Keynote Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at St. Gallen Symposium Singapore Forum, on 25 January 2022
H E Fabrice Filliez, Swiss Ambassador to Singapore
Mr Beat Ulrich, CEO, St Gallen Symposium, Switzerland
1 Thank you for inviting me to today’s Forum. In light of today’s theme of ‘Collaborative Advantage’, I would like to share with you my views on how partnerships and collaboration are important and necessary for climate action.
2 Climate change affects us all and spares no one, no community, no company, no country. In recent months, the world has witnessed record-breaking floods in Southeast Asia, prolonged droughts in South America, and raging wildfires in North America. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report published last August shows that we are on course to global warming in excess of 1.5 degree C, unless we take urgent action within these 2 decades. Indeed, climate change is a ‘wicked’ problem that tests our ability to make global impact as one human race.
3 As a small island-state with limited land, and limited manpower and alternative energy options, Singapore is especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Driving our sustainability initiatives requires a whole-of-nation effort. The theme of “Collaborative Advantage” is therefore timely and pertinent for accelerating greater climate action through innovation and partnerships.
Efforts in sustainable development
4 Singapore has always prioritised sustainable development by balancing economic objectives alongside environmental protection and social inclusion. Last year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a national sustainability movement that charts ambitious targets and tangible actions to position us to achieve our net zero goals. Allow me to share what we are doing.
a First, we are greening our energy mix, by maximising solar deployment and developing regional partnerships to facilitate energy imports. Today, solar is our only viable source of renewable energy and we are already one of the most solar-dense cities in the world. We aim to more than quadruple our solar deployment to 2 gigawatt-peak by 2030, which would meet about 4 per cent of Singapore’s current electricity demand. As local solar deployment alone is unlikely to meet our electricity needs, Singapore is also supporting the development of a regional grid that taps on different low-carbon and renewable energy sources in the region. We are embarking on several electricity import trials, including electricity from Malaysia, solar power from Indonesia, and hydropower from Laos. Our plan is to import 30 per cent of our electricity from low-carbon or renewable sources by 2035.
b Second, we are continuing to develop Singapore as a green growth hub that harnesses sustainability as an engine for jobs and growth. One key strategy is to position Singapore as a regional hub for the green economy and green finance. As an international financial centre, Singapore can catalyse the flow of capital towards sustainable development, not just in Singapore, but in Asia. Our Green Finance Action Plan, first launched by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in 2019 and updated last year, marked a significant step for Singapore and the region’s transition towards a sustainable future. Today, Singapore is ASEAN’s largest market for green bonds and loans, accounting for almost half the market[^1].
c Third, we will cease new diesel car and taxi registrations from 2025 and require all new car and taxi registrations to be of cleaner energy models from 2030. We plan to phase out Internal Combustion Engine vehicles by 2040.
d We are improving the energy efficiency of our buildings, which account for over 20 per cent of our emissions. The public sector will lead the way on this. We are targeting for our new and existing public sector buildings to achieve the Green Mark Platinum (Super Low Energy), which is Singapore’s best-in-class standard.
e Finally, to reduce waste, we are promoting “reduce, reuse and recycle” as a norm for citizens and businesses. The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme for e-waste was implemented last July and will be expanded to cover packaging waste by 2025. We have also started public and industry consultations on reducing disposable carrier bags at supermarkets.
5 These are just some of the many strategies contained in the Green Plan. Our efforts are underpinned by two key pillars — adoption of new technologies and innovation and working closely with partners and stakeholders.
a For instance, Singapore’s Tuas Nexus is the world’s first integrated waste and water treatment facility to be planned and built from the ground-up. This was made possible by close interagency coordination between the National Environment Agency (NEA) and PUB, our national water agency. They worked closely with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to study the idea of co-digesting food waste and used water sludge in Singapore. A trial of the co-digestion technology was conducted over two years. It showed that co-digestion of food waste and used water sludge can increase the biogas production by up to 40 per cent, compared to treating them separately. This allows us to achieve significant carbon and land savings while maximising energy and resource recovery. Plans are now underway to implement a full-scale co-digestion facility at Tuas Nexus.
b Another example, on solar energy in land-scarce Singapore. Last July, we commenced operations of a floating solar photovoltaic (PV) system on Tengeh Reservoir, after a five-year collaboration with NUS’s Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) and a trial involving more than 10 industry partners. This is one of the world’s largest inland floating solar PV systems. We have four other such projects underway, to help meet our Green Plan target of quadrupling solar capacity to 1.5 gigawatt-peak by 2025.
