Keynote Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at European Chamber of Commerce Sustainability Awards 2022 , on 29 November 2022
Her Excellency Iwona Piorko, Ambassador of the European Union to Singapore,
Mr Federico Donato, President of EuroCham,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 A very good evening to all. I thank the European Chamber of Commerce (or EuroCham) for inviting me back to join you at the EuroCham’s Sustainability Awards 2022.
2 I congratulate EuroCham for demonstrating, once again, their strong commitment in bringing environmental sustainability to the centre stage within our business community.
a. EuroCham’s “European Excellence in Sustainability” programme for the year 2022-2023 is an important showcase of how European and Singapore companies can work together to advance our shared vision of sustainable development.
Singapore and the EU are strong partners
3 Climate change is an existential challenge that no one country can solve alone. Regional and international cooperation is key. I am happy to note that Singapore and the European Union (EU) enjoy a strong partnership in addressing the topic of environmental sustainability across many platforms.
4 This year, we commemorate the third anniversary of the landmark EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), which demonstrates our shared commitment to sustainable development in trade. The EUSFTA provides a framework to advance our joint sustainability and development agenda. I am heartened to note that over the past three years, Singapore and the EU have continued to deepen our cooperation in many areas, ranging from low-carbon energy technologies, carbon services and solutions, to exploring opportunities presented by the circular economy.
5 Singapore and the EU have also worked together to enhance regional environmental cooperation through the ASEAN-EU High-Level Dialogue on Environment and Climate Change, which serves as a platform for robust policy dialogues and sharing between the EU and ASEAN member states.
6 Singapore and the EU are strong partners on the multilateral front, including at the recently concluded COP27. Singapore is pleased to join the coalition co-led by the US and the EU focusing on the reduction of fossil energy methane emissions.
7 I look forward to our continued close partnerships with the EU, as we work together to green our economies.
Singapore’s climate action remains firm amidst global uncertainty
8 2022 has been a year marked by several challenges. As countries around the world emerge with weakened economies from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also manage the supply chain disruptions arising from heightened geopolitical tensions, and related energy and food disruptions that have followed. Countries and businesses are also deeply concerned about the uncertain state of the global economy, which is experiencing the greatest increase in inflationary pressure and the tightening of monetary policy in the past four decades. In particular, the war in Ukraine has caused an energy crisis in Europe, resulting in the resumption of some coal-fired power plants.
9 In a year such as this, it may be easy to lose sight of the critical mission of climate mitigation. Yet, 2022 serves as an equally sharp reminder that climate change waits for no one. We cannot halt the disastrous effects of climate change on our environment, our food and water supplies, our energy security, even the very shelter above our heads – in short, our survival. As we have seen this year, we are already experiencing unprecedented devastating floods, severe droughts, intense heatwaves, and wildfires. Notably in Europe, climate change has reduced the supply of solar energy, from over-heating, and nuclear energy from the lack of water for cooling. Wildfires have also caused property damages in many parts of Southern Europe.
10 We therefore firmly believe that the time to act is now. This year, Singapore has strengthened our long-term goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and our updated 2030 target to reduce our emissions to 60 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, after peaking our emissions earlier.
11 This is a challenging target for Singapore. We are renewable energy constrained. Given our small size, solar or wind energy deployment is limited. Unlike European cities, we do not have a hinterland to support our energy needs. As a city and a state, we need a diversified economic structure (including port, airport, refinery, manufacturing) and to be self-sufficient in the provision of municipal services (water provision, waste treatment and recycling). Our trade-offs are therefore more serious than many other cities or countries.
12 We have declared at the recent COP27 that Singapore will leave no stones unturned in our climate action. We have put in place the Singapore Green Plan 2030 to help us achieve our climate and sustainability targets. This includes: building a low-carbon ASEAN Power Grid to facilitate cross-border clean energy imports, deploying more solar renewable energy, enhancing energy efficiency in our building and household sectors, and developing ways to leverage novel sustainability solutions such as green hydrogen.
13 To drive the change in our economy and society, we have moved decisively to raise our carbon tax progressively from S$5 per tonne currently to $25 per tonne in 2024, and to $45 in 2026, to somewhere between S$50 to S$80/tonne by 2030. This will send a strong price signal and drive decarbonisation efforts throughout our economy, while providing price certainty for companies to plan their low-carbon transition.
