Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Joint Food Resilience Event at the COP27 Singapore Pavilion
1 Good evening. A warm welcome to everyone here at the Singapore Pavilion. This year, Singapore businesses, community partners and the Government have come together to showcase some of the innovative sustainability solutions that can contribute to climate action in Singapore, our region, and beyond.
2 The COP27 Presidency’s theme for today is “Adaptation and Agriculture”, which shines a spotlight on food security. We thank the Egyptian COP Presidency for highlighting this important issue. We are delighted to be partnering you this evening to explore the initiatives that support food security and resilience.
3 The world is facing unprecedented global food security challenges. The ongoing disruptions in global food supply chains have affected the food resilience of many countries.
4 Climate change will exacerbate food security concerns in the years ahead. The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report estimates that over 30% of global crop and livestock areas could become climatically unsuitable by 2100, in the worst-case scenario.
Climate Science Research
5 The Southeast Asian region is one such agricultural region that will be affected by climate change. Changes in temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide can affect crop yields. Climate change will also increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. For example, by the end of the century, rice yields of some countries in Southeast Asia may potentially decline by about 50%, assuming no adaptation or technical improvement. This would have knock-on impact on food security in the region and around the world.
6 To understand such regional impacts better, we set up the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, or CCRS in 2013. The CCRS brings global climate models down to localised models of greater resolution for temperature, rainfall, and wind changes. These models allow better assessment of climate change on regional crop and aquaculture yields, inform our understanding of food resilience, and guide us in developing adaptation solutions.
7 We will progressively share these data through platforms such as the Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment for the Southeast Asia Region, or CORDEX-Southeast Asia, and the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation, so that countries in the region can share information and equip themselves better in understanding the effects of climate change.
8 Countries need better understanding of climate impacts to pivot towards resilient and sustainable food production. As a small island with less than 1 per cent of our land available for food production, our companies in the agri-food ecosystem must grow more with less. We have laid our “30 by 30” goal, to build the capability and capacity to grow 30% of our nutritional needs by 2030. It is an ambitious goal that require innovation.
9 While we are in the nascent stage of developing our agri-tech industry, I am happy to share that we are seeing some promising innovations. For example, our Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory (TLL) created “Temasek Rice”, a new variety which can withstand extreme climate conditions such as flood, drought, and resist pests. We are also developing solutions such as indoor vertical vegetable farming that use 90% less water and recirculating aquaculture systems for sea-based fish production, that use less energy and upcycles fish waste into valuable products.
10 We are investing in research for new technologies. In 2019, we started the Singapore Food Story R&D Programme focusing on sustainable urban food production, future foods, and food safety science and innovation. Last month, we announced that we will invest another tranche, in areas such as improving the nutritional qualities of crop and fish varieties, and developing future foods with better nutrition, taste, and texture. This brings our commitment under the Programme to S$300 million.
11 Novel food is another area that has much potential to supplement food security. Novel food production utilises less land and has a smaller carbon footprint compared to conventional animal proteins. To enable innovations while regulating the safety of such foods, the Singapore Food Agency has in place the novel food regulatory framework to facilitate companies producing novel food products to conduct safety assessments of their products for review before they are permitted for sale. Two years ago, Singapore became the first regulatory authority to allow cultured meat to be sold. Just recently, we approved for sale food products containing Solein, a microbial protein.
12 Cultured meat products will take time to scale-up and commercialise. For today, we have prepared some plant-based alternative proteins from Singapore for food tasting and sampling. I invite everyone to stay for the reception to have a taste and discover for yourselves that it is as delicious, if not more delicious, than the conventional sources of proteins we are used to.
13 To conclude, climate change continues to threaten the access to food for many globally. Our food production system needs to change to be more climate resilient. It is an issue that warrants our attention, and I look forward to the sharing of ideas and partnerships that will help us support food security and resilience, for our countries, our regions and beyond. Thank you.