TOWARDS A NET ZERO FUTURE (SESSION 2) HIGHLIGHTS
NYD 2: TOWARDS A NET ZERO FUTURE (SESSION 2) HIGHLIGHTS
National Youth Council (NYC) and the Global Shapers Community (Singapore Hub) co-organised the second National Youth Dialogue session on “Towards A Net Zero Future”, a hybrid conversation which took place on 21 September 2022, involving the following panellists:
- Ms Grace Fu – Minister of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE)
- Ms Melissa Low – NYC Council Member and Research Fellow, NUS Centre for Nature-Based Climate Solutions
- Mr Helge Muenkel – Chief Sustainability Officer, DBS
- Ms Woo Qiyun – Sustainability Consultant at Unravel Carbon and creator of Instagram, “The Weird and Wild”
- [Moderator] Ms Farah Sanwari – Co-founder, FiTree, a non-profit environmental volunteering group for Singapore Muslim youths
Key insights from the panel dialogue:
Question: Is Singapore’s transition towards net zero too slow?
- Ms Low said that Singapore faced an uphill battle in reaching its climate targets. The transition is currently characterised by flexibility and pragmatic ideas, reflecting Singapore’s views on business opportunities and growth. She added that if Singaporeans wanted to accelerate the transition, they should participate in public consultations on Singapore’s climate ambitions and share their views.
- Ms Woo said that transition seemed slow as the international commitment to climate targets seemed to fall short despite the increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. She added that she hoped to see Singapore’s decarbonisation transformation match the pace of Singapore’s digital transformation.
- Mr Muenkel said that while concerns regarding climate change and net zero efforts were valid, it was important to acknowledge that net zero efforts had accelerated as the Government, private and financial sectors were increasingly moving towards decarbonisation.
- Minister Fu said that R&D investments would be crucial to access new forms of renewable energy sources and decarbonise our sectors to accelerate our transition to net zero. She added that Singapore would need to continue diversifying its energy imports to maintain availability, affordability and stability in the nation’s energy supply.
Question: How might we galvanise companies to move towards net zero at a faster pace?
- Mr Muenkel said that different parties – such as consumers, the financial sector and the Government – could act as different pressure points that influence companies to adopt lower-carbon activities. He added that with a growing trend towards transparency, we would be able to use readily available data and information to make informed decisions and facilitate the transition.
- Minister Fu said there would be two types of companies, those that are more dynamic and produce green solutions versus those that may struggle with the green transition. She added that to ensure inclusive green growth, the former could potentially assist the companies who need more help.
- Ms Woo said that as companies follow consumer trends very closely, consumers can write to companies to pressure them into working with regulators to create alternative low-carbon goods and services. She also said youths should do their due diligence and exercise their purchasing power to support sustainable businesses.
- Minister Fu added that youths could influence their social circles to pay attention to the environmental costs of products and purchase sustainably, allowing regulators to award environmentally conscious companies.
- Ms Low said that implementing the aggressive carbon tax was an essential tool in shifting companies towards net zero, as it disincentives them from continuing to use carbon. She added that the revenue generated from carbon tax should be re-channelled appropriately into energy efficiency grants and other climate mitigation measures.
Question: Is decarbonisation being driven in the right areas such as the adoption of carbon sequestration?
- Ms Low said there were current bilateral cooperation programmes such as REDD+ that have attempted to ensure carbon sequestration by paying countries that have preserved their forests. However, these programmes may not have reached their intended impact. Countries like Indonesia have terminated their agreements since the financial incentives they receive from carbon contracts are below the returns they will gain from utilising their natural forests.
- Mr Muenkel said that while it remained challenging to implement some solutions due to the high cost, Singapore has current measures in place to enhance its status as a carbon-credit hub. Examples include implementing carbon exchange through Climate Impact X and facilitating supply and demand for nature-based solutions.
Question: Is there more that can be done to balance societal and ecological needs?
- Ms Low shared that Singapore had signed on to halt deforestation by 2030 at COP26. However, she notes that the definition of forests was important since many “forests” in Singapore were either reclaimed land or clearings. She added that while ecological needs will inevitably clash with national priorities like housing, Singaporeans should strive toward achieving a compromise between these needs.
- Ms Woo said that long-term planning for land use and trade-offs between social and ecological needs could be made more accessible and understandable for youths so that they could be better equipped to be involved in conversations regarding net zero.
Question: How can Singapore manage its impact on regional ecologies as it transitions toward net zero?
- Minister Fu said that Singapore would monitor and ensure its transactions with global suppliers comply with its local laws and added that Singapore would not take responsibility for managing environmental and legal risks lightly.
- Ms Low said that Singapore could also monitor private impact assessments in countries where the country imports energy.
- Mr Muenkel said that Singaporeans must acknowledge the difficulty of addressing these trade-offs. He used the example of electric vehicles, where the demand for the minerals used in batteries faced challenges such as human rights or biodiversity issues. He said that Singapore thus needs to find a proper balance between climate issues and other prominent challenges that society faces.
Question: What is the level of impact that Singapore can make on global net zero efforts as a small country?
- Minister Fu said that while Singapore only accounted for a small percentage of the world’s global emissions, Singapore could continue to accelerate its transition towards net zero and hold other countries accountable for their net zero targets. She added that Singapore’s importance as a trade hub meant that we must be present to facilitate global transitions towards net zero, especially in the aviation and maritime sectors.
- Mr Muenkel said that Singapore has the power to influence foreign companies to follow local regulations by leveraging on its good international reputation as a major hub for trade and financial institutions.
- Ms Low said that Singapore could assist in building the institutional capacity of other countries, which would allow them to incorporate transparency frameworks in their transition towards net zero. She cited how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ran cooperation programs to share their experiences with transparency reporting and enhanced Singapore’s role in holding other countries accountable.
- Ms Woo said that Singapore could consider regulations on foreign businesses based on regional offices to manage their emissions in neighbouring countries.