CANBERRA - Singapore and Australia are set to intensify cooperation in the green economy, targeting new areas such as sustainable agriculture and green shipping corridors, with the signing of a trailblazing agreement on Tuesday.
Under the Singapore-Australia Green Economy Agreement, both countries will embark on 17 joint initiatives for a start, such as developing a list of environmental goods and services with an eye to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers. It will reduce hurdles to cross-border trade in clean energy, for instance.
Other highlights include a partnership to promote business engagements in trade and investment in green sectors, and research collaboration in areas such as alternative proteins and lithium battery recycling.
The signing, witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese, was the key outcome of the 7th Singapore-Australia Leaders’ Meeting held in Canberra on Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, PM Lee said the agreement will support the transition of both countries to net-zero emissions, and boost growth and create jobs in the green sector.
“It’s the first such agreement of its kind between countries, and we hope that it will be a pathfinder for other countries similarly to cooperate with one another to deal with what’s a global problem,” he said.
Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong and Australian Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell signed the agreement at the Parliament House after a delegation meeting on Tuesday.
Negotiations for the agreement started in September 2021, after it was first mooted at the leaders’ meeting in June that year.
It sets out seven areas of cooperation: trade and investment; standards and conformance; green and transition finance; carbon markets; clean energy, decarbonisation and technology; skills and capabilities; and business engagements and partnerships.
Australia and Singapore have developed a list of 372 environmental goods and 155 environmental services, which is non-exhaustive and will be reviewed periodically, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.
They also agreed to set up joint working groups for electricity trade and aviation environmental cooperation, as well as to establish a forum for government experts to discuss the skills needed for green jobs.
Other initiatives include building partnerships to advance green shipping corridors, which are zero-emission sea routes between ports. There are also plans to work together on best practices for sustainable agri-food systems, with the aim of reducing their impact on the environment and addressing food security.
With the agreement being a significant new area of cooperation, a new, sixth green economy pillar will be added to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership framework, a broad-ranging agreement to deepen engagement established in 2015.
Asked if Singapore was eyeing similar green agreements with other countries, PM Lee said the hope is that other countries would be encouraged to consider whether they could work with Singapore, or with one another, to enhance cooperation on green issues.
Mr Albanese said that with climate change being a global problem that needs global solutions, agreements such as this one between Australia and Singapore - “two great friends” - were important as an example for the world.
The agreement signals a “collective resolve to confront challenges as we transition our economies to net zero”, he said. “It will support clean energy innovation, unlock business opportunities and create jobs, and help deliver our emissions targets while positioning Australia as a renewable energy superpower,” he added.
The meeting wraps up a three-day visit by the Singapore delegation to Australia that began on Sunday.
Earlier on Tuesday, PM Lee laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial, which commemorates Australians who were killed in war, including those who defended Singapore in World War II.
Besides reaffirming excellent bilateral relations, the two prime ministers also discussed new areas of cooperation, such as in strengthening the resilience of supply chains, and exchanged views on global and regional developments.
“Singapore has long strongly supported Australia strengthening links with South-east Asia, and we very much welcome Prime Minister Albanese’s efforts to deepen this engagement and look forward to him participating in the Asean, Apec and G-20 meetings, which are taking place in South-east Asia in a few weeks’ time,” said PM Lee.
Separately, to deepen cooperation in science and innovation, the National University of Singapore and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation signed an agreement to give Singapore researchers preferred access to the Australian Synchrotron, a research facility in Melbourne.
Alongside the agreement, a $16 million programme was launched to promote synchrotron research in Singapore, called the National Synchrotron Programme.
Five joint initiatives to start the Green Economy Agreement
Singapore and Australia will look at bilateral and international cooperation on standards and technical regulations, among other things, for the green economy. This has the aim of reducing compliance costs for exporters of environmental goods.
Agencies from the two countries will promote and facilitate business-to-business engagements to expand bilateral trade and investments in green economy sectors. Activities include business missions, joint webinars and seminars, and joint promotion of green economy events.
An Australia-Singapore Green Skills Roundtable will be established for experts from government agencies to discuss how to identify and assess core skills and competencies needed for workers to take on jobs in the green economy.
Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and its Singapore counterpart A*Star agreed to promote bilateral research and development in the areas of circular economy and low emissions technologies, food, digital environment and materials in manufacturing.
Under an agreement between the Singapore Environment Council and Good Environmental Choice Australia, more dialogue and partnerships between eco-label schemes of both countries will be facilitated to promote global best practices and standards.