Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen



            Let me first extend a warm welcome to all of us gathered here for the Climate Change Roundtable. Climate change is an issue that concerns all of us – not just us in here Singapore, but people all over the world. I am therefore heartened that so many of us can join in for the Roundtable today. This is an important event and I sincerely hope that it will serve as a good spring-board for sustained reflection and action in Singapore on this important issue. My role this afternoon is to set the stage for the discussions. Let me therefore present some of the challenges facing us.


Climate change is a global environmental challenge


2                    The United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has established scientific evidence that greenhouse gas emissions attributed to human activities have contributed to climate change.  Some of you may recall the heat-wave in Europe in 2003 that resulted in 26,000 deaths and 13.5 billion euros in damages.  Small low-lying island states like the Maldives also face the threat of rising sea-levels.  The effects of climate change are increasingly being felt globally.  It has to be so as all of us share this Earth. And to quote Minister Mentor in his address at Citibank’s "Legacies of Leadership" forum in Hong Kong on 30 March this year, it is impinging on the conscience that something fundamental is happening on our planet, which will change our lives”.


3                    Many countries, cities and companies have started to do their part. Some of them have policies on social and environmental responsibility, motivated by evidence that more needs to be done to slow down climate change. What is less well known is that many now believe that a commitment to climate change can also bring about real economic benefits.


4                    Take for example, the UK, which has shown that it can have a strong, growing economy while addressing environmental issues. Between 1990 and 2002, the UK economy grew by 36%, while greenhouse gas emissions fell by around 15%. At the city level, Berlin has reduced carbon dioxide (or CO2) emissions by 15% from 1990 to 1997, while reaping 2 million euros worth of annual energy savings. And at the corporate level, IBM has reduced CO2 emissions by 65% since 1990 on a global scale while accumulating savings to the tune of US$791million due to investments in energy-efficient facilities and equipment, as well as more energy-efficient production processes. 


Singapore and Climate Change


5          But no one entity alone can resolve the problem of climate change. There must be international recognition of the issue and action commonly agreed to and followed through.  Although Singapore contributes less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, we want to be part of the global environmental sustainability effort. Singapore had ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997, and in fact, we are now studying the timing of our accession to the Kyoto Protocol. Singapore takes such international agreements seriously and hence we are taking this approach.


6          Indeed, Singapore has always been active in supporting the global climate change effort.  We all know that actions that help to mitigate climate change will also bring about better air quality for all.  For example, the switch from fuel oil to natural gas for power generation has not only reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 12.5 million tons over the five years between 2000 and 2004, but has also helped to improve our air quality as the emissions of air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and particulate matter from power plants are also reduced.  Energy-efficiency efforts can also help us reduce our energy consumption and achieve cost savings. There could also be economic spin-offs as new business opportunities are created; for example, companies such as Daimler-Chrysler and Toyota have been investing heavily in climate friendly technology to position themselves for the future.


Singapore's Action


7          Given the nature of our export-oriented economy, there is only so much that Singapore can do about our absolute CO2 emission. But we can improve on our carbon intensity (defined as CO2 emissions per GDP dollar). To date, Singapore’s efforts have resulted in an improvement in our carbon intensity by 17% between 1990 and 2003. Last year, we announced that we are committed to further improve this to 25% better than 1990 levels by the year 2012.  Let me briefly recap some of the actions being undertaken to achieve this target.


8          On the energy-supply side, more than 60% of our electricity is now generated from natural gas, with gencos like Senoko Power and Tuas Power actively switching to Combined-Cycle Cogeneration plants.  I am pleased to learn that Senoko Power has in fact gone out to raise public awareness on the issue of climate change through its National Weather Study Project. Senoko committed $1 million to sponsor the project, which aims to expose students to climate change issues, so as to foster their concern for the environment and teach them to think globally while they are in school.


9          On the energy-demand side, various sectors have worked hard to improve their energy efficiency. In the manufacturing sector, companies like ST Microelectronics have demonstrated that environmentally-friendly profit growth is possible. ST Microelectronics has set a voluntary corporate target to reduce its global total CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 10% by the year 2010. In Singapore, one of their plants in Ang Mo Kio has enjoyed annual savings of S$280,000 from energy efficiency efforts.  Another local company, Agilent Technologies, has put in place an Energy Management Program and saved more than 25% of electricity usage for their systems after carrying out  an energy audit.


