His Excellency Mr Li Ganjie, Minister of Ecology and Environment
His Excellency Mr Miao Wei, Minister of Industry and Information Technology
His Excellency Mr Cong Liang, Secretary-General of the National Development and Reform Commission
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank Minister Li Ganjie for inviting me to speak on the inaugural green development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). I also warmly congratulate the Ministry of Ecology and Environment for initiating this important BRI International Green Development Coalition (BRIGC).
I am happy to hear the vision of the preceding speakers, and their commitment to spur development around the world with environment integrity in mind. Asia has made tremendous progress over the decades. China alone has lifted more than 500 million of its citizens out of poverty. Countries in Southeast Asia have also developed and progressed.
But the rate of our current consumption and production trajectory is not sustainable. Our planet’s resources are finite. Our population is growing. Strong urbanisation pressures continue to mount. Climate change is posing new risks.
To ensure our current and future generations continue to benefit and enjoy high standards of living, we need to develop sustainably. Everyone knows this. We also need to make the right development decisions today, so that our investment choices will not result in long-term ramifications that we will regret.
The BRI is a major undertaking for human development. Millions of people will stand to gain from better livelihoods and opportunities, made possible by new modes of connectivity and collaboration.
To take the BRI to the next level and secure its long-term success, we must work together to ensure that it is done ultimately to improve the lives of people and the well-being of the planet at the same time. As we launch the BRIGC today, it is important to work constructively together to find common solutions on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
Let me share how we can advance green development of the BRI through “three-builds”, or in Chinese “三大建设” (san da jian she): build sustainably, build innovatively, and build partnerships.
First, we must build sustainably, taking a pragmatic approach that focuses on outcomes, not ideology. The BRIGC should deliver tangible benefits for our peoples and planet. It should adopt a pragmatic and action-oriented agenda towards delivering the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
To grow sustainably in a resource and carbon constrained world, we need a paradigm shift. We cannot just think around a ‘take-make-throw’ approach. We have to change that to a circular one where we can reuse resources endlessly.
Singapore is doing our part to address a resource-constrained world and the challenges posed by climate change. For example, we implemented an economy-wide carbon tax without exemption to incentivise the shift towards a low-carbon economy. We have also designated 2019 as Singapore’s Year Towards Zero Waste. Our vision is to close the waste loop and turn trash into treasure. Let me give you one example: i. By 2027, we will have a plant called Tuas Nexus. It is the first facility in the world to co-digest wastewater sludge and food waste. It will produce three times more biogas than we would have done separately.
Through the integration of water-energy-waste loops, more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon emissions will be saved every year.
Second, we need to build innovatively. Technology and innovation will unlock transformative solutions. They will help us overcome resource constraints and achieve a sustainable future. Singapore’s water story is a good example. With a long-term vision, political determination, we successfully closed the water loop by recycling used water into NEWater – ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water.
Today, NEWater and desalinated water provide Singapore with weather-resilient sources. We are pressing on with R&D in electro-deionisation technology and biomimicry, where we can potentially produce desalinated water with half the energy we use today.
Beyond water, we are also carrying out R&D to address the urban heat island effect.
Third, we need to build partnerships. In a globalised world, we need to pool our resources, learn from each other, and forge closer relationships as sovereign equals for green development.
The public and private sectors can co-create solutions together. Every two years, Singapore convenes the Singapore International Water Week, World Cities Summit and CleanEnviro Summit Singapore to provide platforms for knowledge sharing and technology exchange on sustainable development. We also offer grants and other incentives to encourage innovative and sustainable solutions. For ‘Closing the Waste Loop’, for example, $45 million has been set aside to fund research.
The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, the second Government-to-Government project between Singapore and China, is a successful partnership project which exemplifies the portability of solutions. After ten years of hard work, a barren, saline wasteland has become a low-carbon, liveable and vibrant smart city for more than 100,000 residents and close to 7,000 companies. The Tianjin Eco-city is already being replicated in China, and can be a case study beyond. By adopting the best practices in Tianjin Eco-city, the BRI can propagate environmentally-friendly and resource efficient urban development.
The BRIGC provides the collaborative platform for governments, enterprises, research institutes and the civil society to shape the green BRI. Singapore stands ready to support BRIGC in developing capacity and skills. Since 1992, the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) has trained more than 120,000 officials from around the world on what we can do to develop a green city.
Let me conclude. As a Co-Chair of the Coalition, I look forward to working with my fellow Co-Chairs and members in supporting the green development of the BRI. We must seize this golden opportunity to secure the future of our peoples and planet. The international community must remain committed to a rules-based international order and multilateral partnerships to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement.
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