14 Our decarbonization pathways will require technologies that are not available yet, such as green hydrogen, carbon capture, utilization and storage. To allow companies to gain access to an alternative decarbonisation pathway for hard-to-abate emissions, we have developed a policy framework for International Carbon Credits. At the same time, carbon credits also help to channel much-needed financing support for emissions reduction or removal projects globally. This will support the creation of a vibrant carbon services ecosystem in Singapore.
15 We also aspire to be a leading centre for green finance and services to facilitate Asia’s transition to a low-carbon and sustainable future. We work alongside the private sector to deploy innovative blended finance solutions, with the aim to provide much-needed capital to fund marginally investible climate mitigation and adaptation projects.
16 Singapore also plays an active role in capacity building and knowledge sharing within the region. We will commence a three-year Sustainability Action Package (SAP) under the Singapore Cooperation Programme in 2023. The SAP supports capacity building in developing countries in sustainability and climate change. It will focus on adaptation and resilience-building strategies, green project management and financing, low-carbon development and carbon markets. We would like to work with knowledge partners from the private sectors, non-profits, and international organisations. In this regard, we welcome the EuroCham community to share your expertise and best practices.
Businesses can co-lead the way
17 There are many other ways that businesses can play a leadership role in sustainability.
18 First, to help businesses integrate sustainability into business decisions. Many local businesses, particularly the SMEs, may not have the necessary capacity nor knowledge to account for their carbon footprint and develop and implement mitigation measures. The EuroCham community can help our local businesses acquire the capability in sustainability so that they can better in turn support you in your low-carbon transition.
19 Another area is waste minimisation and resource circularity. Resources optimisation is especially needed in land and resource-constrained Singapore. We are moving towards a circular economy through encouraging sustainable production and consumption, and turning trash into treasure. We have adopted the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach where companies take responsibility for the end-of-life treatment of their products, starting with the e-waste EPR scheme which was implemented in July 2021 after taking a leaf from the systems in Europe. European companies can contribute in many other ways, such as optimising production processes to reduce waste generation, designing reusable products, and developing sustainable packaging designs.
20 Second, I encourage businesses to pursue new business opportunities in the nascent green economy. Innovative technological solutions are required to reach our sustainability goals. Within the public sector, the PUB is investing in R&D solutions that have the potential to halve the energy consumption for desalination works. We are also leveraging innovative technological solutions to grow more food with fewer resources. Just last month, we approved for sale food products containing Solein, a microbial protein. Solein is produced without the rearing of animals or the use of agriculture and has the potential to complement existing proteins. Businesses that lead the way in developing innovative sustainability solutions today will undoubtedly gain a critical competitive advantage in the low-carbon future.
21 Third, decarbonisation requires rethinking and reengineering business processes, even with adjacent industries. I call on all business leaders to leverage your influence to help your sector transit to a sustainable model as soon as possible. In this regard, I would like to applaud Eurocham’s “European Excellence in Sustainability” programme, which has facilitated several sharing sessions by European and Singapore companies on a range of sustainability-related topic areas such as “sustainable business innovation”, “the road to net zero”, and “responsible supply chain and circular economy”.
22 Like-minded businesses can pool their resources, experiences, and skillsets and collaborate on win-win sustainability initiatives that will benefit the entire industry ecosystem.
23 Businesses can also be changemakers by introducing initiatives to engage their employees and customers on adopting sustainability practices. Indeed, together with the Government, businesses can play a crucial role in accelerating Singapore’s transition to a thriving green economy.
24 Tonight’s Award’s ceremony is a strong testament that companies here in Singapore are already well on their green transition journey. These businesses recognise that the time to act is now. They possess the foresight and resolve to actively integrate sustainability into their business DNA, to invest in and develop innovative sustainability solutions; and they walk among their peers as sustainability leaders, who actively lead the way forward in the new green economy.
25 Let me conclude by congratulating all the nominees and recipients of the EuroCham Sustainability Awards 2022. I wish you a pleasant evening. Thank you.