Address by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the Expanded-Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action (E-SAMCA)
“Building a Climate-Resilient and Low-Carbon ASEAN”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to join you at this Expanded-Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action or “E-SAMCA”. To our overseas guests, a very warm welcome to Singapore.
In December 2015, 150 Heads of State and Government adopted the Paris Agreement after several years of negotiations. This was quite an achievement. Just a few years before that, the prospect of such an agreement seemed distant. Some countries had very different views on how to approach such a subject. Some countries were even hesitant on the need for urgent action. But by 2015, after the efforts of many countries, the United Nations, and the private and people sectors globally, we came together to an agreement. This is a major undertaking to secure our collective future. All countries, including ASEAN Member states and our key partners, pledged to do their part and reduce greenhouse gases. The Paris Agreement has entered into force and Parties are now finalising the rulebook for implementation.
However, global mitigation efforts are still some distance away to fully address this global challenge. In recent years, people are already experiencing the impact of changing weather patterns. Extremely heavy rainfall in recent days has brought tragic consequences for our colleagues in Japan and the Japanese people. Rising sea levels, more extreme weather events and more intense rainfall and droughts would have severe consequences for all countries.
ASEAN is highly vulnerable to climate change. Some of our region’s most vibrant coastal cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Jakarta have experienced floods in recent years. And many major cities are on very low-lying river deltas. According to the Asian Development Bank , regional temperatures could increase by around 6 degrees Celsius by 2100 if no significant actions are taken to reduce greenhouse gases. ASEAN countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam could also see a 70 cm rise in sea level within the same period. Therefore, there is an urgent need for all countries to take steps to be low-carbon and more climate-resilient.
At the national level, many ASEAN Member States are already taking measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, grow the green economy and adapt to climate change. At the ASEAN level, we can share our experiences, and work with our dialogue partners to build a low-carbon future.
This is the reason why Singapore, as Chair of ASEAN, has convened the Expanded Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action, or E-SAMCA this year. This brings together ministers from the ASEAN Member States and our dialogue partners - China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. I am glad that the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (or “UNFCCC”), as well as the current and incoming Presidents of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties , Fiji and Poland, have joined us today to discuss how we can collectively meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This also sends a strong signal to the international community on our continued commitment to multilateralism and to a rules-based international framework.
I would like to make a few suggestions on how we can work together as a region to respond to the challenge of climate change, and build a climate-resilient and low-carbon ASEAN.
Towards a Climate-Resilient Region
First, we need to make our region more climate-resilient. Last year, the ASEAN Plus Three, adopted the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan. This outlines the initiatives for the ASEAN Plus Three to enhance cooperation over the next five years including in the area of climate adaptation. I thank the Ministers present today for your stewardship, and you will play key roles to ensure that this work plan is implemented faithfully and expeditiously.
As Chair of ASEAN, Singapore has chosen the theme of “Resilience and Innovation”. Our aim is to work with fellow ASEAN countries to ensure that ASEAN remains united and resilient against the backdrop of increasing climate risks. At the same time, we can take actions for our energy system to be more low-carbon, and transform our economies to be more future-ready and innovative. One of our key initiatives is the ASEAN Smart Cities Network where 26 key ASEAN cities and capitals are working on smart and sustainable urban development and we welcome our dialogue partners and international companies to partner this network and implement smart and cleantech solutions.
Singapore is also honoured to host the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO)’s Regional Office for Asia and the South-West Pacific, which will begin its first programmes in the coming months. Last year, the Secretary-General of the WMO Petteri Taalas announced that climate change will be a priority for this Regional Office. Singapore fully supports this and is committed to work with the Regional Office on programmes in meteorological and hydrological services that will enhance our region’s capability to forecast and prepare for climate change.
Towards a Low Carbon Future
Second, we need to manage the transition to a low-carbon future. Our companies and workforce can seize new green growth opportunities and implement cleantech solutions. Last week, as I had mentioned earlier to our colleagues during the informal session, I visited the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, our second government-to-government project with China. After ten years, this barren saline wasteland in the Tianjin Binhai Area has now become a low-carbon, liveable and vibrant smart city for more than 80,000 residents and 6,500 businesses, with plans on track to grow to 350,000 residents. This project has helped both countries pilot smart and cleantech solutions, and there is good potential for these solutions to be replicated and scaled across China and beyond.
