US-China climate pact 'strong signal' that both are prepared to set aside differences: Heng Swee Keat

The DPM noted that R&D in sustainability is a priority.

Jean Chien Tay | November 12, 2021, 05:46 PM

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Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Heng Swee Keat said that the climate change pact between China and the U.S. is a "strong signal" that the two largest economies in the world are prepared to set aside their differences and "exercise global leadership to jointly tackle the climate crisis".

Speaking at the 2021 Caixin Summit Singapore on Nov. 12, Heng referred to the recent surprise joint statement made by China and the U.S. on Nov. 10 at COP26, the global climate summit.

The two major carbon emitters announced that they will be working together to enhance climate actions to reduce carbon emissions.

"Existential issue for the world"

Heng mentioned that climate change is an "existential issue for the world", and extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and forest fires have become "commonplace".

"In Southeast Asia, the consequences will be stark – sea levels in this region are rising faster than elsewhere," Heng said.

According to, Singapore is among the cities that will be vulnerable to extreme flooding due to rising sea levels.

Green transition will not be easy

Citing the involvement of "sharp trade-offs" the former Finance Minister noted that the "necessary" green transition will not be easy.

To illustrate his point, Heng raised the example of carbon taxes, which according to him, is the most economically efficient mechanism to curb climate change.

He opined that raising carbon taxes is necessary to "spur bold moves" that will create a more sustainable future in the long run, but the measure will also affect Singapore's cost of living and competitiveness in the short term.

"The ongoing global energy crisis is a reminder that transitions are not always seamless, and we need to pace our transition well," Heng added.

R&D in sustainability a "key priority"

Noting the potential of "sustainable tech", Heng said Singapore has made R&D (research and development) in sustainability a "key priority", in areas such as making low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture more feasible.

He also mentioned that researchers from Singapore and France have joined efforts to set up a "world-first" research centre to develop greener ways of recycling e-waste.

These researchers have developed new ways to increase the efficiency of recycling valuable metals from lithium-ion batteries.

For context, lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries commonly used in mobile phones and laptops.

The world generates over 50 million tonnes of e-waste each year, which is equivalent to the weight of 350 cruise ships.

Top image via Lim Sin Thai/MCI