Senior Minister of State, Singapore Ministry of Trade & Industry, Mr. Lee Yi Shyan, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure for me to be here this morning and to open this Green Growth and Business Forum.
This important event has been jointly organised by the UK and Singapore governments, and I would like to take the opportunity to thank our Singapore partners at the Ministry of Trade & Industry, the Ministry of Environment & Water Resources, and the National Climate Change Secretariat of the Prime Minister’s Office. Without their help and support, this Forum would not have been possible. I would also like to thank all of you for attending and participating, including those who have travelled from the UK and the region to join us for this event.
Sustainable economic development is now a key goal of many governments around the world, including in the UK and in this region. The reasons for this are clear and compelling: if we are not successful in finding ways to grow our economies in a more sustainable way, we face a future of increasing resource scarcity and competition, continued environmental degradation and unabated climate change impacts which could potentially be catastrophic for our economies and societies.
I believe it is significant therefore that here in Singapore this week, we have four important events which are linked by the theme of sustainable economic development: The World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week, the Clean Environment Summit, and our own Green Growth & Business Forum.
It was my pleasure yesterday to speak at the opening plenary of the World Cities Summit, in my capacity as the UK Minister of State at the Cabinet Office with responsibility for Cities and Constitution.
It is a fact that cities will play an increasing important role in the future battle for a greener future. The newly appointed UN special envoy for cities and climate change, Michael Bloomberg, recently highlighted the fact cities today account for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and two-thirds of the world’s energy use, and that their total population is projected to double by 2050. So the steps that are taken at the city level will have a major impact on the future of our planet. Cities have the potential to be an enormous force for good, but only if they pursue and exploit opportunities to create economically, socially and environmentally sustainable communities. And there are many such opportunities in areas like energy, urban planning, transport systems, water, sanitation, waste management, and disaster risk reduction.
The theme of our Forum is the link between sustainable development, economic growth, and the business bottom line. The first message I want to emphasise today is that green growth offers enormous economic and business opportunities. We will hear first-hand about some of these opportunities over the two days of our Forum, from distinguished colleagues from government, business and the science and innovation community.
The global market for low carbon goods and services has been valued at over three trillion pounds - equivalent to approximately six trillion Singapore dollars - and is growing rapidly at about four percent each year. The UK green goods and services market – the sixth largest in the world – is worth around 128 billion pounds and supports nearly one million jobs. Our green goods and services exports are growing at about four percent each year, and we enjoy a trade surplus of more than five billion pounds in these sectors.
Offshore wind, where the UK is already the world leader in installed capacity, has generated ten billion pounds of investment and 6,800 skilled jobs. The UK’s offshore wind industry has been further boosted by the recent decision by Siemens to invest £160 million in wind turbine production in the Hull area; creating 1,000 jobs directly and countless more in the local supply chain.
Technological innovation is also playing a key role with opportunities in energy efficiency, energy management systems and storage, ‘SmartGrid’ technologies, clean transport and alternative energy vehicles; and intelligent data management.
The second point I want to make is that governments can play their part in creating the enabling environment for green growth. This is a theme we will explore during our Forum, particularly during the sessions tomorrow.
Over the years, successive Governments failed to take heed of the need to secure supplies of energy in the future. Our fleet of nuclear power stations approached the end of their lives without any plan to replace them. Our electricity generating capacity was set to be degraded by requirements to retire the most polluting coal-fired power stations.
During the last few years the Government has moved to make up this lost ground. A programme of new nuclear power stations is about to begin.
A Government guarantee of £75 million was given for the conversion of the Drax coal-fired power station to biomass.
A framework has been put in place to provide greater certainty over future energy policy – a necessary condition for the Siemens investment.
As Sir Winston Churchill had it, energy security lies in diversity and diversity alone.
I also want to mention the UK’s Green Investment Bank. Launched in 2012, its mission is to accelerate the UK’s transition to a green economy. The Green Investment Bank is a unique institution. It is a public company, operating unashamedly and unambiguously as a “for profit” bank, but with initial capital of almost 4 billion pounds provided by the UK government. The Green Investment Bank aims to undertake targeted financial interventions, with the aim of improving the economics of marginal projects, and attracting private sector investment.
This leads me on to my third and final point: that the private sector has, and will continue to have, a crucial role to play in driving green growth and in the move to a greener economy. The business opportunities offered by green growth are the major theme that we will explore during our Forum today. There are sound, hard-headed commercial reasons why businesses should embrace green growth. In the UK alone it could be worth 20 billion pounds to the economy over the next few years - in addition to the 23 billion pounds companies could save by using resources like energy and water more efficiently. That’s 43 billion pounds in savings and growth.
I very much look forward to hearing from our distinguished speakers, who have kindly agreed to share their experiences and views with us today. I know that we will hear about the business opportunities of green growth for companies, and in key sectors like energy efficiency, renewable energy, the waste sector, and in finance and investment. I am equally sure, however, that we will hear about some of the key challenges to the acceleration of the green growth business agenda.
It is of course important to share and discuss our successes and explore opportunities for further green business collaboration. It is just as important however that we identify continued barriers to progress towards the greener business future we all want to see, and think about how we can work together to overcome them.
I would like to finish by thanking, once again, the Singapore government for jointly hosting this Green Growth & Business Forum with the UK government, and by wishing all of us a productive and profitable two days here in Singapore.