SPEECH BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT AT THE YOUTH MODEL ASEAN CONFERENCE ON 5 OCTOBER 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good afternoon. Thank you for having me this afternoon. I hope you had a meaningful fortnight before this, learning and understanding the challenges we face as a region in combating climate change, and developing solutions to address them.
SOUTHEAST ASIA AND CLIMATE CHANGE
2 Climate change is a global existential threat, but its effects can vary across countries and segments of society. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released last year identified Southeast Asia as one of the most vulnerable regions to be affected by climate change. Our sea levels are rising faster and this is particularly distressing for the region. According to the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) State of Climate Change Report 2021, 77 per cent of the population residing in coastal areas. These communities risk being displaced and their livelihoods affected as shorelines retreat.
3 Climate change has increased the frequency of extreme weather events in the region. In 2020, 15 of the 24 climate-linked crises that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross societies responded to, took place in Asia. The Germanwatch’s Climate Risk Index (CRI) also highlighted that four of the 10 countries that were most affected by climate-related disasters from 1999 to 2018 were in our region.
3 Beyond the damage to our living environment, extreme weather events are also threatening our economy and access to resources. Southeast Asia is expected to lose 17 to 37 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050 under the worst global warming scenarios. The region is one of the most productive agricultural baskets in the world, accounting for nearly 28 per cent of the global rice crop. As rainfall patterns change, there will be ripple effects in food prices and security globally as rice crop yields are affected.
REGIONAL COLLABORATION FOR COMMON CHALLENGES
4 Despite these challenges, Southeast Asia holds much potential and plays a pivotal role in the world’s transition towards net zero emissions. In July this year, Bain & Company, Temasek and Microsoft released a report to outline the region’s advantages and opportunities in decarbonisation. First, it is home to some of the world’s most valuable natural capital sources such as terrestrial forests, blue carbon ecosystems and peatlands that could prevent carbon from being released into the atmosphere and warming the planet. Second, it is where the starting point of many supply chains, and decarbonisation efforts will have downstream impact on other companies that rely on the region for suppliers.
5 The report highlighted four key areas that Southeast Asia could focus on to catalyse its decarbonisation journey, namely, energy transition, protecting the region’s natural capital, agri-food system transformation, and better management of waste and industry emissions. These are recurring themes and common areas that countries are addressing. For instance, those of you who are familiar with the Singapore Green Plan 2030 will find these areas coinciding with our City in Nature, Energy Reset, Sustainable Living and Resilient Future pillars.
6 Tackling climate change requires the collective wisdom of all countries and collaboration is critical. While the focus areas to advance environmental sustainability are universal, the solutions available to each country differ depending on the resources and circumstances each of us have. We must thus bring together our strengths, encourage sharing of ideas, as well as learning of best practices to develop solutions that benefit our nations and the region.
7 For instance, Singapore’s land scarcity limits our access to alternative energy and nature-based solutions that are available to our neighbouring countries. To overcome our challenges, we have invested in technological solutions for water treatment, waste management and enhancing food productivity. Through the process, we have learning points that could be shared, and we are similarly keen to learn from experts in the region. Singapore is actively sharing our experience and expertise to help developing countries implement sustainable environmental and climate policies and practices through the Climate Action Package. To date, we have trained more than 137,000 officials from over 180 countries and territories in topics such as climate adaptation and mitigation, disaster risk management and green finance.
YOUTH INVOLVEMENT IN CLIMATE ACTION
8 Apart from governmental efforts in regional collaboration and policy making, it is important for us to tap on the talents and energies of our youth to address the wicked problem that climate change is. Today, there are many opportunities for youths to be involved. For example, regional workshops by the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) provide networking, mentoring, hands-on training and the tools necessary for young leaders to lead their communities in addressing economic, environmental, educational and civic engagement issues. Last year, the ASEAN Secretariat hosted a series ASEAN Youth on Climate Action (ASEANyouCAN) Initiative dialogues. At these sessions, youths have a platform to share ideas and contribute to high-level decision-making or policy formulation in implementing climate strategies for ASEAN.
9 Beyond capability development and sharing of ideas, there is much more that our youths can contribute. As the future generation inheriting this planet, you can contribute your views to shape the vision for our future. More importantly, you bring with you the creativity and innovation to develop solutions and shape this future. In Singapore, we have seen active youth participation in hackathons such as the National Youth Council’s Youth Action Challenge, EB Impact’s Sustainability Exchange, and the City Developments Limited’s Young Sustainable Development Goal Leaders Award, where participants develop solutions to advance sustainability causes in communities and businesses.
10 The Youth Model ASEAN Conference organised by the Singapore Polytechnic and your partners complements the many opportunities available for our youths by bringing the regional context to solutioning. I am heartened to see that it is now in its 11th year. I hope that the initiative will continue for many years to come, nurturing more youths in the region to be active citizens in our sustainability journey.
11 To our participants, I hope that these two weeks have been a fruitful learning experience for you, and that you will take some learning points to continue advocating for sustainability in your daily life, within your communities and as you enter the workforce. For those of you in Singapore, I encourage you to continue your sustainability journey by making a Green Nation pledge at the Forward Singapore website. You can also apply for seed funding with my Ministry’s SG Eco Fund and the National Youth Council’s Youth Changemakers to further refine and implement your solutions.
12 Let me conclude. Climate change is an existential threat to all countries and a challenge that no country can solve on its own. Addressing climate change therefore requires nations and societies to leverage each other’s strengths, cross share ideas and solutions, and learn from one another. As individuals, all of us also have an important role to play to take climate action and to rally our communities to join us on this journey. I look forward to exchanging views with you in the dialogue session on how we can do so.