SINGAPORE: While Singapore must do its best to address climate change, the country ultimately depends on a global collective effort to tackle the issue, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Thursday (Mar 4).
Singapore contributes around 0.1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.
However, the totality of global emissions - including the other 99.9 per cent - also affects Singapore, and “often more seriously than it affects larger countries”, said Mr Teo, adding that climate change poses an “asymmetrical challenge” for a small country like Singapore.
As such, Singapore is working with international players to combat the issue.
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Mr Teo is chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, which was established in 2007 to coordinate a whole-of-nation response.
“Singapore has been working hard to strengthen consensus and galvanise climate action regionally and globally,” said Mr Teo in his Committee of Supply speech in Parliament.
“This has been especially critical at a time when the multilateral system is under strain from protectionism and unilateral action, further exacerbated by the challenges of COVID- 19,” he added.
Singapore has often facilitated discussions on the work and implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as it is a “knowledgeable, fair and honest broker”, said Mr Teo.
The country’s officials have also been working on issues such as carbon market rules, more stringent reporting of national emissions, climate action and multilateral discussions on reducing international transportation emissions.
"TRADE-OFFS ARE REAL"
In his speech, Mr Teo also touched on Singapore’s pursuit of decarbonisation despite its constraints, particularly its limited alternative energy sources, land and manpower.
"Singapore is both a city and a country. Within our small land space, we need to accommodate not just housing, parks and commercial centres, but also power plants, reservoirs, air- and sea- ports, and industries."
"The trade-offs are real, and often the choices are difficult,” he said.
Unlike larger countries, Singapore does not have plots of land for solar farms, he said.
To overcome this problem, Singapore is harnessing as much solar energy as it can by putting solar panels on public housing blocks, and aims to deploy at least 2 gigawatt-peak of solar power in Singapore by 2030. This is about the energy equivalent to about 350,000 households’ consumption levels for a year.
The country has also used its reservoirs to house solar farms, he said, referencing Tengeh Reservoir, which began construction last year. The reservoir is supposed to generate enough solar power to meet the demands of five local water treatment plants.
As for its water and food security concerns, Singapore has invested in desalination plants and agri-food technology, Mr Teo said.
He pointed to the fourth desalination plant at Marina East that started operating last year and the new Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund. He also spoke of policymakers’ engagement with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and institutes of higher learning to develop efficient approaches for water and food production.
"These will help us break out of our constraints to secure our food, through careful long-term planning and innovations in policy and technology, and keep costs affordable while minimising carbon emissions,” he said.
Mr Teo added that Singapore has to continue balancing economic development and environmental conservation.
While it is among the top 20 countries in the world today in terms of emissions intensity – or emissions per GDP dollar - it will find new ways to grow the economy while taking into account carbon constraints.
For one, steps are being taken to establish Singapore as a centre for carbon credits trading and services, for sustainability consultancy, and to play a role in green finance for sustainable development in Asia, Mr Teo said.
These will in turn create high-quality jobs, he added.