Halimah urges businesses to take responsibility for climate action

Climate change can wreak "catastrophic and irreversible" damage on societies and economies, so taking action to avoid such an outcome is a responsibility that businesses must take, President Halimah Yacob said yesterday.

Climate action also presents a business opportunity, she said during the launch of Ecosperity Week, a sustainability conference organised by Singapore's Temasek.

The three-day conference, which takes place in a hybrid format with some delegates gathering at Marina Bay Sands, will focus on climate solutions.

Discussions will cover issues such as decarbonisation technologies, including sustainable fuels for the aviation and maritime sectors, nature-based climate solutions, and tools that can help divert capital to meet climate goals.

Madam Halimah said: "The Singapore story is testament to the fact that sustainability and economic growth need not be mutually exclusive...

"That belief is also captured in the name of this event, Ecosperity, which pairs the words 'ecology' and 'prosperity'."

While the consequences of climate change are widespread, Madam Halimah said South-east Asia faces disproportionate risk.

She said the long coastlines and densely populated low-lying areas in Asean make the region vulnerable to rising sea levels - a result of melting land ice and the expansion of water in a warming world.

"In a scenario where sea levels rise by 1m, at least 89 million people in the region would be living in zones at high risk of frequent coastal flooding.

"Typhoons and other weather events are becoming more intense and more frequent, and leave a higher human and economic toll," she said.

And as the world gets warmer owing to humans belching out more planet-warming greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests, businesses will also suffer.

The Climate Economics Index by research organisation Swiss Re Institute has warned that if no action is taken and temperatures rise by 3.2 deg C by mid-century, the gross domestic product of Asean economies could decline by a third, compared with what it would have been in a world without warming, Madam Halimah said.

But there are solutions out there to avoid such a situation.

Emerging technologies can help businesses transform, she said, citing electric cars and alternative proteins.

Electric vehicles, if charged up by grids powered by lower-carbon fuels or renewable energy, are greener than diesel or petrol-fuelled cars.

Alternative proteins, such as plant-based "meats" and those made from cell culture, are also considered more sustainable than the livestock sector.

Madam Halimah said: "According to the International Labour Organisation, a shift to a greener economy could create 24 million jobs globally by 2030.

"There is immense economic value in the transition to a net-zero emissions future."