SINGAPORE: Singapore and New Zealand will work together on climate change and the green economy, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (Apr 19).
For a start, the countries will cooperate on areas like energy transition technology, carbon markets, sustainable transport and waste management.
"Climate change is the existential challenge of our time. Singapore and New Zealand share similar perspectives on it," Mr Lee said.
"We need stronger cooperation amongst countries to protect the most vulnerable peoples and places on our planet."
Mr Lee was speaking at a joint press conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is in Singapore for a three-day visit in what is her first official trip abroad since the pandemic began in early 2020.
The countries will also deepen cooperation in the areas of sustainable aviation and business alliances, and establish a new reciprocal working holiday scheme.
This builds on the Singapore-New Zealand Enhanced Partnership that was borne out of Ms Ardern’s first visit to Singapore in 2019.
The enhanced partnership improved cooperation in four areas – trade and economics, security and defence, science and technology, and people-to-people links.
Mr Lee said the partnership’s initiatives have made “good progress”, including an upgraded bilateral free trade agreement that came into force in January 2020.
This time, the countries are adding to the partnership a new pillar on climate change and green economy.
“The new pillar reflects our shared commitment to implement the Paris Agreement and work together to seize growth opportunities in the green economy,” Mr Lee said.
“At the same time, we see opportunities for practical collaboration as we adopt low-carbon and green technologies."
Initiatives under the new pillar, Mr Lee said, will include knowledge-sharing dialogues on waste management and technology, jointly organised capacity-building workshops for ASEAN member states to strengthen the region's capabilities in carbon pricing and carbon markets.
Ms Ardern said the countries will conduct joint research projects on low-carbon technology, ongoing cooperation on hydrogen standards, and information exchanges on low-emission vehicles as well as low-carbon shipping.
It makes "perfect sense" for the two countries to work together on low-emission shipping options, Ms Ardern said, pointing out that New Zealand is a major food producer and that 20 per cent of the country's exports go through Singapore.
This includes looking at how hydrogen and other fuel alternatives can be integrated, she said.
"We look forward to the shared insights gained from these initiatives," she added.
"As I said before, we cannot collectively simply return to a high-carbon emissions business-as-usual approach. Globally we have entered what must be an age of action, and that includes the private sector as well."
Also as part of this new pillar, Singapore and New Zealand will on Wednesday sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on sustainable aviation, with a focus on sustainable aviation fuel and hydrogen.
Mr Lee said this will include feasibility and pilot trials for the deployment of low- and zero-emission fuel solutions.
"The context for this is that aviation is one of the major sources of carbon emissions. New Zealand is at the end of the world and Singapore is not so close to Europe either," he said, highlighting that carbon emissions from long flights are a "significant consideration".
"If we are going to go for low-carbon world, this is something which countries should be focused on, and we don't have a good solution to it," he added.
"It will put us, Singapore, and to some extent New Zealand also at a disadvantage. And therefore we have an interest in working together."
The countries will also work together on developing a sustainable aviation ecosystem and share information in the areas of policy and regulation, industry development, future infrastructure planning and provision, and workforce transformation.
WORKING HOLIDAY SCHEME
Mr Lee also announced that the two countries have agreed to launch a new reciprocal working holiday scheme that will allow young Singaporeans and New Zealanders to live and work in each other's countries for up to a year.
The scheme builds on an existing working holiday scheme in place since 1999, which allows tertiary students aged 18 to 25 to spend up to six months in either country.
Under the new scheme, working holiday visas available to Singaporeans will rise to 300 from 200, the maximum age raised to 30, and the visa length extended to six months, New Zealand media reported on Monday, citing comments by Ms Ardern.
Applicants will also no longer need to be university students but must have undertaken tertiary study in the previous two years.
New Zealand will reopen its borders to Singapore on May 1, and Ms Ardern said on Tuesday that the country looks forward to welcoming "our Singaporean friends back".
"Prime Minister, of course you will be very welcome to visit New Zealand," she told Mr Lee.
Beyond climate change and people links, Singapore and New Zealand will also sign on Wednesday an enhanced partnership for growth arrangement, an extension of the same arrangement signed in 2019.
The enhanced partnership aims to expand existing strategic business alliances between Singapore and New Zealand companies and encourage them to work more closely together in areas of common interests.
These include in emerging technologies like agri-food tech, transport and mobility as well as sustainability tech.
Under the enhanced partnership, Enterprise Singapore and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise will explore joint initiatives to help companies in the two countries expand operations abroad, build market knowledge, exchange expertise and develop business networks.
“The geopolitical uncertainties, supply-chain vulnerabilities and rising protectionism make it all the more important for countries to work together to find a path forward and identify win-win opportunities,” Mr Lee said.
“In this endeavour, Singapore and New Zealand are natural partners.”
During his toast speech at the official lunch after the press conference, Mr Lee also revealed that Ms Ardern will visit Gardens By the Bay later in the evening to unveil a Kuwaha Maori carving.
Kuwaha represents a symbolic doorway celebrating cultures, beliefs and identities, Mr Lee explained.
“I thank you for this wonderful addition to the Gardens, which vividly symbolises the special connection between Singapore and New Zealand,” he added.