ASEAN members and our regional partners are making good progress to advance the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation till 2025, which will help provide a more conducive environment for investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleantech. Under this Plan of Action, ASEAN members aim to increase the component of renewable energy in the ASEAN Energy Mix to 23 per cent by 2025 and reduce energy intensity in ASEAN by 20 per cent in 2020 over 2005 levels. The Plan of Action will guide efforts to grow our economies along a sustainable path while contributing to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.
A key strategy for ASEAN is to put a price on carbon emissions to incentivise businesses and consumers to adopt more energy-efficient practices and reduce their carbon emissions. Several ASEAN countries have reduced their energy subsidies and some countries in Asia are putting a price on carbon emissions. China’s national emissions trading system which has undergone pilot testing since 2013, is expected to be one of the largest in the world when fully implemented in the next few years. The Republic of Korea has also put a price on carbon emissions since 2015. Singapore’s carbon tax will be implemented in 2019. Tokyo has a cap-and-trade mechanism and Japan has also established the Joint Crediting Mechanism which partners seven ASEAN countries to accelerate the deployment of low carbon technologies, products, services, and infrastructure.
All these efforts demonstrate our region’s commitment to address climate change. As more countries in our region adopt a carbon price and green financing practices become more widespread, this will help the businesses invest in cleantech R&D and adopt low-carbon solutions in a more widespread way. Consumers and environmental groups can also play key roles to encourage energy-efficient habits.
We hope that the E-SAMCA will provide a useful platform for ministers to share experiences and best practices, and discuss how businesses, researchers, the finance community and consumers can support one another to make the transition to a low-carbon future. One example is air-conditioning which we enjoy today. There is much potential to reduce the energy required to run air-conditioning systems. For the Marina Bay area where we are in, we have adopted a district cooling system. This underground system has units that makes ice during off-peak hours at night, and uses the ice to cool air during the day. The energy savings are quite reasonable, in the range of 30 to 40 per cent, compared to conventional air-conditioning systems.
Singapore’s Role as ASEAN Chair
As ASEAN Chair this year, Singapore is committed to continue working together with other ASEAN countries and our dialogue partners on climate change action. We are committed to the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision for a Resilient and Innovative ASEAN which was adopted in April this year. ASEAN members have had good exchanges, and are creating more opportunities to support sustainable development, reduce energy intensity and increase the share of renewable energy in our energy mix.
ASEAN has also been active in sustainable forestry management and the reduction of forest fires in our region. Here, I would like to make a special mention to President Joko Widodo of Indonesia has shown strong leadership and made tackling land and forest fires a priority. Indonesia’s determined actions have shown success, and contributed to the global effort to address climate change by preventing carbon sinks in peatlands from being released to the air. ASEAN must continue to sustain our efforts and work towards our vision of a haze-free region.
It is also Singapore’s priority as ASEAN Chair to bring together ASEAN and our regional partners to support the UNFCCC process and our Polish host. I wish the UNFCCC meetings in Katowice later this year every success. I encourage all Parties to work towards concluding the Paris Agreement Work Programme, and ensure full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement. This will maintain the global momentum that we need for climate action.
As part of this effort, Singapore will submit a summary of our discussions as input to the 2018 Talanoa Dialogue. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Fijian and Polish Presidencies for their leadership of the Talanoa Process. We hope that the Ministerial Talanoa Dialogue will generate good suggestions and build strong political momentum on global climate action.
Ladies and gentlemen, the need for global climate action is more urgent than ever. For ASEAN and our partners, the challenge of climate change is an opportunity to innovate and to grow sustainably, build smart and efficient cities, and ensure that our region is future-ready and climate-resilient. I hope you will have fruitful discussions and safeguard the future of our region for generations to come.
Source: Prime Minister’s Office