Forging international collaborations
6 Besides local partnerships, we are supporting and catalysing collaborations internationally.
7 Singapore works in various international fora to strengthen consensus among countries on climate action. Last November, at the 26th UNFCCC Conference in Glasgow, Singapore and Norway co-facilitated ministerial negotiations on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, and helped to finalise the rulebook on carbon markets. With this outstanding issue finally resolved, we hope that global parties will be able to unlock the potential of international carbon trading and advance climate action. Singapore is also supporting the World Bank and the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) on a consultation process to enhance the transparency of international carbon trading and facilitate the international acceptance of carbon credits.
8 Singapore also supports initiatives such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), ASEAN and the C40 to share experiences and knowledge on climate change and sustainable development. We provide training to fellow developing countries to build capabilities and capacities. Over 132,000 officials from more than 180 countries have participated in the Singapore Cooperation Programme, in areas such as sustainable development, urban planning, water and transport management.
9 Collaboration brings positive outcomes for the environment. As a small open economy, Singapore depends on international partnerships to make strides towards our net zero aspiration. A credible carbon markets and regional power grids are examples mentioned earlier. Just as climate change is a challenge that surpasses borders, so too must climate solutions.
Supporting corporates in their decarbonisation journey
10 Businesses play an important role in Singapore’s sustainability efforts. We will support our companies to be among the best-in-class globally in circularity, energy and carbon efficiency. For example, the Energy Efficiency National Partnership Programme (EENP) by the EDB, NEA, and Energy Market Authority (EMA) fosters a learning network for companies to share energy efficiency best practices with each other.
11 We put in place incentives to help companies make better sustainable business decisions, such as the Resource Efficiency Grant for Energy (REG(E)) administered by EDB and NEA. We introduced a carbon tax to incentivise emissions reduction across all sectors and support the transition to a low-carbon economy. Earlier this month, I shared in Parliament on the importance of the carbon tax in our climate mitigation efforts. The Carbon Tax, like a coin, has two sides — one side is to put an explicit cost on producers of CO2 for its environmental impact; and the other is to help companies to decarbonise through incentives that the carbon tax will fund. To help companies transit, they can tap incentives and grants by investing in production processes and equipment that will, for example, increase energy efficiency, or to capture carbon. The Government is reviewing the carbon tax level and the Ministry of Finance will announce the outcome at Budget 2022.
12 In the longer term, we are pursuing enablers to decarbonise at scale. We are partnering the industry and the R&D community to explore emerging low-carbon technologies such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage. Singapore can play an important role to pilot and drive advances in these solutions. For example, Shell signed a S$4.6 million research agreement with the National University of Singapore (NUS), with support from EDB and National Research Foundation (NRF), to jointly develop novel processes to convert CO2 into cleaner fuels and useful chemicals.
Co-creating with civil society
13 To build a climate-resilient society, our people have an important role in shaping our low-carbon future. They have expertise and insights in multiple domains and can exert a rallying influence on their communities, businesses and families. Every individual has the potential to be an advocate, and can catalyse a mindset and behavioural shift towards a greener Singapore. In recent years, we have ramped up initiatives to consult and co-create environmental solutions with citizens.
14 My Ministry has convened several Citizens’ Workgroups in areas such as increasing support for local produce, recycling right, and reducing excessive consumption of disposables. As a result of the recommendations put forward by these workgroups, we have piloted solutions such as transparent recycling bins and are consulting stakeholders on a disposable carrier bag charge.
15 To spur ground-up action, we support members of the community to drive their own sustainability initiatives through the $50 million SG Eco Fund. Thus far, 79 individuals and community groups have been awarded nearly $4 million in funding to implement initiatives, which include workshops on composting food waste and an urban farming living lab. As of December 2021, the Green Plan Ministries have engaged more than 25,000 stakeholders, including corporates, youths, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the community, through initiatives such as the Green Plan Conversations and the OneMillionTrees movement.
16 Through the Green Plan, we will continue to explore new private-public collaborations to advance a whole-of-nation effort towards climate action.
17 Let me conclude. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the stark reality of a global crisis and the lesson that we are all in it together. When it comes to the existential challenge of climate change, the need for collective action and collaboration is clear. We must work together, amplify each other’s strengths, and build on each other’s capabilities. I urge us all to seek opportunities for exchange, partnership, understanding, consensus-building, and cooperation, so as to achieve our shared goals of a sustainable, green future for the world.
[^1] ASEAN State of Market Report 2020 – Climate Bonds Initiative