Nature is not, and cannot be, just a passive victim of economic development. Rather, it can be an active partner in Singapore's pursuit of sustainable development, says Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

In his opening address for the second day of Temasek’s Ecosperity Week 2021, DPM Heng urged policymakers, investors, non-government groups and businesses present to take a “fresh perspective” on nature. 

“We must change the way we view nature; it is not something to be sacrificed, but something to be treasured, and invested in, to achieve our climate goals,” says Heng.

Southeast Asia has “tremendous” potential for nature-based solutions, he adds. “In addition to 200 million hectares of terrestrial forests, Southeast Asia is home to the largest blue carbon stock in the world.”

Blue carbon is the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems. These include mangrove swamps, seagrass meadows and algae, which can sequester large amounts of carbon. If they are degraded or destroyed, their blue carbon stores ​​are released as carbon dioxide and contribute to global climate change.

Unlocking the potential of what nature has to offer at scale will require a significant amount of investment, says Heng. 

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If properly structured, investment in nature can be a new asset class, says Heng, similar to investment in agriculture and crops. 

To catalyse the flow of capital, Singapore must build a carbon marketplace with robust governance standards and an emphasis on trust, he adds. 

To that end, a consortium of companies, which includes Temasek, Singapore Exchange, DBS Bank and Standard Chartered, have come together to set up Climate Impact X (CIX); an Asia-based global exchange for high-quality carbon credits. 

“This is a promising solution in the fragmented carbon credit markets landscape today, which is characterised by thin liquidity and carbon credits of varying quality,” says Heng. CIX will be launched in the coming months.

Heng also outlined other challenges as the world pursues a green path. “These range from developing compatible definitions and taxonomies for nature-based solutions, to implementing a consistent set of global standards for disclosures and reporting.”

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“The world still has some way to go in arriving at concrete plans to achieve our climate goals. This journey can be much easier if we are able to reimagine our constraints, and turn them into opportunities,” he adds.

“This way, sustainability and prosperity can go together, rather than at each other, making it easier for companies and individuals to be part of this journey of change.”

Photo: Bloomberg