Opening Remarks by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Doha Forum on 25 May 2021
"Existing in an Existential Crisis: The Asian Response To Climate Change"
Mr Bilahari Kausikan
Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 Good evening from Singapore. I would like to thank the Middle East Institute and the Doha Forum for inviting me to open today's session.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND ASIA
2 This Forum's theme on "Existing in an Existential Crisis: The Asian Response to Climate Change" is timely and salient. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing us globally, and in many ways, Asia is at the frontlines. A 2020 McKinsey report on "Climate risk and response in Asia" identified Asia as the region most exposed to physical climate risk, with its low-lying coastal cities exposed to floods and typhoons, dramatic increases in heat and humidity, and extreme precipitation in some areas but drought in others. The Report highlighted that more than two-thirds of the annual global GDP at risk from climate change comes from Asia. It has been estimated that in India, 30% of daylight hours of outdoor work may be lost by 2050 due to rising temperatures and humidity, hitting lower income groups harder as they typically work in sectors such as agriculture, mining, and construction. The agriculture sector may be further hit by declining or volatile yields. Flooding in some Asian cities is expected to become more frequent and intense, while Australia may face more frequent wildfires damaging assets. We may also lose more of our natural capital, from glacial mass in the Himalayas, to the Great Barrier Reef.
IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON SINGAPORE
3 For Singapore, climate change poses an existential challenge. It threatens our access to essential resources such as water and food and has consequences on public health and diseases. As a low-lying island city-state in the tropics, we are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. It is projected that by 2100, Singapore could experience mean sea level rise of up to one metre and more frequent and intense rainfalls. We are already experiencing such effects. For instance, just last month, on April 17th, we recorded Singapore's highest daily rainfall since 1980, more than a month's rainfall in a single afternoon.
SINGAPORE'S RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE
4 Singapore is clear-eyed about its vulnerabilities and serious about tackling climate change. Earlier this year, the Singapore Parliament passed a motion that acknowledged climate change as a "global emergency" and a "threat to mankind", and reaffirmed its commitment to "deepen and accelerate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change", in partnership with the private sector, civil society, and the people.
5 Singapore has taken strong steps to address climate change.
First, we seek to understand what climate change means for Singapore. In 2013, we set up the Centre for Climate Research Singapore to better understand tropical climate science and oversee key research programmes. One such example is our National Sea Level Programme to strengthen our understanding of sea levels changes around Singapore and develop more robust projections of sea level rise. This will ensure that our adaptation plans are based on robust science. The ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre, hosted by the Meteorological Service Singapore, has a regional capability development programme, committed to enhancing scientific capabilities in weather and climate prediction for the Southeast Asia region. The programme aims to deepen the region's understanding of climate science and aid plans for different climate change contingencies.
Second, we will do our part to mitigate climate change. We have undertaken a comprehensive suite of measures to reduce emissions across all sectors, including switching from fuel oil to cleaner natural gas for power generation since the early 2000s; ramping up the deployment of solar energy; and introducing a carbon tax – the first in Southeast Asia.
Third, we will implement adaptation measures to enhance our climate resilience. This includes protecting our coasts through a combination of master- and spatial planning, leveraging conventional engineering technologies and nature-based solutions; investing in drainage improvement works to enhance flood resilience; strengthening food security by growing local capabilities; building a robust and diversified supply of water to enhance water resilience; and leveraging technology to mitigate rising urban temperatures.
6 To effectively address climate change, we need a whole-of-nation effort. This year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, our roadmap towards sustainable development and net-zero emissions. The Green Plan is a multi-sectoral, multi-ministry, and multi-stakeholder effort, covering how we live, play, work, and commute. It is a whole-of-nation plan, involving businesses, communities, students, and households to drive action on the ground. Five pillars – City in Nature, Sustainable Living, Energy Reset, Green Economy, and Resilient Future – make up the Green Plan, with Green Government and Green Citizenry as key enablers. Simply put, our Green Plan builds on earlier sustainability efforts over the decades and challenges ourselves to do more to contribute to the global fight against climate change.The innovative solutions we are pioneering may be relevant for other cities facing similar challenges, including those in the Middle East.
NEED FOR A GLOBAL RESPONSE
7 But climate change is ultimately a global challenge that small countries such as Singapore and Qatar cannot solve alone. While Singapore is responsible for 0.1 per cent of the world's carbon emissions, we are disproportionately affected by the 99 per cent that others emit. Tackling climate change needs a global solution. Countries, no matter how big or small, must play their part and cooperate with one another. As a responsible member of the global community, Singapore is actively working with all countries to address climate change.
8 On the international front, Singapore is a staunch supporter of a multilateral, rules-based approach to global issues and we are committed to working with the international community to tackle climate change. We participate actively and constructively in international climate negotiations, including by co-facilitating ministerial discussions on various key issues. We are a strong supporter of the Paris Agreement and submitted our enhanced 2030 climate pledge and long-term strategy to the UNFCCC in March last year, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. We also collaborate with international partners such as the UNDP, UNEP, and city-networks such as the C40, to exchange experiences on climate change issues.
COOPERATION WITH GULF COUNTRIES
9 As Singapore continues our journey towards a more sustainable future, we welcome opportunities to partner with Qatar and other countries in the Middle East to collectively tackle climate change. While our circumstances differ, we face many of the same challenges, including rising sea levels, higher temperatures, and threats to our water and food security.
First, we should exchange expertise and share best practices on climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. For instance, Singapore and Qatar have invested in solar energy as part of our energy mix. Singapore is building one of the world's biggest floating solar farms and Qatar is working on the Al Kharsaah project which will be one of the world's largest solar plants. At the same time, Qatar's Electric Bus Project could offer useful lessons as Singapore moves towards greener public transport networks.
Second, as we each implement our decarbonisation plans, we can work together on clean energy solutions needed for the transition to a low-carbon future. Gulf countries have been actively investing in needle-moving clean energy solutions such as hydrogen and CCUS. Qatar commissioned a carbon storage plant in 2019, the largest of its kind in the region, which aims to capture over five million tons of CO2 per year from Qatar's LNG industry by 2025. In Singapore, clean energy research is a core part of our investment of 18 billion US dollars in the next five years to strengthen the research and innovation capabilities of our companies.
Third, green growth and resilience present prime areas for cooperation. On green growth, Gulf countries have made great strides in areas such as renewable energy, circular economy, and green cities. On our end, we aim to develop Singapore as a carbon trading and services hub, and a leading centre for green finance to facilitate Asia's transition. As a founding member of the One Planet Sovereign Wealth Fund initiative which builds climate change into financial decision-making, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) would boost green finance as it explores opportunities in Asia. On resilience, Singapore and Qatar share similar concerns including food security, particularly in the face of climate change. We would be keen to learn more about Qatar's strategies and share best practices. Singapore's economic ties and relationship with the Middle East, and particularly the Gulf region, are on the upswing. Green growth and resilience have the potential to be new pillars of cooperation to deepen our ties further.
10 Let me end by wishing you all fruitful discussions. I look forward to hearing more about your key findings and would certainly welcome new ideas on how, collectively, we can address this existential climate crisis and build a more sustainable, inclusive, and climate-resilient future for our peoples. Thank you.