Magnus H. Mernild
Two lessons and a common way for international recovery
Op-ed by Ambassador of Denmark to Singapore, Sandra Jensen Landi, originally published in Business Times on 27 October.
While we are facing one of our generation’s greatest challenges, a larger crisis is lurking in the background. As we work hard to overcome the pandemic, we cannot afford to lose sight of the much greater threat to our economic, developmental and societal gains as we know them. Climate change.
Covid-19 has undermined the foundation for many companies and industries. It has turned our daily lives upside down. In light of the difficulties, Covid-19 has still brought about two positive aspects.
The first is a taste of the air that we could breathe in a low-carbon future. Clearer skies, disappearing smog and thriving eco-systems have given us a sight of how the environment may come to life when consumptions are balanced and emissions reduced. In a sense, we are rolling out the largest ever pollution experiment right now - and it is working. Covid-19 has been kind to the environment. As we seek to recover and rebuild, this is an opportunity to use the public investments to address the potentially much more devastating effects of climate change. Now is a chance to Build Back Better and Greener.
The second learning is the power of unity. While it might sound simple, the pandemic has taught us that national solutions won’t solve global challenges. The pandemic has reminded us of the importance of international collaboration in combatting global risks, and in many ways, it gives us a clearer vision of what it takes to save the planet. Multilateralism is essential. Covid-19 has shown us that people are ready to fundamentally change behaviour if they see that the threat is imminent and serious enough.
Islands of opportunities
While the pandemic’s economic aftermath will undoubtedly squeeze public budgets, lead to higher national debts and competing priorities, it has provided us with even greater opportunity to act.
Just before the circuit breaker, Denmark’s Minister for the Environment, Lea Wermelin, visited Singapore to conclude a five-year commitment on green, environmental collaboration with her counterpart and then Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli. It was an important and timely visit that cemented Singapore and Denmark’s joint way forward on circular economy, green infrastructure, climate adaptation and sustainable development. None of our commitment will change despite this setback.
Singapore, as a hub with the capabilities, the experience and the talents to push for green recovery, is a key actor in Asia’s efforts to Build Back Better and Greener. Denmark likewise in Europe. But being small economies accounting for only 0.1 per cent of the world’s emissions, neither of us can push the needle alone. Instead, we can ensure that green recovery is a race to the top and a guiding principle out of the crisis by taking leadership and utilising our innovation abilities to seek green opportunities.
A couple of months back, Denmark reinforced our green ambitions in a new climate package. This included committingSGD 60 billion to build two giant energy islands in our biggest single infrastructure investment ever. The offshore wind project has the potential to expand to 12GW over time, which is more than double Europe’s current offshore wind capacity alone. Also known as Power-to-X, the technology could lead to a breakthrough in decarbonisation by allowing us to store and convert renewable energy into green, electro-fuels for heavy-duty vehicles, shipping and aviation. It might be a moonshot, but so was wind energy when we defined that as a key renewable source more than 40 years ago. Eventually, it is necessary leadership.
Capabilities aside, now is a call for leadership
These energy islands present an opportunity to test out designs and technologies that have long been studied, but never built in real life. And so does the Singaporean-Danish green cooperation. We seek to take on green innovations through strong public-private-partnerships with academia, startups, inventors and environmental enthusiasts. Not because it is the easiest injection to immediately boost our economies. Simply because it is the only right remedy for lasting progress and sustainable growth. As with most other challenges throughout history, leadership comes before technical hurdles.
Standing before Singapore International Energy Week I am greatly optimistic that this partnership, which blends Singapore and Denmark’s strong government support to spur innovation for greater good, will inspire others to lead cohesive change.
As energy professionals, government representatives, policymakers and business leaders from all over the world gather in Singapore, one thing stands clear; no country survives in a dying world. Green growth is the only sustainable way out of the current crisis.