Singapore will boost its contributions on the sustainability front: Iswaran

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Trade and Industry Minister S Iswaran explains why Singapore is joining the First Movers Coalition to create demand for innovative clean energy technologies

DAVOS - As an aviation, maritime and business hub, Singapore can contribute in cutting greenhouse gas emissions well beyond its national carbon footprint.

This is why the Republic is building partnerships with other countries, even as it has set national targets under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, Minister for Transport S. Iswaran told Singapore media in a wrap-up interview.

On Wednesday (May 25), Mr Iswaran announced at the World Economic Forum that Singapore has joined the First Movers Coalition (FMC) alongside Denmark, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The coalition also has 55 companies on board, such as Google parent Alphabet, Microsoft, and the Volvo Group, with a combined market capitalisation of some US$8.5 trillion (S$11.67 trillion).

Launched by United States President Joe Biden at the COP26 climate change conference last November, the FMC seeks to pool the collective purchasing power and supply chains of companies in emissions-intensive sectors to create demand for innovative clean energy technologies.

For instance, coalition members commit to buying a percentage of needed industrial materials such as aluminium, concrete and steel, as well as transport spending, from suppliers using near-zero or zero-carbon solutions, even if they have to pay a premium.

"Singapore was honoured to receive the invitation (to join the FMC) and we accepted it because we thought we could contribute by virtue of the fact that as an aviation, maritime, and a business hub, we have manufacturing activities, energy and chemicals, and so on," said Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

He added that Singapore was in a position to contribute by cooperating with the private sector, a point made by US representatives at the meeting who noted that the city-state has always worked closely with its private sector.

Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030 launched in February last year, the Republic aims to become a regional centre for developing new sustainability solutions and a leading centre for green finance and services in Asia.

It will also groom local enterprises so that they can capture sustainability opportunities.

"Clearly, there's a recognition that Singapore can make a contribution that goes well beyond what we do within our borders at the national level," he said.

While Singapore is formulating its own sustainable air hub blueprint, it is also working with other aviation hubs on solutions that can have a demonstrative effect on sustainable initiatives for the larger aviation sector, said Mr Iswaran.

Likewise, what Singapore does as a maritime hub will also have important implications for work that can be done in the international maritime community, he added.

The Republic has set up the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation locally to shape standards and find ways to cut the maritime sector's emissions as quickly as possible.

But it has also signed on as a member of the Clydebank Declaration to create green corridors - zero-emission shipping routes - with other maritime centres, noted Mr Iswaran.

The National Climate Change Secretariat, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Transport said in a joint statement on Thursday that going forward, the Government will engage local firms and encourage them to participate in the FMC. 

"The FMC presents an opportunity for companies to collaborate with like-minded partners and access low-carbon technologies," they added.

Asked how joining the FMC benefits Singapore's economy, Mr Iswaran said climate action is a global responsibility, and Singapore needs to be seen doing the right thing as part of the collective effort by the community of nations.

The global emphasis on sustainability means it is in the competitive interest of Singapore's enterprises to strengthen their sustainability credentials through meaningful initiatives, the minister said.

This is so especially for businesses that have to be part of the global ecosystem, particularly in sectors such as aviation and maritime, added Mr Iswaran.

"Ultimately, we need to make sure that our enterprises in these spaces are able to maintain their competitive position by the quality and sustainability of the services they provide," he said.

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