Opening address by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Climate Week, 11 July 2018

“Driving Change in Asia Pacific through Innovation”

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Ms Patricia Espinosa
COP-23 Chief Negotiator Ambassador Luke Daunivalu
COP-24 President-Designate Mr Michal Kurtyka

Vice President, Knowledge Management, Asian Development Bank Mr Bambang Susantono

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to Singapore, where we continue our dialogue, our engagement with each other on how we can move forward and come to a good blending zone in our negotiations towards the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

The need for collective action to tackle climate change has never been more urgent. Just this week, parts of Japan saw record rainfall, the highest since 1976 when the Japanese started keeping records. Efforts are underway to evacuate more than 8 million people. Sadly, the floods and landslides have claimed more than 150 lives and we convey our condolences to the families of the victims. Even as we extend our thoughts and prayers to the Japanese people, we are concerned that such climate-related disasters will occur with increasing intensity and scale. This is just a semblance of what climate change can do to people around the world.

Millions of people around the globe are already grappling with the impacts of climate change. Countries in the Asia Pacific are particularly vulnerable, being home to two-thirds of the world’s poor. For example, Vietnamese rice farmers in the Mekong Delta are facing a threat to their livelihood as rising sea levels increase the salinity of inland rivers, destroying thousands of hectares of rice fields. A projected one metre rise in sea level by the end of the century could wipe out 40% of the Mekong Delta, which currently accounts for 50% of Vietnam’s rice production. Singapore is of course, duly concerned. Climate change will have a strong detrimental impact on food security, which we are under-estimating.

In our inter-connected world, no one can escape the impact of climate change. Weather events in one part of the world will impact economies and societies elsewhere. Recall the disruption to global supply chains in products ranging from hard disks drives to cars caused by the 2011 flood in Thailand.  Mass migration of climate refugees and conflict over climate-threatened natural resources weaken global security. The integration and interdependence in today’s globalised world magnifies the impact of climate disasters and even weather events, and extends it far beyond national boundaries.

In a speech which my Prime Minister Lee made at the Boao Forum in April, he spoke about the importance of strengthening the multilateral trading system and how countries needed to come together to keep the global system open and inclusive.  Similarly, for an issue of the scale and magnitude of climate change, the global community must come together and work together. And governments cannot go about it alone either. No Government should isolate itself from the global community. Governments, civil society organisations, businesses and individuals across all nations are on the front line and must take urgent climate action.  

The time to act is now. 2018 is a landmark year for climate action. We are due to conclude negotiations on the Paris Agreement Work Programme that will guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The year-long Talanoa Dialogue process is another key initiative to spur global climate action. The meetings in Singapore this week, including the events organised under the Asia Pacific Climate Week are all opportunities to accelerate the momentum of climate action. 

I would like to focus on two thrusts that are key to driving change in the Asia-Pacific: innovation and collaboration.

Driving Change through Innovation

First, innovation is an important enabler that will help us make the leap to a low carbon and climate-resilient future. For green innovation to flourish, governments must establish the correct policy environment. The setting of a carbon price for example, captures the external costs of greenhouse emissions and sends an important price signal to encourage emissions reduction and cleantech solutions.

Singapore will join the growing list of countries, including many in the Asia-Pacific region, which have introduced a carbon tax. We will implement an economy-wide carbon tax from 2019. We will start at a price of SGD5 per tonne of CO2-equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions for facilities that exceed 25 kilotonnes emission annually. This will cover 80% of our emitters. Our carbon tax will apply uniformly to all sectors, without exemption. This will maintain a transparent, fair, and consistent carbon price across the economy. The carbon tax complements our comprehensive mitigation measures across all sectors including industry, transport, buildings and power generation. It will help spur the development and adoption of innovative eco-friendly solutions. Indeed, the carbon tax is not intended as a fiscal measure of our Government for the first five years but will be primarily used for innovations and transformation of the industries responsible for emissions.

Innovation can help overcome natural constraints even as it points us towards a greener future. For example, while Singapore is a land-scarce city with limited alternative energy options, we have been experimenting with a floating solar panel test-bed on Tengah Reservoir to increase the amount of renewable energy in our fuel mix, which already comprises mostly natural gas – the cleanest form of fossil fuel.

Globally, the scope for green innovation is tremendous. The World Bank estimates that climate-smart investments amounting to US$23 trillion will be needed to meet the Paris commitments. That means US$23 trillion in demand for clean energy, low-emissions transport and sustainable urban solutions. 

Collaboration at All Levels

This brings me to my second point, collaboration.  As I have highlighted earlier, our response to climate change must be a global response. To realise the Paris Agreement and galvanise the investments required, all stakeholders at the national, regional and global levels must engage one another, cement partnerships, and collaborate climate action.

This is the crux of the Talanoa Dialogue, which aims to mobilise climate action through inclusive conversation. Singapore is doing our part to mobilise action and collaboration at all levels.

Nationally, we have designated 2018 as the Year of Climate Action to raise public awareness and spur climate action. To-date we have received more than 230,000 pledges from individuals, organisations and educational institutions to take action now to reduce their carbon footprint.

Regionally, Singapore, as ASEAN Chair, is working with fellow ASEAN countries to ensure that ASEAN remains resilient in addressing climate change, while growing forward-looking economies.

Yesterday, we convened the Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action (SAMCA) and the Expanded-SAMCA, bringing together ASEAN Member States and our Plus Three partners (China, Japan and Republic of Korea) to galvanise regional climate action. This sends a strong signal of our continued joint commitment to achieving targets set under the Paris Agreement. A summary of our discussion will be submitted as input to the 2018 Talanoa Dialogue. 

Internationally, we are also doing our part to support the efforts of fellow developing countries. Yesterday, I announced a Climate Action Package that will develop capacity in the ASEAN region and support climate action efforts. And since 1992, we have worked with 120,000 officials from fellow developing countries to build capacity in key areas such as sustainable development under the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP).

The meetings here this week complement the ongoing international climate change negotiations. To ensure that we achieve a meaningful outcome in Katowice, we need to first preserve the integrity of the Paris Agreement; second, provide the necessary assurances to encourage everyone to put their best foot forward; and third, push for a balanced, pragmatic and credible implementation package in Katowice. This will ensure the full and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and maintain the global momentum on climate action.  

Let me conclude. The impact of climate change respects no geographical or national boundaries. A global response is required, and the time for action is now. I wish all of you a fruitful meeting. Thank you.

Source: Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources

Last updated 11 Jul 2018


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