Young Asia Pacific Leaders Consider Climate
Issues and Opportunities
Rio+20 next year is set to become the platform
for creating a deal on climate change and sustainable development. The failure
of international meetings to date to establish an enforced, legally binding
agreement on emissions was subject seriously considered at this month’s World Leadership
Conference in Singapore. And although climate change has many negative effects,
one positive outcome is the opening of new sea lanes in the Arctic. This can
reduce transit times between destinations and has implications for Singapore.
Young people attending the World Leadership
Conference 2011 in Singapore this month set out to build up a strong momentum
in the Asia-Pacific region towards Rio+20 and to train young people to become
leaders of today.
Rio+20 is set to become the platform for
creating a deal on climate change and sustainable development. The failure of
both the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord to establish an enforced,
legally binding agreement towards the protection of the environment and adaptation
to climate change was seriously considered at this Leadership Conference.
Ken Hickson attended the Conference and ran a
workshop on “Communicating Climate Change:
Towards a Green Economy to Eradicate Poverty”
The enthusiasm and determination of the young
leaders involved – as organisers and delegates – was admirable.
We will bring you more of the papers and
people of the conference in future issues. Here’s the fist in a series by Jill
Chin of CSR Asia:
Environmental Governance in the Corporate
On 15 July, I attended the World Leadership
Conference organised by ECO Singapore, an event which brought together youths
from Asia Pacific to learn and share ideas on sustainable development. I gave a
presentation on environmental governance in the corporate sector, which
received some interesting questions from the participants. In this article, I
would like to address one of the key issues raised – whether environmental
governance is solely defined as fulfilling legal obligations.
According to the United Nations Environment
Programme, environmental governance “comprises the rules, practices, policies
and institutions that shape how humans interact with the environment”. While
environmental governance is often associated with governments, it also takes
into account the role of other stakeholders that have an impact on the
environment, including the private sector, NGOs and civil society. For the
private sector, environmental governance can be understood as an internal
system of policies and frameworks to manage the environmental impacts of the
business and measure performance against set targets.
Is corporate environmental governance about
complying with the law? Yes and no. Certainly the governance system must
address all domestic and international environmental laws applicable to the
business operations; however environmental governance goes beyond compliance to
include voluntary actions to meet environmental standards that are above the
minimum requirements of the law. By taking proactive voluntary actions,
companies can demonstrate their environmental responsibility, which may lesson
the likelihood of stringent regulations in the future. Companies can also
differentiate themselves from competitors as environmental leaders in their
sectors, and respond to stakeholders demanding for greater environmental
As an example, the climate change agenda of
most Asian countries do not impose mandatory emission reduction targets on the
private sector; nonetheless it is not uncommon to find companies, usually the
leaders in their industry sectors, with climate change strategies and
self-determined targets. The airline industry in Hong Kong launched the first
voluntary, sector wide carbon intensity reduction pledge in the country. As
part of the industry effort, Cathay Pacific joined the Hong Kong Airport
Authority’s Carbon Reduction Campaign to reduce the airport’s carbon emissions
collectively by 25 percent per workload unit by 2015 compared to 2008 levels.
Cathay Pacific has also identified emission reduction targets in line with the
climate change targets of the International Air Transport Association.
Singapore-based property developer City
Developments Limited (CDL) adopts the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System
to provide a systematic process of managing CDL’s impacts on the environment.
CDL also draws reference from the Singapore Sustainable Development Blueprint
on energy intensity reduction targets, and sets a target of achieving a minimum
BCA Green Mark GoldPLUS rating for all new developments. (The BCA Green Mark is
a green building rating system to evaluate a building for its environmental
impact and performance. It is endorsed and supported by the Singapore National
Environment Agency.) In the area of climate change, CDL aims to reduce carbon
intensity emissions by 22 percent by 2020, which exceeds the nation’s reduction
target of 16 percent below business-as-usual (BAU) levels.
Samsung Electronics states its policy on the
use and phase out of target substances, which clearly outlines the commitment
and actions taken above and beyond legal requirements. By considering cases
where the scientific evidence is conflicting or not yet absolute and engaging
in ongoing dialogue with stakeholders, Samsung Electronics incorporates the
precautionary principle into its approach for managing target substances.
