Ladies and Gentlemen
A very good morning to everyone. It is my pleasure to be invited again to the “Unlocking Capital for Sustainability” forum which I launched a year ago. I am heartened to see thought leaders from financial institutions and corporates gathered here to discuss how economies and businesses can invest and grow sustainably amidst one of the greatest challenges of our age – climate change.
Urgency in Tackling Climate Change
2 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their special report on the impacts of global warming a few months ago, and the findings were alarming. The earth has already warmed by one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and is likely to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius between 2030 and 2052, if we do not take further action today. In Singapore, we are feeling the effects too. According to the latest report released by the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS), 2018 was the joint eighth warmest year on record for Singapore, despite an extended cool spell in January. More worryingly, the last decade from 2009 to 2018 was Singapore’s warmest decade, a sign of a long term warming trend.
3 As a low-lying nation state highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, Singapore welcomes the successful conclusion of the Katowice Climate Package at the United Nations Climate Conference in Poland last December. The Katowice Climate Package prescribes a robust set of guidelines for the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement, and shows that Governments around the world recognise the need for urgent climate action. I am glad that Singapore played a key role in advancing the complex negotiations in formulating these rules. The hard-won success of COP-24 demonstrates the strong support for a multilateral approach in addressing climate change.
4 Singapore will continue to do our part. Last year, we had a successful Year of Climate Action. More than 340,000 pledges were received from organisations, including financial institutions, demonstrating our shared commitment to climate action. Our carbon tax just came into force on 1st January 2019. The carbon tax will send an important price signal to incentivise emission reductions in the most economically efficient way. To build on this momentum, we have designated 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste.
Shift in Investment Sentiment
5 However, the Government cannot fight climate change alone. The success of economies and businesses will depend on how well they manage the transition to a low carbon economy. The finance sector plays an important role in unlocking and directing capital flows towards economic activities with environmental benefits. It is encouraging to see growing numbers of investors who want to “do well” and “do good” at the same time. A Standard Chartered Private Bank survey found that 64% of Singapore investors were highly motivated to do good while earning a profit.
Growing Opportunities and Support in the Region
6 As you are aware, the green market is growing rapidly. According to a report by DBS and UN Environment on Green Finance Opportunities in ASEAN, an estimated US$200 billion of green investment is needed annually from 2016 to 2030 in this region alone.
7 In Singapore, green bond issuance continues to grow. To date, over $2 billion of green bonds have been issued in Singapore by both local and foreign issuers. Most recently, Singapore-based Sindicatum Renewable Energy had issued green bonds that aim to support its renewable projects in the Philippines, where they intend to build a portfolio of solar and wind assets that can generate 250 megawatts. This is Sindicatum’s second green bond issuance in Singapore.
8 Singapore takes a practical approach of adopting international standards and market-led best practices to support the financial institutions operating here. We also provide support to institutions to adopt these standards.
9 One example is the Green Bond Grant scheme introduced by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in 2017. This scheme helps to cover the cost of certifying sustainability-oriented bonds as green bonds. I am happy to learn that MAS will be expanding the scheme to now include all social and sustainable bonds as qualifying types of bonds.
10 To strengthen financial institutions’ awareness of green bond issuance and build capacity for decision makers and banks, MAS has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group.
Enhance Integration of ESG Principles
11 Moving forward, I encourage financial institutions to continue contributing to the design and development of new environmental, social and governance, or ESG-related products that the global economy will need, as it moves towards greater sustainability. In the insurance asset class, MAS will be working with insurers to anchor deep ESG research to spur the development of innovative ESG products such as insurance cover for energy efficient infrastructure and renewables.
12 There has also been progress in sustainability reporting. The Singapore Exchange (SGX) introduced a sustainability reporting requirement for companies, beginning from the financial year ending on or after 31 December 2017. The inaugural sustainability reports by first-time reporting companies are progressively being published. Almost all listed companies with year-end in December have done so. This is an encouraging sign. Building on these efforts, the SGX will look for ways to help companies better connect sustainability to their business strategies.
Adopt Green Practices
13 With today’s advanced technology, adopting green practices that could catalyse further demand for sustainability has become even easier. Digital technology, such as block-chain, has enabled the linking of like-minded organisations with a sustainable cause. For example, in the world’s first blockchain-powered renewable energy certificate (REC) marketplace launched by the SP Group, buyers can easily purchase renewable energy from sellers by trading virtual certificates. Such platforms not only allow businesses to grow and broaden their revenue stream, but also accelerate Singapore’s transition to a low-carbon economy.
Closer Collaboration with Partners
14 Finally, I hope financial institutions will continue to work with like-minded stakeholders on innovative climate solutions. Partnerships and collective action are essential to achieving sustainable development.I am happy that WWF’s Asia Sustainable Finance Initiative (ASFI) was launched yesterday. This multi-stakeholder platform, bringing together academia, industry and science-based resources, will facilitate cross- sectoral sharing to develop, promote and coordinate sustainable finance initiatives in Singapore and the region. With increased global recognition of the key role that the financial sector plays in driving sustainability, my Ministry, together with MAS, welcome the formation of ASFI to help advance the sustainability agenda in Singapore and the region.
15 Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon, but one that is near and present. It is a long-term issue that will require the commitment of governments, investors, businesses and consumers. I am confident that we can transform the challenges into opportunities as we navigate our journey towards a more sustainable future.
16 With this, I wish all of you a fruitful conference. Thank you.