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Financing Conservation Key to Green Recovery and Resilience in ASEAN

04 Nov Financing Conservation Key to Green Recovery and Resilience in ASEAN

Media Release
For Immediate Release

Financing Conservation Key to Green Recovery and Resilience in ASEAN

Singapore, 4 November 2020 – Southeast Asia faces not only immediate shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also long-term sustainability challenges. In this regard, financing conservation efforts is key to green recovery and resilience in Southeast Asia, which is expected to be among the worst-hit regions by climate change. These were the key observations made at the 7th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR) organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

Themed, “Agroforestry for Sustainability:  Climate, Conservation and Communities in ASEAN”, the 7th SDSWR was held virtually on 3 and 4 November 2020. The two-day virtual conference was attended by almost 320 policy makers, industry experts, corporate leaders, and key decision-makers from around the region, in particular, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

“As we prepare for our region’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, webelieve it is all the more important to discuss and renew commitments to sustainability. The pandemic has forced governments to align their goals on environmental and social protection with economic recovery and development priorities. This issue is most pertinent in the resource sector,” said Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the SIIA.

The 7th SDSWR saw a stellar line-up of speakers including Ms. Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Republic of Singapore, and Mr. Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Republic of Indonesia who spoke at the Ministerial Panel held on the second day of the conference.

Ms. Grace Fu said, “We are at a significant juncture, where we have the opportunity to put sustainability at the core of our recovery plans and policies, and change the way we produce and consume. We should also work to strengthen our resilience to future shocks, including climate change, supply chain disruptions and other public health threats.”

Countries in the region are increasingly aware of the need to strengthen their sustainability commitments. Indonesia, among other sustainability commitments, has now a moratorium on commercial licences for primary forest and peatland permanent.

Speaking on the same panel, Mr. Luhut Pandjaitan said, “Indonesia continues to take concrete steps to safeguard its natural wealth to contribute to climate change efforts. The Indonesian government invites the international community to support the Indonesian government’s efforts to ensure the welfare of its population and protect the environment.”

“Green energy, especially hydropower, and producing green products is important to Indonesia. Singapore can be a great partner in these initiatives,” he added.

At the 7th SDSWR, nature-based solutions were identified as a promising way forward that could help resource companies and external investors alike achieve their goals on climate change mitigation and carbon emissions.

“Our sustainable forest management policy integrates nature-based solutions into our core business, and we do this through our production and protection approach, where production activity supports conservation and restoration,” said Mr. Sihol Aritonang, President Director, RAPP (APRIL Group).

Another key highlight of the 7th SDSWR was the launch of the report, “ESG in Practice: A Closer Look at Sustainability in ASEAN’s Palm Oil and Pulpwood Sectors”. Published by the SIIA, the report looks to align stakeholders in the palm oil and pulpwood sectors – including corporates, financial institutions, and regulators – on key issues, best practices and challenges in implementing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) commitments in these sectors. The report identifies recommendations for action in four main areas:

  1. Positive reinforcement for companies improving their ESG practices;
  2. Promoting sustainable finance;
  3. Harmonising ESG standards and disclosures;
  4. “Raising the floor” by helping smaller players implement sustainable practices.

Aside from reviewing academic literature and news on ESG in the sectors of interest, a total of 28 organisations were engaged for this report between July and September 2020 to better understand the challenges of implementing ESG standards on the ground. These organisations included representatives from upstream and downstream palm oil and pulpwood companies, banks and investors, advisory firms, regulators, certification bodies, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In addition, this report incorporates key takeaways from a virtual closed-door roundtable, “Shaping Expectations of Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) Practices in ASEAN’s Palm Oil and Pulpwood Sectors”, that the SIIA convened to allow a small group of stakeholders to freely exchange views, surfacing collective industry concerns for discussion and analysis.

With these recommendations, the report aims to shape robust standards and expectations for ESG, while advancing a multi-stakeholder effort to align business and sustainability priorities towards a more resilient industry post-COVID-19.

The 7th SDSWR was sponsored by Temasek Foundation and APRIL.


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About the Singapore Institute of International Affairs

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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, Southeast Asia and Pacific (excluding India).

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 sustainability issues ASEAN faces with a focus on the haze and resource sector and using finance as a lever to advance sustainability in the supply chain. As part of its Sustainability Programme, the SIIA facilitates dialogues between government, private sector and NGOs to prevent and mitigate the recurrence of transboundary haze. One of the SIIA’s key platforms is its flagship event, the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources (SDSWR). Since it was launched in 2014, the annual event attracts about 300 high-level participants from government, private sector, academia and NGOs to share best practices and discuss new commitments and noteworthy cross-sector collaborations in ASEAN’s resource sector. A key research output by the Institute is the annual 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.