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ASEAN’s Green Growth Opportunities Lie in Nature-Based Solutions and Carbon Market

25 May ASEAN’s Green Growth Opportunities Lie in Nature-Based Solutions and Carbon Market

Media Release
For Immediate Release

ASEAN’s Green Growth Opportunities Lie in Nature-Based Solutions and Carbon Market
Multilateral Partnerships Critical to Seize These Opportunities

Singapore, 25 May 2021 – While ASEAN, a region rich in biodiversity, is likely to see an increase in carbon emissions as countries seek to recover from the pandemic and grow, opportunities lie in nature-based solutions and regional carbon markets. To harness these opportunities to the fullest and to reduce carbon emissions, multilateral partnerships among countries as well as ASEAN’S agribusiness and forestry companies is critical. This was one of the key observations made at the 8th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR). The dialogue was organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

The 8th edition of the SDSWR was themed, “Positioning Agribusiness and Forestry for the Future:  Turning Risk into Opportunity”. Held virtually on 25 May 2021, the conference examined ASEAN countries’ low-carbon policies and how nature-based solutions can contribute to climate goals. The virtual event attracted more than 300 registrants who are policy makers, industry experts, corporate leaders, and key decision-makers from around the world, in particular, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. (The programme for the 8th SDSWR is appended in Annex A.)

“In their climate transition, ASEAN countries can gain from the efficiencies from a regional carbon market. Nature based solutions especially can help shift from deforestation to conservation while providing opportunities for investment,” said Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman, SIIA.

On the importance of regional cooperation, Ms. Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Republic of Singapore, said, “There are opportunities for countries to chart pathfinding approaches to address climate change and sustainability while balancing economic growth and pandemic recovery.”

“Addressing sustainability requires governments to operate in uncharted territories, identify and testbed new technologies, re-design cities for greater resilience and smaller carbon footprints, and deploy roadmaps that partner corporate and people sectors for action,” she added.

In his keynote address, Mr. Suharso Monoarfa, Minister for National Development Planning, Republic of Indonesia commented, “In this changing world, [we see] the importance of cooperation at [the] global level, especially among ASEAN countries, to scale up conservation and restoration… we can build a collaborative platform to facilitate knowledge sharing and learning between experts, development practitioners, government, and other related stakeholders.”

In the panel “Nurturing Nature – Restorative Approaches to Decarbonisation”, of the 8th SDSWR, speakers discussed how ASEAN countries can align their efforts in creating an enabling environment for nature-based solutions. Singapore, with its reputation for governance, can play a crucial regional role to promote transparency in the carbon market.

Climate Impact X (CIX), a Singapore-based exchange and marketplace for high-quality carbon credits recently announced by DBS Bank, Singapore Exchange, Standard Chartered, and Temasek, can help companies turn climate risk into opportunity, and address longstanding challenges like transboundary haze while supporting livelihoods and development. Mr. Mikkel Larsen, Interim CEO of CIX and Chief Sustainability Officer of DBS Bank, Singapore, said, “What we can do as an exchange and a marketplace is to try and instill some trust and transparency into the market itself, essentially taking away lost faith in voluntary carbon markets.”

The 8th SDSWR also saw speakers and participants examining the role of downstream players in eliminating leakage markets for forest commodities, in order to keep ASEAN competitive and a vital part of global value chains. This was discussed in the panel, “Sustainability Demands – Bridging Consumers and Producers”.

Mr. Pratheepan Karunagaran, Executive Director, Apical, said, “Suppliers or processors like us, we have to make sure we have a transparent and traceable palm oil supply chain, within which we can do our job of closely monitoring, assisting, supporting, both the small and medium-sized producers as well as to work together with our customers to improve the market uptake of certified products.”

“The focus in driving sustainable production and consumption is actually in a shared responsibility context, where regulators, consumers, and producers need to sit together and discuss how to move forward. It’s a problem when you have surprises coming from one part of the market,” said Mr. Agus Purnomo, Managing Director, Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement, Golden Agri-Resources.

On the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM)  to prevent carbon leakage, Mr. Pasquale De Micco, Policy Officer, Directorate-General for Taxation and the Customs Union, European Commission said that it is unlikely to target palm oil in the first phase, but the mechanism will eventually be expanded to other products. He said, “The system will allow, hopefully, an even-handed treatment for everyone… the aim is not to punish anyone but to share the European climate ambition, [which] has become more and more serious together with the climate emergency that we are living in.

The 8th SDSWR was made possible by the following sponsors –

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About the Singapore Institute of International Affairs

Established in 1962, the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) is a non-profit and independent think tank committed to producing policy analysis, fostering in-depth dialogues and bridging gaps between policymakers, private sector decision-makers and experts to shape public policy and social responses. Centred around ASEAN focused themes, the institute aims to deliver policy analysis in international affairs and on issues driving environmental sustainability. The SIIA has been consistently ranked as one of the leading think tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in the Global Go-To Think Tank Index by the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2017, the SIIA was ranked the No. 1 independent think tank in Asia. It was also recognised as one of the top 50 think tanks globally, excluding the United States of America. In 2019, it was recognised as the No. 1 think tank in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific (excluding India). In 2020, it was also recognised as one of the think tanks with the best policy and institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

About the SIIA’s Sustainability Programme

The SIIA’s Sustainability Programme was established in 1997 when it organised Singapore’s first haze dialogue with the Singapore Environment Council. Since then, the Sustainability Programme has evolved to address a range of sustainability issues ASEAN faces. The Programme continues to focus on the haze and resource sector, as well as using green finance and carbon financing as levers to advance supply chain sustainability and drive Southeast Asia’s “green recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of its Sustainability Programme, the SIIA facilitates dialogues between governments, private sector, academia and NGOs. One of the SIIA’s key platforms is its flagship event, the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR), launched in 2014. The annual event attracts about 300 high-level participants to discuss best practices, new commitments and noteworthy cross-sector collaborations in ASEAN’s resource sector, to prevent and mitigate the recurrence of transboundary haze. A key research output by the Institute is the SIIA Haze Outlook report. Launched in 2019, the report serves as a risk assessment and predictive tool for countries in the region to determine the likelihood of a severe transboundary haze incident. In 2020, the SIIA released the report “ESG in Practice: A Closer Look at Sustainability in ASEAN’s Palm Oil and Pulpwood Sectors”, providing recommendations to align agribusiness and forestry stakeholders on environmental, social, and governance factors towards a long-term vision of sustainable production.