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As sustainability demands grow, laggard companies may be 'written off': Teo Chee Hean

Jovi Ho
Jovi Ho6/7/2022 10:35 AM GMT+08  • 5 min read
As sustainability demands grow, laggard companies may be 'written off': Teo Chee Hean
“Questions will be asked about your company’s strategies to avoid stranded assets. Some legacy lines of production that may be rendered obsolete," says Teo. Photo: Temasek
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Companies can no longer solely focus on short-term returns, as everyone involved will demand more sustainable practices to remain competitive.

Hence, businesses need to incorporate decarbonisation and climate risks into their strategies as demand for sustainability increases, says Teo Chee Hean, senior minister and Singapore’s coordinating minister for national security.

“First-movers will capture upsides while laggards may be written off as doing too little too late… Questions will be asked about your company’s strategies to avoid stranded assets. Some legacy lines of production may be rendered obsolete,” adds Teo.

Speaking at the opening address of Temasek’s Ecosperity Week 2022 on June 7, Teo points to the oil and gas industry’s precarious situation today. “The big five oil giants have responded by pledging to reduce emissions. Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron, which have major operations in Singapore, have committed to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”

Outlining “three key pathways” of policy, private initiative and R&D, Teo provided an overview of Singapore’s recent commitments to sustainability, along with upcoming plans.

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“Last year, Singapore launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a whole-of-nation movement to integrate and implement our plans for sustainable development across environmental, economic, energy, transport and built environment sectors; and to nurture the next generation as stewards in environmental sustainability,” says Teo.

Later this year, Singapore will update its long-term Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS), which was published in 2020, with revised plans to achieve Singapore's net-zero goals by 2050, says Teo. “Before we finalise our plans, we will consult closely with industry and citizen stakeholder groups.”

A ‘45-minute city’

On automobiles, Singapore aims to phase out all internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2040. But this is just a part of achieving sustainable urban transportation, says Teo. “It's not just about replacing all internal combustion engine vehicles with electric vehicles. If we do that, we will convert our traffic jams with ICE vehicles today to traffic jams with electric vehicles.”

See also: Creating green buildings with smart cooling, efficient grids

Instead, the more fundamental solution is to minimise the need for cars, says Teo, with a “comprehensive public transport system”. “Since 2018, [we have] implemented a zero-growth policy for [our] vehicle population. We aim to be a 45-minute city in 2040, when nine out of 10 trips between homes and workplaces will take less than 45 minutes on our public transport network, even during peak hours.

The “45-minute city” was mooted in 2019 as part of the Land Transport Master Plan 2040 by the Land Transport Authority. “Today, we are already two-thirds there,” says Teo.

Climate change is a classic example of the tragedy of the commons, says Teo. “We need policies to accurately reflect economic benefits and costs to nudge businesses and individuals towards the desired behaviour.”

Singapore was the first Southeast Asian country to introduce a carbon tax. The tax ensures that negative externalities of carbon emissions are “correctly priced” and borne by the parties contributing to these emissions, Teo adds.

A testbed and launchpad

Singapore has been making critical investments in R&D to build new capabilities and pursue sustainable development, says Teo. “In particular, we need to continue to explore emerging technologies that could bring about more sustainable solutions in the longer term, such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and green hydrogen.”

Teo points to the record $25 billion invested into the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 (RIE2025) Plan, announced in December 2020.

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“We invite like-minded researchers and investors to use Singapore not just as a testbed, but a launchpad to build regional capabilities,” says Teo. “We hope this helps to unlock the potential of the Asia Pacific region and develop mutually beneficial partnerships and solutions for our climate challenge.”

Teo also highlights the “Long Island” plan for Singapore’s south-eastern coast, unveiled by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on June 6.

Planned to stretch from Marina East to Changi, the 15km strip of reclaimed land could offer protection against floods and rising sea levels while doubling as a recreational area.

“This is an innovative solution that will help protect what is the East Coast today, which is relatively low-lying,” says Teo. “By planning ahead, we can… perhaps devise a way where we can get a positive return from coastal protection, rather than simply building sea walls.”

Presented by Temasek, Ecosperity Week 2022 will be held from June 7-9 at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre.

Ecosperity Week 2022 will also feature global leaders from the private sector and civil society, including Marc Benioff, chair, co-CEO and co-founder, Salesforce; Kate Brandt, chief sustainability officer, Google; Todd Citron, chief technology officer, vice-president and general manager, Boeing Research & Technology; and Cheryl Goh, group vice-president of marketing and sustainability, Grab.

In addition, the second edition of the Singapore Sustainable Investing & Financing Conference (SSIFC) will return to Ecosperity Week 2022 on June 9. Jointly organised by BlackRock, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Temasek, key speakers and panellists include Paul Bodnar, global head of sustainable investing, BlackRock; Mark Carney, co-chair, Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero and vice-chair, Brookfield Asset Management; and Bill Winters, group chief executive, Standard Chartered PLC.

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