10        In the transport sector, a Green Vehicle Rebate has been introduced since 2001. The take-up rate is still low.  The government is reviewing the rebate to see how we can make it more attractive for people to take up green vehicles.  The private sector is also doing its part.  BP and Daimler Chrysler are test-bedding fuel-cell vehicles in Singapore. Honda Diracc has helped increase the visibility of hybrid cars on Singapore’s roads by bringing in 50 Honda hybrid cars to be used in car-sharing schemes.


11        On the consumer side, there are already 9 Green Corner stores at Gain City, Tai Wah, Hong Tar and Twin City in Singapore that have dedicated space to display energy-labelled appliances and to provide public information on energy efficiency and energy conservation.  Mitsubishi, Daikin and LG are among the first few companies to have participated in the Energy Efficiency Labeling Scheme to profile air-conditioner models that are highly energy efficient.   


12        All these are good examples of action taken by our partners, but we can indeed do more. Climate change is a long-term issue that cannot be dealt through quick-fix.  We must adopt a sustained holistic “portfolio” approach involving all stakeholders - not just big industrial players, but also the average consumer.


Challenges ahead


13        In line with that, we want to put in place a Climate Change Action Plan. This will be Singapore’s first climate change blueprint, mapping out our strategic direction for 2012 and beyond. In this Climate Change Action Plan, we intend to build on strong existing efforts and lay out what various stakeholders can do to help mitigate the effects of climate change.


14        We hope that the outcome of today’s Roundtable discussion will help provide the building blocks for developing this Action Plan. In doing so, the Roundtable will need to address several challenges.  First, the level of awareness and understanding of climate change is not high.  Some may have never heard of this global problem; those who do may not know what they can do to help. Second, many companies are not aware that climate change actions and bottomlines can go hand-in-hand. Many associate carbon mitigation with cost increases.  They may not see that they too can take on targets to become more energy efficient, which helps to drive down costs in the long-term. Third, many of our existing programmes on energy efficiency and clean energy are voluntary by nature. Thus there may be not much impetus for many companies to take the issue seriously and actively pursue such initiatives.


15        We need to come together to think about how to address these challenges.  For example, should we mandate energy labelling or even impose minimum efficiency standards for key household appliances? How can we grow the adoption of green vehicles and renewable energy? How can we get more of our private sector players to be leaders in these areas?  How do we enthuse the general public and get them to build environmental consciousness into their behaviour and everyday choices?


16        I hope that you will have a no-holds-barred discussion at this forum, so that we can come up with a comprehensive and yet practical climate change action plan for Singapore. With that, we can not only do our part as a global citizen, we will also achieve economic growth and greater energy sustainability in the long term. Measures that help to mitigate climate change also have an immediate tangible effect on our air quality: switching to cleaner fuels or better still renewables will reduce pollution, more green vehicles on the road will ensure that there is less particulate matter in the air that we breathe in.



17        Today’s Roundtable discussion is the first time we are bringing together many of the key stakeholders to discuss what more Singapore can do in the area of climate change.  Even if it seems there is not much we can do as individuals, organisations, and even as a small island-nation, do we must. This Roundtable is a key consultation exercise that we are doing as part of the Singapore Green Plan 2012 Three-yearly Review that we started in April this year. As we would like to invite all Singaporeans to share their views on this issue, an online consultation portal was also launched a few days ago so that everyone can contribute ideas to help to shape our Green Plan as well as our Climate Change Action Plan.


18        A change in our outlook is at the crux of reinforcing the climate change agenda in Singapore. For a sustainable environment, and a healthy planet that our children can enjoy, I strongly urge you all to see climate change not just as an inevitable condition that will befall us, but one which we can all do something concrete to prevent. Only through our concerted and determined efforts can we overcome this growing global challenge. I wish you a fruitful and enjoyable discussion this afternoon.