Climate action not a cost, but an investment opportunity: Ho Ching

Ms Ho Ching delivers her closing address at the Ecosperity Week sustainability conference on Sept 30, 2021. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Taking action to address the climate emergency is not a cost, but an opportunity to invest in the future that will pay dividends within the next two decades, said Temasek chief executive Ho Ching on Thursday (Sept 30).

Conversely, it is inaction that will exact at a heavy cost, she stressed.

In her closing address at the Ecosperity Week sustainability conference, Ms Ho said there is also the potential to create millions of new jobs as the world pivots to clean energy and other sustainable solutions.

"We have a common interest to deliver inclusive growth. An Ecosperity that delivers a liveable planet for people," she said at the event held at Marina Bay Sands.

"There are no returns from a dead planet or a divided society. As investors and businesses, we share a collective responsibility with the government and the labour movement to ensure that there is a future for our workers and our people."

The conference was organised by Temasek for policymakers, investors, non-government groups and businesses, and was held in a hybrid format with some attending in person.

Ms Ho, who is the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, steps down from her current role on Friday.

She will be succeeded by Mr Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, who will hold a dual role as CEO of both Temasek and its commercial arm Temasek International.

Temasek Trust said on Thursday that Ms Ho will be appointed to its Board of Directors on the same day, and subsequently take on the role of chairman from April 1, 2022.

On Thursday, Ms Ho said that based on current policies of governments, and the practices of businesses and people, the world is headed for an increase of 1.5 deg C by 2040.

At this rate, the average global surface temperature rise will not be capped to less than 1.5 deg C by 2050, she said.

"The glacier melts are accelerating, and the beautiful ice cap of Kilimanjaro is almost gone for good... Yet, as a global community, we continue to pump out increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into our atmosphere without regard for tomorrow."

But there are positive signs of change, as she noted that more companies these days are asking how they can do their part.

Temasek started its journey towards being a net-zero firm by estimating its carbon emissions and dollarising it, she said.

"Then came the hard part. We estimated the future carbon emissions of our portfolio in 2030... It was not to half the emissions projected for 2030, but to be no more than half of 2010 emissions. And to half that by 2030."

The investment company had debated and decided not to divest emitters just to tick the box, she said.

"This does nothing to help the world decarbonise, and isn't the right thing to do.

"Instead, we're prepared to do the hard work, to work with or even invest in emitters who commit to a clear transition plan for carbon reduction," she said, adding that these include developing solutions such as sustainable aviation fuels.

Its Decarbonisation Partners initiative with US investment group Blackrock is one of a series of steps that Temasek has taken over the years to invest in solutions for a zero-carbon economy by 2050, she said.

Temasek and HSBC also on Thursday announced the setting up of a new debt-financing platform to help fund sustainable infrastructure projects with an initial focus on South-east Asia.

"Climate action is simply not a cost, as you've heard it repeatedly over the course of today. It is also an investment opportunity that will uplift returns beyond 2030. If you look at a 20-year time frame, it uplifts returns," she added.

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