Why the Pandemic Could Speed Up the Green Transition

It’s not hard to see how the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and the war in Ukraine have slowed down efforts to make companies and economies greener and less reliant on fossil fuels.

However, Piyush Gupta, the CEO of Singapore-based multinational bank DBS, believes these factors will ultimately accelerate sustainability efforts.

Speaking at the TIME100 Leadership Forum in Singapore on Sunday, Gupta told TIME Executive Editor John Simons that the slowdown is most apparent in the energy sector. “When you’re going into winter, and you have people who are not going to have energy for heating and food, then you start rethinking your posture on coal versus other possibilities,” he said.

Germany, which has committed to phase out coal use by the end of the decade, is extending the use of some coal-fired power plants to curb its energy crisis as it works to find alternatives to Russian natural gas. The U.K. will also keep its coal power plants open during the winter to avoid an electricity shortage.

But Gupta believes any pullback in the green transition is temporary. “If you think medium-term, even five years out, the pandemic and its consequences will accelerate the transition.”

He added: “Geopolitical considerations are beginning to get more apparent for energy security. So if you’re completely reliant on a single nation state to provide energy, or you’re completely reliant on a single source of fuel,” any smart politician is going to work to diversify for the future.

Gupta said he believes this will mean more investment in green energy and green technologies.

Last month, DBS announced decarbonization targets. Gupta said his bank is working with clients to pivot their business strategies to transition to net zero emissions, adding “there is so much energy” from clients to transition to a greener economy.

The TIME100 Leadership Forum, held at the National Gallery Singapore, brought together CEOs and other business leaders from across the globe to discuss how they are using their platforms to build a better world. Speaking at the event were: former Google CEO and co-founder of Schmidt Futures, Eric Schmidt; Sandhya Sriram, the co-founder and group CEO of Singapore-based cultivated seafood company Shiok Meats; Neo Gim Huay, managing director of the Center for Nature and Climate at the World Economic Forum; Ari Sarker, Mastercard’s president for Asia Pacific; and Neeraj Aggawal, BCG’s Chairman for Asia Pacific.

Immediately following the Leadership Forum was the TIME100 Impact Awards, which featured actor and producer Alia Bhatt; computational geneticist Dr. Pardis Sabeti; Gregory L. Robinson, the former Director of the James Webb Space Telescope Program; and singer and actor Lea Salonga.

Why the Pandemic Could Speed Up the Green Transition

The TIME100 Leadership Forum and TIME100 Impact Awards in Singapore were produced by TIME in partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board, the Singapore Tourism Board, Mastercard, BCG, and Concha Y Toro.

—With reporting by Amy Gunia in Singapore

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