SINGAPORE – It will not be easy for Singapore to play a key role in influencing nations to commit to greening goals at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27).

This is because of the escalating conflict between the United States and China, alongside the energy crisis in Europe due to the Russia-Ukraine war, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu.

“I will try my very best to try to keep that topic on the agenda and keep reminding the countries that we should ramp (our efforts) up,” said Ms Fu at the National Youth Dialogue on Moving Towards a Net Zero Future at Bugis+ on Wednesday.

“But I suspect that COP27 is not going to be so easy.”

Despite this, the minister said that Singapore remains fully committed to the goals set out in the Singapore Green Plan, the national road map towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

She said: “We are a country that usually delivers what we promise and if we are not able to promise, we won’t… And once we make that promise, we will work very hard to deliver it.”

Ms Fu was responding to a question from the 160-strong audience – which comprised mostly of environmentally conscious people – at the forum about the possibility of expanding Singapore’s positive global climate influence.

The two-hour dialogue, organised by the National Youth Council (NYC), revolved around questions like whether Singapore’s decarbonisation efforts are progressing fast enough and how far the trade off should be between economic considerations and climate priorities, among other things.

Besides Ms Fu, the panel comprised DBS’ chief sustainability officer Helge Mueke, Ms Melissa Low, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions, and Ms Woo Qiyun, a sustainability consultant and prominent Singaporean science communicator and environmentalist.

The panellists were also asked how Singapore could avoid making a negative environmental impact on other countries while the nation transitions to cleaner forms of energy.

Citing Singapore’s present import of hydropower from dams in Laos, Ms Low acknowledged that such dams could negatively impact the environment, like the destruction of forests near dams.

In response, Ms Fu said that all human activities come with an environmental cost and that trade-offs can sometimes be difficult to manage.

She cited the example of electric vehicles, which are touted to be environmentally friendly. But materials used in these batteries, like cobalt and lithium, can be collected only through mining, which is a high-carbon activity, and are fraught with human rights issues.

“Human beings will always have an impact on the environment, so the question is, how can we lower and minimise it?” said Ms Fu.