Speech by Minister Gan Kim Yong at Minister for Trade and Industry’s inaugural Singapore Green Plan Conversation. Excerpts:
The climate imperative is getting more urgent globally. Singapore is a small city state – without natural resources, land, nor the climatic conditions for large-scale deployment of renewable energy sources. We therefore take sustainable development very seriously. For us, climate change is an existential challenge. We have already taken steps over the years to mitigate this, including investing in green technology and low-carbon alternatives. We knew that these would be important for our future.
Singapore Green Plan
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a whole-of-nation movement to advance Singapore’s national agenda on sustainable development. The plan has five pillars: (i) City in Nature; (ii) Energy Reset; (iii) Sustainable Living; (iv) Green Economy; and (v) Resilient Future. In today’s conversation, we will be focusing on two of these pillars – Energy Reset and the Green Economy. We have gathered all of you here today for this conversation so that the different stakeholders can discuss and share how all of us can work together to achieve our climate action goals.
Under the Energy Reset pillar, we aim to use cleaner energy sources across all sectors. To transform the way Singapore produces energy, we will harness the four supply switches – natural gas, solar, regional power grids and emerging low-carbon alternatives.
On solar, we have made good progress. Our installed solar capacity has grown by more than six times over the past five years. Today, Singapore is already one of the most solar-dense cities in the world. We will continue to maximise solar panel deployment, including on rooftops, reservoirs and other open spaces. For example, in July 2021, Singapore officially opened the large-scale 60 MWp floating solar panel system at Tengeh reservoir, which is about the size of 45 football fields. Our aim is to quintuple our solar energy deployment to at least 2 GWp by 2030, equivalent to powering around 350,000 households a year.
We also plan to tap on regional power grids. For example:
We are embarking on a trial with Malaysia to import up to 100 MW of electricity. This trial will allow us to build up our knowledge on larger-scale low-carbon imports from the region.
We have also started the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project, which will include cross-border power trade of up to 100 MW from using interconnections between the four countries involved.
For the Green Economy pillar, we have three key objectives:
First, transform existing sectors and help them decarbonise;
Second, grow new sectors and help our businesses seize opportunities in the green economy; and
Third, develop our workforce to take on jobs in the green economy.
Transform existing sectors and help them decarbonise
We have introduced targeted incentives to help our companies become amongst the best-in-class globally in terms of energy and carbon efficiency. For example, EDB administers the Resource Efficiency Grant for Energy, and Investment Allowance for Emissions Reduction, which supports manufacturing companies to reduce their emissions. I am glad that many companies recognise that decarbonisation is crucial to their long-term competitiveness, and have been taking active steps to reduce their carbon footprint.
The energy and chemicals sector is undergoing profound transformation because of the increased focus on sustainability. The sector is a key partner in the development of emerging low-carbon technologies, such as carbon capture, utilisation, and storage. These technologies can be pivotal in enabling decarbonisation at scale, and are crucial in helping us achieve our long-term climate ambitions. For example, Shell recently signed a S$4.6 million research agreement with NUS to jointly develop novel processes to use CO2 to electrochemically produce feedstock for cleaner fuels.
We also introduced a carbon tax in 2019, starting at $5 per tonne. The carbon tax provides a price signal to encourage companies to reduce emissions, while giving them the flexibility to take appropriate actions. An appropriate carbon tax level will incentivise companies to invest in decarbonisation technologies, and spur investments that support our transition to a green economy. The government is currently reviewing the post-2023 carbon tax regime, in consultation with the industry and key stakeholders, and will announce the outcome of the review next year.
Help our businesses seize opportunities in the green economy
The green economy also presents new growth opportunities for Singapore. For example, we see the potential for Singapore to become a carbon services hub.
As the world moves to a low-carbon future, companies will require expertise to manage their carbon footprint. We want to partner and support regional stakeholders in meeting their decarbonisation goals. Singapore is growing our ecosystem of carbon-related services such as in project development, financing, carbon trading, and low carbon advisory services.
In May this year, DBS, SGX, Standard Chartered Bank, and Temasek announced their plans to develop the Climate Impact X, which will establish a carbon exchange and marketplace for companies to access high quality carbon offsets. I am glad that the private sector has leaned forward to work together to seize new opportunities.
Low-carbon technologies will also give rise to exciting new opportunities.
For example, in June this year, Singapore and Australia launched a public-private partnership on low emissions in maritime and shipping. This builds on the 2020 memorandum of understanding between our countries on low emissions solutions. We will work together on low emissions fuels and technologies, to drive down emissions in maritime shipping and port operations.
We are also exploring collaborations with other governments to accelerate development and deployment of low-carbon solutions. I encourage companies to ride on these partnerships to identify new win-win opportunities.
Companies will also need to build capabilities to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
As part of the Research, Innovation, and Enterprise (RIE) initiative, the government will support the development and commercialisation of innovative solutions pertaining to sustainability, such as in clean and renewable energy, the circular economy, and low-carbon solutions.
ESG launched the Enterprise Sustainability Programme earlier this month, to support Singapore businesses on sustainability initiatives, and to capture new opportunities in the green economy. The programme will support training workshops, capability and product development projects, and key enablers such as certification and financing.
Green finance is also an important enabler for the green economy. As part of the Enterprise Sustainability Programme, ESG launched the Enterprise Financing Scheme-Green (EFS-Green) to provide better access to green financing for local enterprises developing enabling technologies and solutions to reduce waste, resource use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Develop our workforce
Finally, we must continue working with trade unions and our people, to equip our workers with the skills to remain relevant to the green economy.
For example, EMA has been working with the Singapore Institute of Technology to develop Singapore’s first dedicated Electrical Power Engineering undergraduate programme. The programme will equip graduates with the technical competence, skills, and knowledge needed for our new energy solutions.
MAS’s Green Finance Action Plan is another example in building knowledge and capabilities in sustainable finance, including through anchoring centres of excellence, think tanks and research networks to contribute towards Asia-focused climate research and training. The Singapore Green Finance Centre and the Sustainable and Green Finance Institute are developing courses to groom a pipeline of talent in green finance across the career spectrum.
In conclusion, the Singapore Green Plan 2030 will need to be a whole-of-society effort to succeed. We know that sustainable development will require strong commitment by all stakeholders – businesses, workers, and every one of us. Today’s conversation is an important first step to engage with each other and work with one another, as we journey towards a green economy.