill. The Circular Economy also presents exciting opportunities to develop new products, services, and business models that could in turn create new job opportunities.
INVESTING IN LOW-EMISSIONS SOLUTIONS AND LEVERAGING GREEN FINANCE
11 Just as the international community is investing resources to find a vaccine for COVID-19, so too must we continue to invest in low-emissions solutions for the transition to a low-carbon future.
12 Singapore is pushing the envelope on solar deployment. We earlier announced our aim to increase solar deployment by about five times from 0.4 gigawatts peak today to at least 2 gigawatts peak in 2030. Just last week, we announced that government agencies will frontload our target to achieve 1.5 gigawatts peak by 2025. To resolve the issue of intermittency and overcome our space constraints, the Singapore government awarded a research grant to pilot Singapore’s first floating Energy Storage System (ESS) last week, which if successful, can be rolled out at scale and facilitate further solar deployment.
13 Singapore is investing and pursuing partnerships with industry players and leaders in emerging technologies, such as Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) and low-carbon hydrogen, to drive the decarbonisation of our electricity grid and industrial processes. Our National Research Foundation (NRF) has set aside $49 million to fund low-carbon energy research and test-bedding efforts in hydrogen and CCUS. We hope these research programmes will help to pioneer promising technologies that can become commercially viable and open new decarbonisation pathways and opportunities in environmental sustainability in the post-COVID era.
14 We are also leveraging green finance as a critical enabler of green growth. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has developed a Green Finance Action Plan to support a more sustainable Singapore and facilitate Asia’s transition to a sustainable future. Singapore is also actively contributing to global efforts on sustainable finance. MAS is one of the founding members of the Network for Greening the Financial System, which aims to enhance the ability of the financial system to manage the risks of climate change and mobilise capital for green and low-carbon investments. More recently, in June 2020, Singapore joined the EU-initiated International Platform on Sustainable Finance to contribute to efforts to scale up sustainable finance globally and promote the integration of markets for green finance products on an international scale.
GALVANISING PARTNERSHIPS AND GROUND-UP ACTIONS
15 As with our recovery from COVID-19, galvanising a whole-of-nation effort will be a key determinant of our success against climate change. We will continue to foster deeper partnerships with stakeholders and citizens to rally them to co-create and co-deliver solutions to address climate change. For instance, we convened a Climate Action Week in August this year, which featured a line-up of 30 ground-up initiatives organised by 27 partners from the People, Private and Public (3P) sectors. We also organised several Emerging Stronger Conversations focused on sustainability to gather ideas on how Singapore can recover and rebuild in a sustainable manner. We hope to tap on citizens’ collective strengths and resources to realise our vision of a sustainable Singapore.
POTENTIAL EU-SINGAPORE COLLABORATION
16 As Singapore continues our journey towards a low-carbon and more sustainable future, we welcome opportunities to partner European companies. In Southeast Asia, we expect to see more sustainability-related growth opportunities in areas such as infrastructure, renewable energy, carbon services, and financing. As a global-Asia node and a leading financial and business hub, Singapore can be the bridge to connect European companies to opportunities in this region.
17 The decisions we make today on our post-COVID recovery will determine if we will emerge stronger and be better placed to address the looming threat of climate change. Singapore is committed to push for a green recovery from COVID-19, one that supports a transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon, and climate-resilient future. We look forward to working with the EU to support global efforts to build a better future for all.
18 Thank you and wish all a productive dialogue ahead.