Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean at the Ministerial Conference on “Sustaining Peace Amidst the Climate Crisis” organised by the German Federal Foreign Office and US State Department
Global Action for a More Sustainable World
Her Excellency Annalena Baerbock, Foreign Minister of Germany
Fellow Panel Members
Ladies and Gentlemen
Greetings from Singapore. I am pleased to speak at today’s opening panel.
Climate change is a real and existential threat. The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report assessed that the impacts of climate change will affect us more severely than previously thought. We are already seeing some of these effects – stronger and longer heat waves, unprecedented droughts and floods, sea-level rise and storm surges – affecting communities all over the world. To keep our 1.5-degree goal within reach, the world needs decisive and deep emissions reductions across all sectors.
Climate Change and Asia
The IPCC report predicts particularly serious consequences for Southeast Asia, one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change. Sea levels in Southeast Asia are rising faster than elsewhere, and shorelines are retreating in coastal areas where some 450 million people live. Rising waters are projected to cost Asia’s major cities billions in damage this decade. 19 of the 25 cities most exposed to a one-metre sea-level rise are in Asia.
Two of the world’s biggest countries, China and India, are located in Asia. They aspire for rapid development to improve the lives of their people. If they followed the same emissions trajectory as today’s developed countries, this would add enormously to the carbon already emitted and in the atmosphere. What these two countries do is crucial. Both have made net zero pledges – 2060 for China and 2070 for India – and plan to invest in technology for this transition. For example, China intends to install over 1,200 GW of wind and solar power by 2030. In 2021 alone, China added nearly 17GW of offshore wind capacity (more than what the rest of the world has built in 5 years combined); and added 55 GW of solar power, taking its total to over 305GW or about 30% of total global installed solar power. We should encourage both countries in their efforts.
Global Momentum and Inflection Point at Glasgow
In the past year, international resolve to take urgent and decisive action to reduce emissions has grown. There was good momentum at COP-26 in Glasgow. More countries made net zero commitments, including 15 countries in Asia.
To keep the 1.5-degree goal alive, as part of the Glasgow Climate Pact, all Parties agreed to aim to achieve global net zero emissions by mid-century. The Paris Rulebook was also finalised. Singapore was happy to contribute to the finalisation of Article 6 on international carbon markets at the request of the UK COP Presidency. Singapore’s Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu co-facilitated the ministerial consultations on Article 6 with Minister Espen Barth Eide from Norway.
Singapore along with our fellow members of the Alliance of Small Island States keenly feel the threat of climate change. Singapore contributes around 0.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but will suffer the full impact of global emissions, including from the other 99.9%, and more seriously than larger countries. This is why Singapore is committed to doing all we can to contribute to global climate action.
There have been positive international developments this past year. Carbon markets will help countries who need to, access global mitigation opportunities through high quality international carbon credits. The net zero pledges from countries and corporates will spur greater investment in low-carbon solutions, making them technologically and economically viable earlier. The IPCC report states that the unit costs of low-emission technologies have fallen continuously, and there are cost-effective options that can at least halve global emissions by 2030. These developments mean that more countries are in a better position to firm up and improve their climate ambitions.
Two years ago, Singapore launched our Green Plan, a whole-of-nation movement to integrate and implement our plans for sustainable development across our environmental, economic, energy, transport and built environment sectors, and to nurture the next generation to be stewards in environmental sustainability. These plans, coupled with the important international developments over the past year, have made Singapore more confident about the mitigation options available to us, in spite of our alternative energy limitations. In February this year, Singapore announced that we will raise our ambition to achieve net zero emissions by or around mid-century which is in line with the Glasgow Climate Pact.
Importance of Technology
Today’s conference is a timely reminder of the importance of innovation, technology and data science in developing solutions for our climate crisis. We need solutions for both Adaptation, to deal with the consequences of more extreme weather such as flooding or droughts, and Mitigation, to support a new model of urbanisation and the sustainable transition of industries which play a major role in economic growth.
