G-20 leadership needed to manage climate crisis: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that Singapore is committed to do its part on these issues. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

ROME - Climate change and sustainability were the focus of the Group of 20 (G-20) talks on Sunday (Oct 31), at which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that Singapore is committed to doing its part on these issues.

The climate crisis remains "the existential challenge of our times" and the leadership of the G-20 is much needed at this crucial time, he said.

Mr Lee added that he was happy to hear that sustainability will continue to be a key priority under Indonesia's leadership of the grouping next year.

This year's G-20 Summit, which brings together leaders of the world's 20 largest economies and invited guests, is hosted by Italy, which will hand over the rotating presidency to Indonesia next year.

The summit - which revolves around the theme of people, planet and prosperity - will draw to a close on Sunday, dovetailing with the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, in Glasgow, which many leaders will also attend.

"It is timely that COP26 begins today," said Mr Lee.

"Whether from heatwaves, rising sea-levels, heavier rainfall or flooding - as a small island state, Singapore is vulnerable."

In his speech, Mr Lee suggested three ways in which the climate crisis might be averted.

First, countries need to urgently harness technology that will smooth the transition to a low-carbon future, making the reduction of emissions more affordable and sustainable in the long run.

Singapore is doing this by quadrupling its solar energy production between 2020 and 2025, he said.

It is also studying and investing in advanced low-carbon solutions, such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage technologies, as well as the use of hydrogen.

Next, the world needs to scale up sustainable finance.

It will become increasingly important for Asia and other emerging economies to unlock private financing, he added.

"To this end, we need to implement a consistent set of global standards for disclosures and reporting. We need to develop compatible taxonomies for green and transition activities, and improve the quality, availability, and accessibility of data."

As an international finance centre, Singapore is committed to supporting the development of sustainable finance capabilities. It will also mobilise private capital through innovative solutions, and catalyse climate-related investment strategies.

Lastly, the world needs stronger international collaboration on sustainability initiatives.

"There is much scope to unlock the large and mutually beneficial economic opportunities as we push for decarbonisation and sustainability," Mr Lee said.

For instance, the Republic is working to set up regional power grids with its neighbours. He noted that the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project will facilitate cross-border power trade within the region.

Internationally, countries must also work together to address challenges in carbon credit markets, improve their environmental integrity and scale up green opportunities.

They should also manage potential cross-border spillovers of carbon pricing and related measures taken by individual countries, he added.

PM Lee elaborated on the topic of sustainable development at a separate session on Sunday afternoon.

The pandemic has made it even harder for the world to make progress on the UN's sustainable development goals, he observed.

"We need to mobilise collective action to achieve sustainable development for all in a balanced and integrated way," Mr Lee said.

To that end, equal emphasis should be placed on economic development, environmental protection, and social inclusion - the three pillars of the UN's sustainable development agenda.

But two other areas deserve equal attention, he added. These are education - which countries should continue improving access to - and the digital divide.

"The pandemic has underlined the importance of digitalisation, but it has also widened the gulf between digital 'haves' and 'have-nots'," Mr Lee said.

"For recovery to be sustainable, we must empower people and improve lives through innovation and digital technologies."

Singapore has worked with international organisations and G-20 members to help build capacity on sustainable development in developing countries, he added. "We will continue to do so."

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