Speech by Masagos Zulkifli, Minister of the Environment and Water Resources, at the Responsible Business Forum on Sustainable Development on 22 November 2017
SPEECH BY MASAGOS ZULKIFLI, MINISTER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES, AT THE RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS FORUM ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT ON 22 NOVEMBER 2017
H. E. Jeffrey Radebe,
Minister of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation, South Africa
H. E. Kitchai Sophastienphong,
Vice Minister of Finance, Thailand
Mr. Haoliang Xu,
Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator &
Director, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, UNDP
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good morning to all of you. To our foreign friends, a warm welcome. Singapore’s hosting of the Responsible Business Forum (RBF) on Sustainable Development for the sixth time is a strong demonstration of the region’s commitment to sustainability. Both RBF and the Singapore Government are working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure an equitable and sustainable future for all. I thank the co-organisers, Global Initiatives and the UNDP, for inviting me to highlight Singapore’s pledge towards sustainable development.
Singapore works closely with our neighbours to improve sustainability outcomes in the region, including those related to climate change, water resource management and economic growth. Collaboration between countries in the Asia-Pacific region is vital to achieve the SDGs. With RBF focusing on ‘performance and impact’ this year, I am glad that both Singapore and her neighbours have made steady progress since the SDGs were launched in 2015. For example, Singapore is coming close to meeting the health-related targets. Asia-Pacific as a whole is on track to meeting the target of zero deforestation, with Laos and Bhutan heading towards an increase in forest cover by 2030.
But there are many challenges ahead and some way to go to achieve the SGDs by 2030. While Singapore has made progress on sustainability issues, we remain vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and other threats. Around the world, changing environmental conditions, conflicts, poverty and disease continue to consume resources and test our capability to respond. We must scale up and accelerate our sustainable development efforts to overcome these challenges. Governments must work in partnership with the UN, private sector and civil society. I am glad that there are representatives from more than 40 countries at this forum. They include CEOs from multinationals, SMEs and leaders from across the UN system. This wide representation reflects the importance businesses place on sustainable development partnership across the region.
SINGAPORE’S CLIMATE ACTION PLAN
Governments have to take the lead in setting policies and norms to mitigate the effects of climate change, which are already posing serious threats globally. In recent months, we have seen the devastating effects of storms and typhoons in different parts of the world. Nearer to home, we saw devastating floods in Penang and Danang. I urge countries and companies, especially those with global operations, to start thinking about how to deal with the impact of climate change on their businesses and supply chains, and to undertake measures to adapt accordingly.
Under the Paris Agreement, Singapore has pledged to lower our emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, and to stabilise our emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030. Climate change is a shared global responsibility. All countries should see through the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Although Singapore only contributes 0.11 per cent of global emissions, we will play our part as a responsible member of the international community. We published the Climate Action Plan last year, which details our efforts. One such measure is to work with the industry to improve energy efficiency from the current level of 0.6 per cent, to 1 to 2 per cent annually. This is the annual energy efficiency improvement rates achieved in leading countries like Belgium and the Netherlands.
The future economy will be one centred on low-carbon and energy-efficient growth. Companies can no longer afford to adopt a business-as-usual approach to remain competitive internationally. Let me share what we have done.
First, Singapore will introduce a carbon tax from 2019 to create a price signal for companies to reduce emissions. The revenue collected from the carbon tax will go into supporting initiatives to improve industry energy efficiency. Instead of shying away from this transition towards a carbon-constrained world, I urge companies to start thinking of what it means for their business and to adopt measures to stay ahead of the curve.
Second, Singapore has invested heavily in clean energy. In fact, clean energy is a key focus area for urban solutions and part of our national sustainability efforts. Among the various renewable energy options, solar energy currently has the greatest potential for wider deployment in Singapore. The Government has implemented the SolarNova programme to accelerate solar growth locally and to aggregate solar demand across various agencies. With our limited land area, we will be deploying floating solar panels on reservoirs to further increase our solar capacity.
Third, research is a key aspect in the development of Singapore’s clean energy sector. Our research centres, such as the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) and the Energy Research Institute at NTU (ERI@N), are collaborating with industry to support efforts towards large-scale deployment of solar systems.
With the combined efforts in improving energy efficiency, reducing emissions and research into renewable energy, Singapore is on track to meet our commitment under the Paris Agreement.
PARTNERSHIPS AND SINGAPORE’S SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT APPROACH
These efforts towards sustainable development require the support and collaboration of all stakeholders. Partnerships are critical. The 3P or people, private and public sectors have to play their part in encouraging the adoption of sustainable practices, as well as making informed purchasing decisions. In particular, businesses play a key role in the mitigation of global warming, through decisions to invest in research, and implementing new energy technologies and energy efficiency measures.
Last week, Singtel Group became the first company in Asia, not including Japan, to have its carbon reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative. This is a collaboration between CDP, World Resources Institute, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the United Nations Global Compact. Their target is an ambitious one especially when factoring in the expected increase in energy consumption as Singtel expands its network. Singtel Group has also endorsed the new reporting recommendations made by the international Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures on climate change risk in June this year. I applaud Singtel for taking the lead in corporate responsibility and ask that more companies, big and small, undertake efforts to study and publish their carbon footprint. Being transparent is the first and crucial step to reducing carbon emissions. We also encourage companies to undertake efforts to build operational resilience in the face of climate change. These measures do not necessarily result in a trade-off with the bottom line. On the contrary, we have seen examples where such decisions help businesses stay sustainable and profitable as the world transits to a low-carbon economy.
On the global front, Singapore works closely with international partners to exchange knowledge on climate change and green growth. We are also working with other countries to help build their capacity. Under our Singapore Cooperation Programme, more than 112,000 officials from developing countries have visited Singapore to study key areas such as sustainable development, urban planning, and water management to date. Singapore further joined the NDC Partnership in June, and will also join the Ministerial Declaration of Carbon Markets. International market mechanisms will play an important role in facilitating enhanced delivery of mitigation contributions under the Paris Agreement.
In conclusion, governments, businesses and civil society must work together to achieve the SDGs, so as to realise significant and lasting climate action. I encourage all of you to take the opportunity at this Forum to think about how your initiatives can help to accelerate action on sustainable development. I hope that you will learn from each other, and explore opportunities for further collaboration. I wish you a fruitful discussion. Thank you.