S’pore DPM: Challenges in sustainability could unravel progress


SINGAPORE: Taking action to mitigate climate change and ensuring economic growth are two key challenges that, if not managed well, could unravel the progress the world has made over the past few decades, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday, as he outlined three ways countries can work together for sustainable development.

In a keynote address at the annual Future China Global Forum at Marina Bay Sands, he noted that countries around the world are vulnerable to climate change, with the earth’s surface temperature last year being the fourth warmest since the 19th century and the rate of sea levels rising more quickly in recent decades.

He also highlighted the need for economic growth which generates resources and helps reduce poverty, adding that companies should give back to the communities and economies they are a part of.

Heng outlined three ways that countries can tackle these challenges: By forming and deepening international collaborations; enabling all segments of society to work together; and developing next-generation leaders to further the cause.

“Cooperation among countries and cities will help us to strengthen connectivity and achieve longer-term environmental, economic and infrastructural sustainability,” he said.

He flagged China’s efforts as an example, noting the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition, which allows governments, enterprises, research institutes and the civil society to shape a green Belt and Road.

Another example is the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA), which boosts connectivity, generating new trade and investment flows between nine Pearl River Delta cities, as well as the Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions.

Besides aiming to become a global innovation hub, the GBA seeks to be a “quality place to work and live” through initiatives like the adoption of an innovative, green and low carbon development model, Heng said, adding that the Chinese government will also place greater priority on conservation and environmental protection.

“The development of the GBA presents new opportunities in diverse areas that businesses can tap,” he said. “For example, Singapore and the GBA can collaborate in the area of new infrastructure development.”

“Infrastructure projects are long term and highly capital intensive,” he added. “We have to plan and structure these projects properly, to ensure resource efficiency, economic viability and social impact over their long lifetime.”

Countries must also work closely together, he said, citing the Paris Agreement which commits them to take concrete action to combat climate change.

A second way to combat the sustainability challenges is to enable all segments of societies – governments, businesses and individuals – to collaborate effectively.

“Governments alone cannot drive sustainable development,” he said.

He cited how Singapore has introduced measures to “catalyse the private sector to pursue new green growth opportunities”, such as by setting aside S$900mil under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 urban solutions and sustainability plan.

He added that the pervasive use of technology can help countries go green as well, and the carbon tax implemented here this year sends “an economy-wide price signal to incentivise the reduction of carbon emissions”.

“There will be growing demand for sustainable products and services, arising in particular from a growing consciousness amongst our people, especially the younger generation that demands such products and services,’’ said Heng. “ — ANN/ST

The Straits Times (Singapore)