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Green shipping must be economically sustainable too: Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan

Singapore is doing its bit for ocean conservation and sees such efforts as critical to being able to continue making its living by the sea.

“Preserving our oceans and maintaining livelihoods is not something that is mutually exclusive,” said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. “In fact, it is part of a virtuous cycle.”

He was speaking on Tuesday at the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit, an event coinciding with the ongoing United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Britain’s Prince William founded the awards in 2020, offering £1 million (S$1.7 million) each to five individuals or organisations that come up with innovative solutions to environmental problems. He named the 15 finalists, including three from the Asia-Pacific, from among 1,000 nominees. They will be competing for five Earthshot Prize awards to be announced at a ceremony in Singapore on Nov 7.

The finalists include a Hong Kong start-up that has developed a new process for making and recycling lithium-ion batteries, an Indian agritech start-up that uses solar-powered dehydration to cut food waste, and a British firm that seeks to reduce the fashion industry’s use of water and chemicals by finding colours created by an organism.

Leaders and philanthropists, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates, UN special climate envoy Michael Bloomberg and New Zealand’s former prime minister Jacinda Ardern attended the event.

The competition centres on five environmental goals to preserve nature, air and oceans, tackle waste and fight climate change.

Speaking on the theme of “reviving our oceans”, Dr Balakrishnan said decarbonisation and digitalisation of the maritime sector were critical to conservation efforts.

Shipping, which transports about 90 per cent of world trade, accounts for nearly 3 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore signed a pact in April with the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach to establish a green and digital shipping corridor between Singapore and the San Pedro Bay port complex, where the two mega ports are based.

The corridor will help ships plying the route to achieve carbon-neutral emissions.

But the test is whether these corridors can be both green and economically viable, said Dr Balakrishnan.

“Green and digital shipping corridors are being set up to be vital nodes in what we hope will be a trailblazing metaphor,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

“But we need to have these corridors to show that it is possible to decarbonise and still be economically viable,” he said.
He also highlighted a new international treaty – now open for signature and ratification – as a major step forward in protecting the high seas.

Singaporean Rena Lee served as the president of the intergovernmental conference that in June delivered the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty.

While countries care for waterways under their national jurisdiction, the treaty accords protection to the high seas now from hazards such as pollution and unsustainable fishing activities.

The UN’s 193 member states adopted the legally binding agreement in June after nearly two decades of fierce negotiations.

“Given the state of the world that we are confronting today, to be able to arrive at a consensus and to arrive at a treaty is a significant achievement,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

He signed the treaty on behalf of Singapore on Wednesday in New York.

Singapore also believes in sharing its experience and expertise with peers, he said. This includes working with the members of the Small Island Developing States, which depend heavily on oceans for their development.

In addition, the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) has conducted more than 60 ocean-related courses with more than 1,200 participants from 120 countries and intergovernmental organisations.

Under the SCP, established in 1992 to consolidate various technical assistance programmes offered by Singapore since the 1960s, foreign officials can sign up for courses that the Government supports.

“We will continue to pour resources, bandwidth and attention into this effort,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

He also attended a ministerial meeting of the Global Governance Group (3G) convened on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The group of small- and medium-sized countries, co-founded by Singapore in 2009, promotes good governance and effective decision-making at the global level.

It seeks to influence the Group of 20 (G-20) countries, made up of the world’s largest economies, to consider the interests of smaller countries impacted by its decisions.

In their 16th meeting, the previous, current and incoming presidencies of G-20 – Indonesia, India and Brazil, respectively – joined the 3G foreign ministers to discuss how to ensure strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth, a statement from Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said.

Ways to resolve the cost-of-living crisis and improve access to digital services and digital public infrastructure were also discussed.

The 3G ministers reiterated the importance of upholding the principles of international law and human rights to protect the rules-based multilateral system, which is under stress amid rising geopolitical tensions and increasing protectionism.

In particular, the 3G ministers supported the G-20’s reiteration of the need to reform the World Trade Organisation towards creating a predictable, rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system, the MFA statement said.
Source: The Straits Times

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