Opening Keynote Address by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the 8th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on 25 May 2021
"Pathways to Climate Action and Sustainability"
Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs,
1 Good afternoon to all. I am pleased to join you at the 8th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources. I thank the Singapore Institute of International Affairs for organising this annual event, notwithstanding the challenges wrought by COVID-19.
2 Although the development and rollout of vaccines have given us optimism, the world has continued grappling with COVID-19, including the challenges posed by emergence of new variants and re-opening of our borders and economies safely. Despite setbacks, we should not miss the opportunity to align efforts and fiscal stimulation for COVID-19 recovery with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Recent World Developments
3 I would like to present Singapore's perspective by first making two observations on recent developments.
4 First, the effects of the pandemic have not been limited to public health and economic growth. It has led to adverse environmental impacts, such as the increased generation of waste from the one-time use of masks, personal protective equipment, and packaging. The pandemic has surfaced structural problems like access to clean water, and aggravated income inequality and divides. The ongoing pandemic will continue to stress societies and impact our environment.
5 Second, the world continues to feel the impacts of climate change. We have seen more frequent extreme weather events such as intense storms and longer droughts. The North American winter storms in February, which brought historical low temperatures to most parts of the US, caused extensive property damage and casualties. Last week, a typhoon struck India's west coast, while tornadoes hit inland China, affecting coastal and inland communities.United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres rightly said that 2021 is the "make it or break it year".
6 It is timely that we are witnessing advances in climate action. Over the past year, there have been significant net-zero announcements by countries such as the EU, the UK, Japan, South Korea, China, and the US. Under President Biden, the US has returned to the Paris Agreement with a more ambitious pledge to cut its carbon emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030. Recent G7 meeting has also witnessed new commitment to end international financing of coal projects. Climate change is a global problem requiring global solutions.
Pathfinding New Approaches – Singapore's Efforts and Contributions
7 Amongst these developments, there are opportunities for countries to chart pathfinding approaches to address climate change and sustainability while balancing economic growth and pandemic recovery. What do I mean by "pathfinding"? In military terms, pathfinders are specialised soldiers deployed ahead to set up beacons and establish safe zones to guide the rest of the troops. These pathfinders work in unfamiliar territory and sometimes at great risk.
8 Similarly, addressing sustainability requires governments to operate in uncharted territories, identify and testbed new technologies, re-design cities for greater resilience and smaller carbon footprints, and deploy roadmaps that partner corporate and people sectors for action. These roadmaps are continuously refined as we learn by doing. We should share our knowledge, mistakes, experience, and solutions with each other so that the world can collectively advance the decade of climate action.
9 Domestically, Singapore has launched the Singapore Green Plan, which is our whole-of-nation movement to realise our net zero emissions aspirations and advance the national agenda on sustainable development. The Green Plan charts ambitious and concrete sectoral targets over the next 10 years, which will strengthen our efforts to fulfil our obligations under the Paris Agreement and towards achieving the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Plan has five elements, namely:
City in Nature, where we will create a green, liveable, and sustainable home and build up our carbon sinks by extending nature throughout our island;
Energy Reset, where we will use cleaner energy and increase our energy efficiency to lower our carbon footprint;
Sustainable Living, where reducing carbon emissions, keeping our environment clean and saving resources and energy becomes a way of life;
Green Economy, where we seek green growth to create new jobs, transform our industries, embrace circular economy approaches, and harness sustainability as a competitive advantage; and
Resilient Future, where we build up our climate resilience and enhance our food security.
10 The Green Plan is a clarion call to the public, private and people sectors to forge meaningful partnerships to path-find and co-create solutions. It is a living plan that will be continuously refined as we work with partners, gain knowledge about climate change, and incorporate new technologies to help us realise our targets.
11 One example of pathfinding green energy approaches is the implementation of solar PV in land-scarce Singapore. Our National Water Agency PUB is rolling out one of the world's largest floating solar PV farm in Tengeh Reservoir. Floating solar farms alongside solar on the rooftops will contribute towards our goal of achieving at least 2 GigaWatt peak of solar energy by 2030.
