Singapore positioned to bridge knowledge and funding gaps in APAC sustainability: The Nature Conservancy

By Si Ying Thian

The global conservation organisation is planning to tap into Singapore’s networks and expertise in green finance and research, through its new country office, to advance sustainability initiatives in Asia-Pacific (APAC).

The Nature Conservancy's Singapore team. Image: The Nature Conservancy 

Supported by Singapore’s Economic Development Board (EDB), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) set up its Singapore office late last year, targeting sustainability initiatives aligned with the national Green Plan 2030.  


One of TNC’s current priorities is advocating for nature-based solutions, which may help Singapore meet its goal of greening 80% of her city buildings by 2030, whether by using recycled construction materials or repurposing underutilised spaces into urban farms.


Thomas Brzostowski, TNC’s interim Singapore country director, told GovInsider that EDB has been a key partner in helping the global NGO understand local priorities and capacity needs, as well as linking them up with other ecosystem players in the country.  


“Singapore is more and more an important place for us to have a presence. It is a place for us to convene, to innovate and to create new partnerships that will want to help Singapore achieve its climate sustainability goals,” he shared.  

Singapore: A sustainability partnerships hub


Beyond helping Singapore achieve local climate sustainability goals, TNC envisions the city-state to take on a more significant role in APAC. 


“Singapore is increasingly becoming a hub for green, sustainable, and blended finance from both the private and public sectors. With so many international companies headquartered here with corporate sustainability programmes, we want to partner with them to achieve those as well,” said Brzostowski. 


“[Additionally,] Singapore is a more important place for us to convene global expertise, resources and partnerships to scale up our work across APAC, including Mongolia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea.” 


That said, the other three of TNC’s priorities pointed to collaborations with financers, researchers, and private corporations.  

Funding gap: Are we seeing the outcomes? 


Southeast Asian think-tank Fulcrum pointed to a significant climate funding gap in the region, amounting to four to five percent of the GDP of Southeast Asia. 


This was echoed by Rockefeller Foundation and BCG Research’s findings, which showed that climate finance is concentrated in China, Western Europe, and North America, accounting for about 80% of investment flows in 2020.  


NatureVest, TNC’s in-house impact investment arm is currently tapping on its new Singapore office to accelerate the number of deals within APAC. Launched in 2014, NatureVest has 15 international deals to-date, with only one of them based in APAC.


Brzostowski highlighted Singapore’s advantage as an international financial hub and her proximity to other APAC countries, and hopes that TNC’s new Singapore office would help bring project implementations closer to climate investments. 

Thomas Brzostowski, TNC's interim Singapore country director, highlighted where Singapore's strategic advantages could bring project implementations closer to climate investments. Image: TNC

Investing in climate solutions and impact in Southeast Asia 


TNC also aims to support Singapore’s ambitions as a carbon services and trading hub. The Singapore government recently announced the eligibility criteria for international carbon credits to support to development of carbon markets. 


“We hope to achieve a win-win situation. On one hand, higher-quality carbon credits for companies and investors. On the other hand, projects that are delivering tangible, triple benefits (social, environmental, social). 


“It’s not just carbon sequestration, but also how this money is channeled towards biodiversity projects that benefit local communities. Carbon projects with high biodiversity focus and support by local communities are going to sequester more carbon, hence, going to be more successful.”


For example, TNC leads the Southeast Asia Climate and Nature-Based Solutions (SCeNe) coalition, a collaboration between the regional NGOs, to channel carbon finance and other forms of climate finance to localised conservation solutions in the region. 


It received US$1 million from, Google’s philanthropic arm, to develop a nature-based solutions (NbS) tool to bridge the climate financing gap between frontline organisations (FOs) and investors.  


An NbS incubator program is also currently being developed by SCeNe to render technical support to FOs at various stages of project development, and more details will be announced later this year. 


GovInsider also earlier covered about how carbon offset programmes need to be accompanied by capacity building efforts to reduce actual emissions, such as helping individual businesses to transition to renewable energy. 

Collective knowledge gap in APAC


Additionally, Brzostowski highlighted the gaps in collective knowledge in the region, and where it is headed towards with its Singapore’s office. 


“We’re looking forward to partnering with the research institutions in Singapore, especially in addressing knowledge gaps around nature-based solutions specific to this region. This would allow governments, private investors, and other NGOs to be able to implement their projects more effectively.  


“There’re some very specific research questions we want to tackle, such as how we can make mangrove restoration efforts more effective, to more accurately assess how much carbon there is in the soil in places like India or Mongolia.” 


With 30 years of experience in APAC, TNC is present in Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, and the Pacific Islands.