Singapore Summit: Panellists caution against neglecting climate crisis, sustainability issues

China has started implementing a green taxonomy framework and helps other emerging economies adopt similar frameworks.
China has started implementing a green taxonomy framework and helps other emerging economies adopt similar frameworks.PHOTO: REUTERS

In dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, countries and companies should not neglect the looming climate crisis, panellists said on the second day of the Singapore Summit yesterday.

As governments inject capital to help economies recover, they can also invest in making their economies more sustainable, through new sources of energy or green jobs, said Mr Feike Sijbesma, who is Covid-19 special envoy for the Dutch government. There is also a need to ensure this transition to a greener economy is inclusive, he said at a panel discussion, stressing the importance of reskilling workers to the jobs of the future.

"If we switch from one (source of energy) to another, coal mines in the middle of the United States are likely to close. We need to reskill these workers… (so that) we don't leave people behind," he added at the annual summit, which gathers business and thought leaders to discuss global trends. It is held virtually this year due to the pandemic.

The international economy also has an obligation to help countries like Bangladesh that have been confronted with the negative impacts of climate change, Mr Sijbesma told the panel on sustainability, which was moderated by Singapore's ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee.

Agreeing, Dr Ma Jun, chairman of the green finance committee at the China Society of Finance and Banking, pointed to how various international organisations and countries have been providing bilateral assistance for emerging economies.

China, for instance, has started implementing a green taxonomy framework and has helped other emerging economies adopt similar frameworks to build up their domestic capacity in green finance, he said.

Among other things, green taxonomy develops requirements for companies to disclose the environmental benefits of green projects and comes up with a definition for what is considered a green project.

Mr Vijay Advani, executive chairman of investment management company Nuveen, said green bonds, which finance investment projects that benefit the environment, have started to take off and can become a great source of capital for sustainable growth.

The market for green bonds grew by over 40 per cent last year, with over US$250 billion (S$340 billion) in such bonds issued last year, including by Germany, Switzerland, Chile and Nigeria, he said.

At another panel discussion on inclusive growth, Dr Judith Rodin said it would be a "terrible mistake" for governments to focus solely on the current Covid-19 crisis. The former president of the Rockefeller Foundation said crisis has become "the new normal" in the 21st century, pointing to weather-induced as well as economic crises globally.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to prepare for the next great crisis and prevent it from disproportionately impacting poorer and vulnerable groups, she said, calling for structural changes such as effective sharing of databases to coordinate emergency responses and enhancing collaboration across public, private and non-profit sectors.


Dr Rodin noted that a huge transfer of wealth to millennials in developed countries will take place over the next decade or so, and she is optimistic that this will pave the way for a more sustainable growth model globally.

"We are seeing the leading edge of those millennials not wanting just financial returns, putting all of their money in double-bottom-line and triple-bottom-line investments because they believe - fundamentally and fervently - that they can use their capital for the health of the planet, for education," she said.

Other panellists at her session were Microsoft executive vice-president Jean-Philippe Courtois, JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon, and infectious diseases specialist and director of Wellcome Trust health foundation Jeremy Farrar.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2020, with the headline 'Panellists caution against neglecting climate crisis, sustainability issues'. Subscribe