To ensure economic growth and fight climate change at the same time, Singapore needs to leverage green finance and mobilise capital for low-carbon investments, said Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Desmond Tan yesterday.
And to succeed in its efforts, the country also needs to plan ahead for a smooth transition to low emissions and build resilience against environmental shocks, he added.
"Covid-19 has accelerated pre-existing trends, including rising protectionism, rising inequalities and global warming," Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State for Home Affairs, noted in his speech at the European Union-Singapore Dialogue on climate change.
But it has also slowed activities. "Companies should use this period to consider implementing energy efficiency improvement projects so that they can be more cost-competitive and emerge stronger from this crisis," he said.
To implement these, they can tap the Economic Development Board's Resource Efficiency Grant for Energy as well as the National Environment Agency's Energy Efficiency Fund, Mr Tan added.
Pointing to green finance, he said it is a "critical enabler of green growth" that allows companies to support sustainable initiatives while ensuring good returns.
Green finance refers to an area of banking and investment-supporting projects that consider a range of environmental concerns.
In June, Singapore joined the EU-initiated International Platform on Sustainable Finance to help promote the integration of markets for green finance products internationally.
The Republic is also Asean's largest green finance market.
Yesterday's virtual dialogue allowed policymakers, private sector representatives and experts from the EU and Singapore to share insights on climate action.
Associate Professor Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, which organised the dialogue, noted that despite the massive global lockdowns this year, total emissions for the year will shrink by only about 7 per cent compared with last year.
"This barely meets the annual reduction (of 7.6 per cent) the United Nations Environment Programme says the world needs to achieve consistently if we are to keep global warming below 2 deg C or lower," he added.
The dialogue also explored ways in which Singapore and the EU can collaborate on climate-related projects.
The European Commission's Directorate-General for Climate Action Mauro Petriccione said both sides can work on creating an international level playing field around new sustainable technologies such as renewable hydrogen, solar energy, and carbon capture and storage. Both the EU and Singapore account for less than 10 per cent of global emissions, he noted.
"Neither of us can stop global climate change alone. But there are many things that we can do together to facilitate the rapid transition to a prosperous net-zero society around the world."
The Republic has set aside $49 million to fund low-carbon energy research and test-bedding efforts in hydrogen-and carbon-capture utilisation and storage.
The EU, meanwhile, unveiled a hydrogen strategy in July.
Singapore's chief negotiator for climate change Joseph Teo said the nation hopes "to tap EU's expertise in this area (of hydrogen) and collaborate to launch pilots and demonstration projects".
Looking to next November's UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Mr Teo, who is from the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, said much work needs to be done to finalise outstanding negotiations on the Paris Agreement.
The areas pending negotiations are Article 6 on the pact's carbon market rules, the enhanced transparency framework and the new collective goal on climate finance.