The COP26 [the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties] Report issued by the World Health Organization in October 2021 calls for world leaders to act with urgency on the current climate and health crises, citing the former as the ‘single biggest health threat facing humanity’. Hence, Fiqh Al-Ta’amul Ma’a Al-Azamat (jurisprudence of crisis management) is a survival tool for the global community. The Quran (2:155) hinted that a disaster can be a form of divine love and human introspection. Therefore, disasters should be deemed as a test which opens up opportunities for people to have Himmah (determination) and improve the quality of their life, faith and business.
Review of 2021
Singapore has been involved in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) since 1996. Several nature reserves are the country’s strategy to safeguard biodiversity. The Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity is a self-assessment tool for other cities around the world to benchmark and monitor the progress of their biodiversity conservation efforts to ensure a good quality of life for its urban citizens. This complements the UN Sustainable Development Goal No 11 and Maqasid Shariah on lineage/posterity (ie Nasb).
The finance sector is a critical gatekeeper of the CBD. According to the World Economic Forum, the world’s GDP is mostly dependent on biodiversity, hence funding of environmentally-destructive projects should cease. The loss of nature creates systemic risks, including disruption of ecosystem services on which business activities’ operations depend. Financial institutions face transition risks when aligning with nature-positive regulations.
The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) will replace the Aichi targets which expired in 2020. GBF is relevant to the finance sectors, but restoration of nature requires US$720 billion annually.
In January 2021, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)’s Green and Sustainability-Linked Loan Grant Scheme was announced as the first in the world to support corporates which are moving toward sustainability.
In September 2021, amendments to the Environmental Protection and Management Act gave authority to the government to control the release of hydrofluorocarbons that cause global warming.
However, an independent scientific report (ie Climate Action Tracker) found Singapore’s climate targets and policies as “critically insufficient” as unique challenges faced by the country were not accounted. Hence, the Singapore Green Plan has to be dynamic; that includes continuously harnessing greener options such as solar energy and low-carbon alternatives.
The community longs for an Islamic residential financing, and there is a gleam of hope. In August 2021, Halal Universe wrote in to the CPF Board, exploring if the CPF Act could accommodate a Shariah compliant home financing. The Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of National Development clarified that they have received proposals from service providers which are keen to offer such facilities in Singapore.
Recently, MAS and Bank Negara Malaysia announced plans to link Singapore’s PayNow and Malaysia’s DuitNow real-time national payment systems. This signifies a milestone in the bilateral relationship between both countries and an enabler to support post-pandemic economic growth.
With effect from October 2021, businesses that develop solutions to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions will gain better access to financing via the new Enterprise Financing Scheme-Green, where the Singapore government will provide a 70% risk-share for loans disbursed by banks (ie DBS, HSBC, OCBC and UOB). It covers developmental capital, fixed assets, trade, project, venture debt and mergers and acquisitions. Other banks offering Islamic windows in Singapore could consider following suit.
Meanwhile, Maybank Singapore is training its staff to prepare for food crises with its urban farming programs. In addition, through Maybank Asset Management, the Maybank Asian Growth & Income Islamic Fund was launched. It is Singapore’s first Shariah compliant balanced fund that utilizes quant investing technology and environmental, social and governance screening.
Preview of 2022
A Yemeni scholar, Dr Al-Habīb Abu Bakr Al-‘Adny, has contributed to the study of end of times (ie Fiqh At-Tahawwulat), whose aim is to instill the proper attitude in the Muslim community when there are intense global revolution in the following.
• Ilm (knowledge)
• I’tiqod (human philosophy)
• Iqtisad (global economy) and
• Hukm (legal reasoning).
Hence, Muslim scholars with Adalah (just and piety) and Isnad (knowledge with authority linking back to Prophet Muhammad) are urged to continue guiding the Muslim community to be aware of the dynamic subtle changes affecting the world, in order to remain God-conscious and steadfast.
We should see more involvement of the UN in the future. World leaders are appealing to the UN to facilitate resolutions to long-standing disputes between nations, human displacement and climate disasters as the UN General Assembly continued its endless debates.
To reach the desired targets of the GBF, financial institutions need relevant reporting guidance and understand nature-related risks. The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosure, launched in June 2021, included Herry Cho, the head of sustainability and sustainable finance from Singapore Exchange. Key agencies such as MAS, National Environment Agency, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment have important roles.
Jami` at-Tirmidhi (Hadith No 2629) states that religion (being the natural disposition of humans) began as something strange and it will return to its original state. Hence, the global community must find meaning in their lives to help one another. The mindset of profiteering, economic enslavement and environmental degradation must end.
Environmentalist Dr Jane Goodall said: “Our health and wellbeing is inextricably linked with the health and wellbeing of the environment in which we live.”
Despite an apocalyptic outlook, coupled with the effects of COVID-19, there is hope, hence a reset is necessary. Sustainable development, Islamic finance and the relationship with nature are critical factors. Humans must understand the role of humans as ‘Khalifahs’ on Earth and stay united.
Mishkat al-Masabih (No 173) mentioned that God will not cause everybody to err and He is with the community. Hence, the government bodies, scholars and non-governmental organizations in Singapore have to continue making the country green and liveable. The last Semitic revealed book emphasizes that the fate of humans will not change until they change their own destiny (Quran 13:11). With good political leadership, strong business infrastructure, a large base of professionals and the stable backing of the local Asatizah, Singapore can move only forward, making a positive impact on the economy, community and the environment.
Lise Faski Goin is an active humanitarian aid worker in a multilateral organization. She can be contacted at [email protected]
Fazrihan Duriat is an Islamic finance senior lecturer in Pôle Universitaire Euclide (under the United Nations Treaty Series). He can be contacted at [email protected]