The above examples illustrate how
environmental governance can comprise both internal systems as well as external
initiatives. Most companies begin with setting in place internal policies and
systems. After getting the house in order, companies may consider external
initiatives to further their environmental commitments and actions. An example
is Unilever, which in 2009 announced a moratorium on the destruction of
rainforest and peat land areas in Indonesia to grow palm oil. Together with Greenpeace,
the company established a coalition of companies and NGOs to support the
moratorium and set public targets for purchasing certified sustainable supplies
of palm oil. Unilever also contributed to the development of the Roundtable on
Sustainable Palm Oil’s Greenhouse Gas Working Group’s proposals.
Effective environmental governance requires
top-level management commitment to develop, plan and implement policies and
systems that deliver the organisation’s environmental commitments. As the
environmental governance landscape of Asia evolves, companies must lose no time
in preparing themselves for stricter regulations in the future. Taking a
forward-thinking stance on environmental governance beyond legal compliance
will be critical for long-term business continuity and success.
Joshua Ho Straits Times (14 July 2011):
ALTHOUGH climate change has many negative
effects, one positive outcome is the opening of new sea lanes in the Arctic.
This can reduce transit times between destinations and has implications for
Global warming may cause the ice-logged
Arctic Ocean to be ice-free in the summer in the future. Estimates on when this
will occur vary, ranging from as early as 2015 to beyond 2040.
When it does occur, the opening of Arctic
routes will result in tremendous shipping benefits. Transiting the Northern Sea
Route above Russia between the North Atlantic and the North Pacific would trim
about 5,000 nautical miles – a week’s sailing time – as compared with passing
through the Suez Canal and Malacca Strait.
Financial savings associated with using this
shorter route are estimated at US$600,000 (S$740,000) a vessel.
This may have an adverse impact on existing
regional hub ports which have long been a nexus of east-west shipping, like
But despite the threats that could be
presented to a transit hub port like Singapore, there are also opportunities
which could be capitalised on.
First, with the opening of the Arctic routes
and the Arctic in general for oil exploration, there would be an increasing
need for new offshore rigs, special-purpose offshore facilities and vessels
which can withstand the cold and harsh Arctic environment. Singapore
shipbuilders which have already attained world-class standards are in a
position to capitalise on this new market.
Already, Keppel Offshore & Marine has
signed an agreement with Lukoil to cooperate on building new platforms. It has
already delivered two ice-breakers, two ice-class, anchor-handling tug supply
vessels, two ice-class rescue vessels and an ice-class floating storage and
offloading vessel in 2009, which were built according to the standards and
rules of the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping.
More Singapore shipbuilders can start to capitalise
on this opportunity as Russia has released plans to build a total of 40
ice-resistant oil platforms, 14 offshore gas terminals, 55 ice-resistant
tankers and storage tankers and 20 gas carriers in the future.
Second, new opportunities in research and
development and shipbuilding will spring up for Singapore. The rather clean
Arctic environment is very susceptible to marine pollution. This will prompt
the Arctic Council to impose stringent marine environmental regulations for
ships that transit the waterway to protect the marine environment.
This will require cleaner ships that have low
carbon emissions and are more energy efficient. Some research and development
could be undertaken. These may include improvements in hull design to reduce
underwater resistance, special coatings to cut fuel use and the development of
new ship engine technology fuelled by liquefied natural gas and hydrogen.
There is also a need for stronger and more
powerful vessels to transit the Arctic as well as to extract natural resources
which lie beneath the Arctic basin – this lends itself to further research and
development. An example of such ships would be the double-acting ship, which is
able to use both its stern and bow interchangeably while navigating through
different ice conditions.
Another example would be the development of
oblique ice-breakers with azimuth propulsion that could rotate and break ice
sideways. As Singapore is home to world-class shipbuilders, these firms could
capitalise on the development of new types of ships to meet the projected
Finally, with the opening of the Northern Sea
Route, there would be an increasing need for ports to service ships that ply
the route as the existing ports have rather rudimentary infrastructure.
PSA International is one of the leading
global port groups, with investments in 28 port projects in 16 countries across
Asia, Europe and America. With its extensive experience in port development, it
is well placed to develop ports along the Northern Sea Route in cooperation
with partners in Russia.
While the opening up of the Arctic sea
routes, in particular the Northern Sea Route, could have an adverse impact on
Singapore as a hub port, it also presents opportunities in new shipbuilding,
research and development into ship technology, as well as port development.
Firms operating in these areas should quickly
capitalise on the new opportunities that arise as the Arctic routes may well
open earlier than expected due to the unexpected and accelerated rates of
The writer is a senior fellow with the
Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International
Studies, Nanyang Technological University.