Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Temasek Shophouse Conversations on Climate Action on 9 April 2021
Your Excellency Professor Jan Peter Balkenende,
Your Excellency Mr Sarwono Kusumaatmadja,
Fellow Panelist and Distinguished Participants,
2 The urgency to enhance climate action and sustainable development has grown in recent years. Environmental catastrophes have become more frequent, such as the recent floods in Indonesia, East Timor and Australia. The COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted many lives and livelihoods, increased socio-economic inequalities and increased generation of waste.
3 Fortunately, “building back better” has become a mantra. The European Union has announced plans to rebuild a post-COVID Europe that will be greener, more digital and more resilient. China has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 65 percent from 2005 levels and to work closely with partners on a green Belt and Road. In two weeks, 40 world leaders, including PM Lee, will participate in the Leaders’ Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joseph Biden. At the same time, companies and communities are taking more effort to place sustainability at the core of the COVID-19 recovery.
4 Please allow me to share three aspects of climate leadership that cut across the public, private and people sectors with regards to commitment, courage and collaboration.
5 First, commitment. Climate change and sustainable development are long-term challenges that require long-term solutions. As a multi-generational endeavour, we need to be committed to achieving our climate and environmental goals, and bring ideas and resources to bear.
6 Singapore recently launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030. The Plan sets out ambitious and concrete targets to advance Singapore’s national agenda on sustainable development and strengthens our commitments under the UN Sustainable Development Agenda and Paris Agreement. Singapore submitted its enhanced 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and our Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS) in March 2020. We made both these commitments despite the pandemic, because we recognise that more than ever, sustainability needs to be at the core of our development.
7 Businesses are also starting to demonstrate more commitment to sustainability. Temasek at the headquarters level achieved carbon neutrality last year and is pursuing plans to achieve a net zero carbon portfolio by 2050. The Monetary Authority of Singapore also has initiatives to broaden green financing, companies will gain access to sustainability-linked bonds and loans, green funds and asset managers, as well as insurance-linked securities to finance projects and strengthen climate risk resilience.
8 Beyond governments and businesses, climate action must be a whole-of-nation effort.
9 Next, is courage. Operating in a carbon and resource constrained world requires taking hard decisions. While technology and innovation can help us to mitigate the costs of climate mitigation and adaptation, trade-offs are often necessary.
10 In 2019, Singapore introduced a carbon tax. That decision was not easy due to the potential impact on our economic competitiveness, but we wanted to do this to internalise the cost of carbon, and to incentivise emissions reductions across all sectors and transit to a low-carbon economy. We have not exempted any industry from the tax to maintain a transparent, fair and consistent price signal. To further promote industry innovation and green growth, we are reviewing the trajectory and level of the carbon tax post-2023.
11 Courage will also be required to deliver substantive outcomes at the 26th COP meeting in Glasgow in November. We hope that parties will able to finalise the rules of implementing carbon markets, firm up the transparency framework formats and reporting requirements, and develop a new collective goal on climate finance.
12 Corporate leaders undoubtedly face similar challenges in pivoting their business models towards decarbonisation and sustainable production.
13 Finally, leadership in sustainability requires collaboration because we can learn from and contribute to each other.
14 Governments all over have climate change and sustainability action plans which include whole-of-nation efforts. For instance, Indonesia has recently announced Vision Indonesia 2045, which prioritises circular economy for green growth, and Malaysia has its Green Technology Master Plan 2030 which focuses on low carbon development. Brunei recently launched its National Climate Change Policy. We must deepen collaboration across communities and create new opportunities to exchange information and experiences.
15 At the regional level, ASEAN has enhanced cooperation among ourselves and Dialogue Partners because opportunities and challenges can have multiplier effects in each country and the region. ASEAN Chairmen have, in recent years, made sustainability part of their Chairmanships. Singapore has also launched a three-year Climate Action Package to support our ASEAN neighbours and other developing countries to build capacity in climate science and long-term climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.
16 But more can be done. We should deepen existing exchanges and create new opportunities to exchange information and experiences within ASEAN and with our Dialogue Partners in tackling common environmental issues. This will further shorten our learning and implementation curves. I encourage leaders to participate in platforms such as this which bring together people, ideas and partnerships to find solutions.
17 Before concluding, please let me say a few words about Pak Sarwono. Pak Sarwono’s illustrious career and many contributions have exemplified commitment, courage and collaboration. Through his friendship and close cooperation with various Singapore leaders such as SM Teo Chee Hean, Singapore and Indonesia worked to tackle challenges and embark on mutually-beneficial cooperation. In retirement, he has remained active on climate change and environmental issues as a trusted advisor to Minister Siti Nurbaya. I join Minister Desmond Lee to thank Pak Sarwono for his contributions and congratulate him on his memoir. Singapore looks forward to building on the strong bilateral foundation which Pak Sarwono has helped to lay and expand cooperation with Indonesia in areas such as circular economy, waste management and climate change.
18 Finally, I thank Temasek Foundation for organizing this event and commend Temasek for the Shophouse Conversations series.