Parliament Q&A

Oral Reply by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, to Parliamentary Question on Singapore's Role in Climate Action, on 4 Feb 2020

Mr Seah Kian Peng: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources given Singapore's small land size, what catalyst role can we play on the local, regional and international fronts to tackle climate change.

Oral Reply by Minister Masagos Zulkifli:

1. To effectively address a global problem like climate change and its impacts, we need a strong global response. This is why Singapore is a strong advocate for a multilateral, rules-based approach to addressing climate change. We work with other like-minded countries at the United Nations (UN) to push for the best possible multilateral deal on climate change. We are privileged to have played an instrumental facilitator role in these talks, which culminated with the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015, and the agreements on the Katowice Climate Package in 2018 and the Chile Madrid Time for Action in 2019. While not perfect, these agreements will help to establish a virtuous cycle of climate actions by all countries. The challenge is to maintain this momentum of global climate action at a time when the multilateral system is under strain. Singapore will continue our active and constructive engagement in the negotiations. We will work with other countries, including the incoming UK COP-26 Presidency, to strengthen the multilateral framework of cooperation on climate change and push for a good outcome at the next Climate Conference in Glasgow.

2.       Regionally, we have taken an active role to galvanise climate action. As Chair of ASEAN in 2018, we convened the first-ever Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action (SAMCA) and Expanded-SAMCA, where ASEAN and China, Japan and the ROK reaffirmed our political commitments and discussed ways to step up regional climate action. We have collaborated with partners to improve our understanding of climate change and its impact, through research and institutions like the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre, which is based in Singapore. Through our Climate Action Package, we have partnered and supported fellow developing countries to implement their Paris commitments and enhance climate action. In October 2019, we co-organised with New Zealand a workshop on the Paris rulebook to help countries in the region better understand their obligations under the Paris Agreement and to identify concrete actions and strategies that can be pursued. Just last month, we co-organised with the NDC Partnership and the UNFCCC Secretariat another workshop to discuss how ASEAN countries can update their climate pledges. We hope that this workshop will facilitate the submission of updated climate pledges from ASEAN countries this year. Looking ahead, we will work with Vietnam as ASEAN Chair this year to sustain the momentum of climate action in the region.

3.       We are also taking strong action at home. Notwithstanding our constraints in deploying renewable energy at scale, we are committed to playing our full part to tackle climate change, and transform our economy towards a low-carbon future. Singapore implemented an economy-wide carbon tax last year – the first in Southeast Asia to do so – as a key plank of our mitigation strategy. The revenue will be used to support emission reduction projects and help businesses become more resource and energy efficient. We will also push the bounds of innovation such as deploying floating solar photovoltaic systems on our reservoirs and offshore to make up for our shortage of land area to deploy them. Such innovations have given us confidence to raise our level of ambition to double our solar deployment target from 1 Gigawatt peak (GWp) beyond 2020 to at least 2 GWp by 2030. We are also greening our physical and transport infrastructure. We are aiming for 80 per cent of buildings in Singapore to be green by 2030 and for 90 per cent of peak hour commuting trips to be via public transport, active mobility or shared transport by 2040. Our Zero Waste Masterplan will transform Singapore to a Circular Economy, where materials are retained and reused in the value chain for as long as possible. This will help to reduce our carbon footprint and complement our efforts to address climate change.

4.       The Government can only do so much on our own. We are therefore heartened that Singaporeans, especially our youth, understand the importance of the issue, and are prepared to take climate-friendly actions in a whole-of-nation effort to address climate change. In 2018, we had a successful Year of Climate Action rallying community groups, grassroots organisations, corporations, schools and non-governmental organisations to take action for a sustainable future. Collectively, we held more than 800 climate action-related events across the People, Private, and Public (3P) sectors — equivalent to two events a day. More than 342,000 individuals, organisations and educational institutions have pledged to take climate action. In 2019, we sustained the momentum with an inaugural Climate Action Week which featured ground-up activities organised by our 3P partners. This year, we continue to encourage Singaporeans to work with us to co-create and co-deliver solutions to game-change climate change.

5.       Climate change is an existential challenge for Singapore. To ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy a vibrant and liveable city, we will continue to put sustainability at the centre of everything we do, and work with 3P partners and Singaporeans to combat climate change and transition towards a climate resilient and low-carbon future. We recognise that by our actions alone we cannot stop climate change. But we hope that through our actions, we can play our small part to catalyse change and contribute to international and regional efforts to galvanise climate action.

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