SINGAPORE: A sustainable future for the world can be achieved by deepening international partnerships, enabling all segments of society and developing next-generation talent.
This is according to Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was speaking at the FutureChina Global Forum on Friday (Jun 7) held as part of the Ecosperity Week 2019.
“The world is facing major challenges in sustainable development,” said Mr Heng, who is also Singapore’s Finance Minister.
“If not properly handled, these challenges could potentially unravel the progress that the world has made over the past few decades.”
In particular, taking action against climate change and pursuing economic development are the areas in which more needs to be done.
He offered three ways in which the world can work towards a more sustainable future.
First, there needs to be deeper international collaborations and partnerships.
“Cooperation among countries and cities will help us to strengthen connectivity and achieve longer-term environmental, economic and infrastructural sustainability,” said Mr Heng.
He highlighted how China – the country with the world’s biggest population and whose development will have a significant impact on the global environment – has put in “serious efforts” towards achieving sustainable development.
One of which is the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA).
“Besides aiming to become a global innovation hub, the GBA also seeks to become a quality place to work and live through initiatives such as the adoption of an innovative, green and low-carbon development model. The Chinese government will also place greater priority to resource conservation and environmental protection,” he said.
This presents new opportunities for businesses. Singapore, which established a new agency Infrastructure Asia last year, can also collaborate with the GBA in the area of new infrastructure development.
“Infrastructure projects are long term and highly capital intensive,” said Mr Heng. “We have to plan and structure these projects properly, to ensure resource efficiency, economic viability and social impact over their long lifespan.”
There must also be close partnerships between countries. One of which is the Paris Agreement, which commits countries around the world to take concrete action to combat climate change.
“When we strengthen international collaborations and partnerships, we can better tackle sustainable development challenges,” he said.
Second, all segments of society – the government, businesses, and individuals – will need to be enabled.
“Governments alone cannot drive sustainable development,” he said.
Mr Heng pointed to how Singapore has introduced measures to catalyse the private sector to pursue new green growth opportunities.
These include the earmarking of S$900 million under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Urban Solutions and Sustainability Plan.
“We hope to partner leaders in these fields from around the world,” he said.
“We welcome companies to participate in this R&D (research and development) effort, tap on Singapore’s R&D networks and capabilities, to create new knowledge and solutions in areas such as food resilience, water, energy and land management.”
Singapore has also implemented a carbon tax this year, aimed at sending “an economy-wide price signal to incentivise the reduction of carbon emissions in an economically efficient way”. The tax revenue will be set aside for “worthy projects", said Mr Heng.
For instance, to encourage businesses to further improve their energy efficiency, the Government has enhanced industry energy efficient grants with increased co-funding support.
Individuals also have a part to play, said Mr Heng, adding how Singapore has designated 2019 as the “Year Towards Zero Waste”.
“We are adopting a circular economy approach, to keep our resources in use for as long as possible, with an aim to become a Zero Waste Nation.”
Lastly, the development of next-generation talent and leaders will be key.
Addressing the business leaders present at the forum, Mr Heng said: "We have to balance between meeting short-term and longer term needs. Building the leadership pipeline is core to this endeavour.
"Critically, we will have to continue to inculcate in our young leaders a sense of shared responsibility towards sustainable development."
He noted that there is already a growing awareness within the younger generation that sustainability is critical.
“With youth comes energy, innovation and optimism,” he said. “This will lay the groundwork for positive contributions by our young leaders to meet new challenges and contribute to sustainable development.”