Singapore has been making efforts on both fronts. On Adaptation, Singapore developed a Coastal-Inland Flood Model to help us assess flood risks more holistically. This helps us pace infrastructure and improvement works in a more targeted fashion. Singapore is also deploying an island-wide network of climate sensors to better understand urban heat island effect. Our R&D centres, such as the Earth Observatory of Singapore (or EOS), also contribute to regional efforts. They translate scientific research into policy application by aggregating weather, marine and seismic data, and downscaling global climate models, to provide more granular assessments of regional effects. The EOS also conducts critical research on earthquakes, eruptions, and tsunamis in and around Southeast Asia. We are also home to the World Meteorological Organisation’s office for Asia and South-West Pacific, which helps to improve regional coordination, build capacity and strengthen meteorological services.
On Mitigation, Singapore’s commitment towards a green environment started in the 1960s, before words like “sustainability” and “climate change” became common-place. We have only our small island – smaller than Berlin, with 1.5 times Berlin’s population. We have to take good care of what we have as we have nowhere else to go. For example, we did not accept that urban traffic jams were inevitable. We were early adopters of innovative urban transport solutions. We controlled congestion by introducing a cordon road pricing system forty years ago. Our next generation Electronic Road Pricing system, which is satellite-based, will more accurately and dynamically price road and car usage. Since 2018, Singapore has implemented a zero-growth policy for our vehicle population. We will also fully electrify our vehicle fleet by 2040. But the more fundamental system solution for urban transport is to minimise the need for cars, through well-integrated urban planning and a comprehensive public transport system. We aim to be a 45-minute city in 2040 – 9 out of 10 trips between homes and workplaces will take less than 45 minutes on our public transport network, even during peak periods. Today, we are already two-thirds there.
As a major aviation and maritime hub, Singapore is actively using technology to decarbonise these emission streams. We will have the world’s largest sustainable aviation fuel production capacity when Neste’s one million tonne facility is completed early next year. The decarbonisation blueprint for our maritime sector includes a US$216 million investment to help our port terminals become net zero by 2050, and support multi-fuel bunkering to supply low and zero-carbon marine fuels such as biofuels, ammonia and hydrogen.
When Singapore was a young nation, we benefitted greatly from knowledge transfer and learning from the best practices of more developed countries. This is why we strongly believe in learning and sharing. More than 137,000 officials from over 180 countries have participated in our technical assistance programmes, covering topics such as climate adaptation and mitigation, disaster risk management, and green finance. Singapore looks forward to collaborating with Germany and other like-minded countries to jointly develop more capacity-building programmes.
Deploying sustainable solutions at scale will require substantial financing and investments from both the public and private sectors. I am glad that the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, a coalition of 450 financial firms representing 40% of global banking assets, pledged to make over US$120 trillion of private capital available for investment to reach global net zero by 2050. Sustainable private financing and corporate net-zero targets have a powerful mutually reinforcing effect. They draw capital preferentially towards sustainable projects and new opportunities in the global green economy, while making it more difficult and expensive for companies to obtain financing if their projects are not green.
Governments can also play a role through regulations and policies. For example, we need to ensure that the negative externalities of carbon emissions are correctly priced and borne by the parties contributing to those emissions. A carbon tax is an effective mechanism to do so, and spur economy-wide decarbonisation efforts. Singapore was the first South East Asian country to introduce a carbon tax, and we recently raised our broad-based carbon tax to reach between US$36 to US$58/tonne by 2030. We welcome like-minded investors, who value a predictable and forward looking green business environment, to partner us and locate and grow their green businesses in Singapore.
Climate change has brought home the lesson of the interconnected nature of our world. What each of us does affects all of us. We can work together and create shared growth and a better world, but we also bear the burden of each other’s decisions. What is happening in Ukraine is very tragic. It will also have a huge impact on how we can collectively address climate change. The deep global divisions will make it more difficult to solve the global climate crisis. We need to bridge the divides to secure the future of our planet and the collective well-being of all who live in it.
Global solidarity and effective cooperation will be key to achieving an outcome that is far greater than the sum of our parts. Singapore looks forward to working with Germany and countries across the world, to chart a pathway together toward a greener, better future for us all.
Let me also take this opportunity to wish all workers Happy May Day, and Eid Mubarak to all our Muslim friends. Thank you.