MOS Tan’s welcome address at Conference on Forests, Biodiversity and Climate Change [Speeches]
17 Oct 2011
Ambassador Hans Brattskar, The Government of Norway’s Special Envoy for International Climate Change Policy
Mr Heru Prasetyo, Deputy Head, Presidential Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight, Republic of Indonesia
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. Good morning and a warm welcome to all of you, especially our overseas friends who are here to participate in today’s conference
Impact of Climate Change on Forest and Biodiversity
2. Climate change is now a global and irreversible phenomenon. There are of course those who disagree. In some ways, I half wish they were right. I am no scientist but I think I would rather err on the side of being conservative because the consequences can be catastrophic. Today, we are already experiencing the effects of global warming. It is not simply about the melting of polar caps or the long term increase in temperature. The immediate impact is the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like droughts and devastating storms which are afflicting different parts of the world. This has grave consequences on our food supply.
3. The Asian Development Bank recently highlighted the need to tackle global warming in Southeast Asia, as our region is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. You would have read that Bangkok and Phnom Penh are being threatened with the worst flooding in their recent histories. Besides loss of life and property, flood damage to agricultural land is expected to increase food prices, especially rice. The ripple effects of a disruption to Thailand’s rice production are tremendous, given that it is the world’s biggest rice exporter.
4. Besides its economic and social impacts, global warming also adversely impacts the world’s biodiversity and ecosystems. Southeast Asia’s rich and valuable biodiversity is similarly vulnerable and at high risk.
Importance of Conserving Forests
5. Friends, the value of Southeast Asia’s forests and their ecosystems cannot be understated. Not only do they provide people with sustenance, valuable resources for economic application and recreational opportunities, they are our key defence against global warming. Given their natural capacities to store large amounts of carbon, Southeast Asia’s remaining forests play a vital role as huge carbon sinks. Forest conservation is thus critical and an imperative in the mitigation of climate change impacts in our region.
6. Asian Development Bank’s 2009 report revealed that Southeast Asia contributed 12% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2000, and this is likely to increase with the region’s expanding population and growing economies. As Southeast Asia is home to the bulk of the world’s remaining tropical forests, our region alone has great potential in mitigating the greenhouse gas effect, through reduction of deforestation and improving land management practices.
Mitigating Impacts of Climate Change – Singapore’s Contributions
7. We can, as a region, contribute significantly towards the global effort to combat climate change. We can go about this by putting in place sustainable development policies that focus on mitigation and adaptation measures.
8. Let me share with you Singapore’s experience. Despite being a city state of only 700 square kilometres, Singapore has more than 5% forest cover and 47% total green cover comprising a dense network of green corridors and park connectors that support a rich pool of biodiversity. We have been able to achieve a large green cover through careful and long-term land use planning. We believe that greenery and our rich biodiversity are intrinsic to our city-state’s character and way of life. Hence, we strive to create an urban ecosystem which allows humans and nature to co-exist in harmony. We call this our City-in-a-Garden.
9. On the global front, Singapore is committed to addressing the challenges of climate change.
10. First, we have pledged to reduce 16% of our greenhouse gas emission based on business as usual basis by 2020, on the condition that there should be a legally binding global agreement in which all countries implement their commitments in good faith. In Singapore, our emission is mostly a result of the combustion of fossil fuels for energy. We support efforts to use less carbon-intensive fuels and improve energy efficiency in all sectors of our economy.
11. Let me briefly cite what we are doing in our building sector to improve energy efficiency. Our building sector contributes about one third of Singapore’s total electricity consumption. We have therefore set an ambitious target to green 80% of our buildings by 2030. Our buildings can and should be more energy efficient. New buildings must meet minimum Green Mark standards which promote the adoption of green building designs and technologies. As for existing buildings, given the building owners’ inertia to retrofit, we have a $100 million Green Mark Incentive Scheme, and just this month, we launched a pilot financing scheme called the Building Retrofit Energy Efficiency Financing Scheme for financial institutions to provide loans to building owners and energy services companies for them to carry out energy efficiency retrofits. Complementing these schemes is the move to mandate minimum Green Mark standards for existing buildings as and when they are retrofitted.
12. The second area in which Singapore can play its part in addressing climate change is our role as a responsible global citizen in forest and biodiversity conservation. Singapore is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (or CBD in short). One of our notable achievements is the development of City Biodiversity Index, also known as the Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity. This is currently the only index available which measures and tracks biodiversity conservation efforts in cities. Our National Parks Board is working with over 50 cities internationally to implement the use of this Index.
13. Third, Singapore participates in the climate change negotiations on the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus programme (REDD+). We are also a member of the REDD+ Partnership, which is intended to be an interim measure to promote capacity building, technology transfer, and the scaling up of demonstration and readiness of REDD+ projects.
14. Singapore has built up some biodiversity and forest-related capabilities. We are now studying how best to further develop our capabilities. We have established the National Biodiversity Centre (or NBC) under our National Parks Board as the focal point for biodiversity conservation, and as a one-stop centre for biodiversity-related information and activities. The NBC plays a key role in national biodiversity policy development, conservation research and management of information and data on biodiversity in Singapore.
15. Our academia and research institutes have also developed technical capabilities to support forest conservation efforts in the region. The Centre of Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (CRISP) under the National University of Singapore (NUS) has developed satellite imaging and analysis capabilities, which have been applied in the monitoring of forest fires and haze. The Singapore-Delft Water Alliance (SDWA), a collaboration between Singapore and the Netherlands, has been involved in regional projects, such as implementing and monitoring sustainable water management and spatial planning to enhance peat land conservation efforts in Jambi and Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.
16. Singapore is currently a base for International Non-Profit Organisations (or INPOs in short), such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Conservation International, to reach out to the region. Our pro-business environment, accessibility to the Asia Pacific region and the large pool of international talents are the main considerations for INPOs which have made Singapore their pan-Asian base for coordinating and expanding their operations in the region.
17. In particular, we welcome environmental non-profit organisations to leverage on our strengths to further their work. I am pleased to note that World Wide Fund’s Asia Pacific Regional Headquarters for finance, human resources, public relations and education, and its International Headquarters for IT are based in Singapore. I am told that Birdlife International and Fauna and Flora International will also be setting up their regional offices in Singapore in the coming months.
18. Let me conclude by reiterating Singapore’s commitment in contributing to global efforts in mitigating climate change. We look forward to closer collaboration with other countries on climate change issues, including international forest and biodiversity conservation. To this end, I believe this Conference will facilitate a useful sharing and exchange of insights and ideas to achieve our common goals.
19. I wish all of you a fruitful conference. Thank you.
 REDD is a United Nations collaborative programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries. REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. It refers to the notion that developing countries, which are willing and able to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and promote the conservation of forest carbon, the sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, should be financially compensated by developed countries for doing so.
 Singapore-Delft Water Alliance (SDWA) is a multi-national, interdisciplinary research centre of excellence for water knowledge involving PUB (Singapore), National University of Singapore and Deltares (a leading, independent, Dutch-based research institute and specialist consultancy for matters relating to water, soil and the subsurface), established through an initiative of the National Research Foundation in Singapore.