Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean, Committee of Supply 2023
Bolder Climate Action for a Greener and More Sustainable Future
Thank you, Mr Chairman. I speak as Chairman of our Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change (IMCCC), and the IMCCC works very closely with the various Ministries, and the Ministries, in turn, work very closely with the sectors they are responsible for. In particular, we work very closely with Minister Grace Fu, and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment. Today I will give a broad overview, and each of the Ministries will elaborate in detail on the plans that they have specifically.
Taking stock of international developments
Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is urgent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report1 warns that after 2030, it will become increasingly difficult to limit warming to 2°C, and we will face heightened and more complex climate risks. At COP26 in Glasgow, countries pledged to act. But recent conditions have made it more difficult to stay the course. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, exactly a year ago, disrupted energy and food supplies, causing energy and food prices to increase in many countries.
Need for bolder climate action
Despite these external challenges, Singapore decisively stepped up our efforts against climate change last year. In Budget 2022, we announced Singapore’s intention to raise our climate ambition. In October, after several months of public consultation, we formally revised our climate targets. We will reduce our emissions to around 60 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2030 after peaking our emissions earlier. We also committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
Ms Poh Li San asked about the considerations for raising our ambition. After all, we also are affected by external events. And Singapore, as a small, alternative energy disadvantaged city state, faces natural limitations on our climate action measures.
Mr Chairman, first, climate change is an existential threat for us here in Singapore. As a low-lying island, we are vulnerable to rising sea levels. Being densely built-up, we are prone to trapping heat in our urban environment. Climate change poses risks to our biodiversity, food and water security, and public health.
To mitigate climate change effects on Singapore, we must engage other countries to reduce their emissions worldwide. We must do our best and do our part, so that we can shape international norms to bring us closer to our collective goals.
Finally, putting our climate ambition into action positions Singapore as a choice location for businesses and investors interested in participating in the regional green economy. This puts us in good stead to capture new economic opportunities in the climate transition.
Ms Poh Li San, Dr Lim Wee Kiak and Mr Louis Ng asked how we will meet our climate targets. The Government, through the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, strikes a balance between ambition and practicality of action. And it will take a whole-of-nation effort. The Green Plan sets out how the government, businesses and the community can work together towards a greener future.
The public sector will set the example by aiming to achieve net zero emissions around 2045, five years ahead of our national target of 2050. This year, we will enhance our public procurement strategy and start making regular progress reports on public sector sustainability initiatives. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment will provide further details to this House.
We will also continue to forge international collaborations on climate action. Professor Koh asked about the significance of COP27 and COP28. Let me share two positive examples of how Singapore contributed and made a difference. At both COP26 and COP27, Minister Grace Fu co-facilitated negotiations on Article 6. The Article 6 rulebook enables cross-border cooperation through carbon markets, for countries to jointly fulfil their national climate targets, making it more efficient and easier for countries to reduce their emissions, and on a global level. The inaugural Singapore Pavilion at COP27 showcased our homegrown companies, NGOs, youths and academics – including Professor Koh – to the international community. For instance, Sembcorp Industries launched its carbon management platform, GoNetZero. One of GoNetZero’s partnerships, with OCBC Bank, encourages clean energy adoption and decarbonisation, starting with Singaporean companies and scaling up to the region. Overall, COP27 advanced workstreams to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement. We will press on at COP28.
Mr Chairman, government action is necessary but not sufficient to achieve a low-carbon future. Businesses need to act as well. And we will partner them in their sustainability journeys.
The industry sector contributes over 60% of our overall carbon emissions. So to reach net zero by 2050, we must decarbonise at every level – the economy, each sector and individual firms – so that our businesses are ready to thrive in the green economy.
Our carbon tax shapes economy-wide behaviour. The Government has specified carbon tax levels up to 2027, and a range of $50 to $80 per tonne of CO2 by 2030. All of us must now factor in the cost of emitting carbon. And now that the carbon tax levels are known, companies can also plan with greater predictability. This will make greener modes of production, investment and living more desirable. The carbon tax collected will continue to support businesses and households. We will invest in green technologies and infrastructure, extend energy efficiency grants to businesses, and cushion our lower- and middle-income households from the impact of the carbon tax on electricity prices with U-Save rebates. The Government will enable the energy transition by securing greener sources of energy. Our National Hydrogen Strategy lays out the roadmap for the use of hydrogen which, with technological advancements, could potentially supply up to half of our power needs by 2050. In the meantime, we continue to see how we can import green electrons.
Mr Louis Ng asked about support for industry. Aside from economy-wide moves such as carbon tax and decarbonising our grid, we will also help sectors reorient towards greener production, and develop competitive advantages in growth sectors. As a financial hub, Singapore has a head start in green financing services. Our industry sectoral roadmaps consolidate common challenges, allowing scale-up of promising initiatives, and guide companies in positioning themselves to capture opportunities. The Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Trade and Industry will update this House on the sustainability plans for the transport and tourism sectors respectively.
Every business, including SMEs, must be financially and environmentally sustainable in order to thrive in the long run, by decarbonising their value chains and accelerating their green transition. The Ministry of Trade and Industry will report on how we are helping SMEs to level up in areas such as sustainability reporting and carbon accounting. Small companies can drive sustainability efforts across their supply chains. One example is DTC World, a local SME specialising in corporate gifts. It champions sustainable procurement and promotes sustainable consumption, and it has received multiple corporate sustainability awards. So SMEs also can do their part.
Finally, Mr Gan Thiam Poh and Dr Lim Wee Kiak asked how the Government ensures opportunities and good jobs for Singaporeans will be there amid the green transition. Many Singaporeans are passionate about sustainability – not many more than Mr Louis Ng. We will support you in channelling your passion towards making an impact. For Singaporeans who may not yet have internalised climate change, understanding the implications of climate change on the environment and our society is the first step. The Ministry of Education will elaborate on how we will nurture our young to become eco-stewards and live sustainably, with a focus on food sustainability in 2023. We will also support Singaporeans to acquire green skills, and improve their access to green job opportunities. The Ministry of Trade and Industry will describe how we will do so with industry players and training partners.
Mr Chairman, Sir. Global climate action is urgent. All countries, including Singapore, must honour our shared responsibility for our planet earth. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change takes a whole-of-nation view to make sure our efforts are comprehensive and coordinated. Businesses, communities and individuals have a key part to play.
The climate transition will be challenging, but it will be a rewarding journey, with opportunities for us to innovate and reimagine a greener and more sustainable future.
So let us work towards a better and greener Singapore. Thank you, Mr Chairman.
1 IPCC WGIII (2022), Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. IPCC WGII (2022), Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.