12 Regionally, we are committed to work with our ASEAN neighbours to achieve our respective sustainability and climate goals. We are providing technical assistance under the Singapore Cooperation Programme and Climate Action Package, and have partnered with New Zealand, the UNFCCC Secretariat, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Partnership, and the 2050 Pathways Platform to organise capacity-building workshops for our region on the Paris Rulebook. We also supported the incoming UK COP-26 Presidency to convene a UK-ASEAN COP-26 Climate Dialogue on NDCs and Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS) in September 2020. I am pleased to note that all ASEAN Member States have submitted or enhanced their NDCs.
13 We are also working with our neighbours on pathfinding new approaches to sustainability, such as regional energy grids to share green energy and realise a cleaner energy future. In March, the Energy Market Authority issued a Request-for-Proposal to import up to 100 megawatts of electricity from Malaysia, generated by low-carbon sources over a trial period of two years. We will also initiate cross-border energy trade of another 100 megawatts under the Lao-Thailand-Malaysia Singapore Power Integration Project to tap on the abundance of hydropower and other renewable energies that some of our neighbours have.
14 Indeed, as the conference theme - "Positioning Agribusiness and Forestry for the Future: Turning Risk into Opportunity" - suggests, the agribusiness and forestry sectors view de-carbonisation as an opportunity and to pivot toward greener, and more sustainable operations. Green financing can help accelerate the transition.
15 Last week, the Singapore Exchange, DBS, Standard Chartered Bank and Temasek Holdings, announced the Climate Impact X (CIX) that will be launched later this year. As a global carbon exchange and marketplace, the CIX will focus on carbon credits generated through nature-based solutions, and leverage satellite monitoring, AI and blockchain technologies to gather data on emission reduction and removal projects to verify the quality of carbon credits generated. This is timely as the NUS Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions estimates that preservation of tropical forests alone can generate USD$46 billion worth of carbon credits annually, and there is potential in Southeast Asia to generate large volumes of carbon credits from regional re-forestation projects and mangrove ecosystems.
16 The Monetary Authority of Singapore is also promoting green finance through initiatives to grow sustainable investments, bonds and loans; anchor green capabilities from financial institutions and providers of sustainability assessment and advisory services; and support FinTech solutions to help companies measure, mitigate and monitor their carbon footprint.
17 Another area is the eco-labelling of products such as the Enhanced Singapore Green Labelling Scheme for Pulp and Paper Products (SGLS+) which participants would be familiar with. The SGLS+ sends a strong signal that companies are committed to sustainable production principles covering peatland management, early detection and suppression of fires, and zero burning policies. Currently, 16 companies are on-board, with more than 50 products certified. I encourage them to share their experiences with other interested companies so that others also join the scheme.
18 While governments can function as pathfinders for a whole-of-nation approach, they alone cannot sustain the momentum. Governments must partner agri-business and forestry companies, financial institutions, academia, and NGOs to pool resources and co-develop solutions. Many participants today are also pathfinders in your domains in developing approaches to sustainable production, consumption, and financing. I urge everyone to continue putting sustainability and climate at the core of your actions.
19 I would also like to express Singapore's appreciation for Indonesia's long-standing efforts to prevent forest and land fires. The region has been relatively haze-free in recent years because of President Joko Widodo's strong leadership and determination, and the coordination by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry under Ibu Siti Nurbaya Bakar's guidance. The ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre has forecast drier weather conditions from June to October this year. As the pandemic continues to stretch resources and stress public health systems, the region must continue to be vigilant. Singapore is ready to work closely with relevant ASEAN Member States should hotspots activity escalate.
20 I commend Prof Tay and his team for organising the 2021 edition of SDSWR despite the challenging circumstances and for bringing together key stakeholders to work towards a more sustainable and climate-resilient future. I look forward to fruitful discussions.
21 Thank you.