Keynote Address by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the “Emerging Stronger from a Crisis” Dialogue organised by Eco-Business and Sembcorp Industries on 18 August 2020
Ms Jessica Cheam, Managing Director, Eco-Business
Mr Wong Kim Yin, Group President and CEO, Sembcorp Industries
Mr Bradley Busetto, Director, UNDP Global Centre on Tech, Innovation and Sustainability
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 A very good afternoon to all. I thank Eco-Business and Sembcorp Industries for organising today’s dialogue in support of Singapore’s Climate Action Week, and for inviting me to join you.
FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE MUST CONTINUE
2 Today’s dialogue takes place amidst challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many Singaporeans losing their jobs, and businesses being devastated. But even as we battle this crisis of a generation, my colleagues and I are acutely aware of the urgent need to press on in our other battle against climate change, which will threaten our very existence.
3 Singapore remains committed to making meaningful contributions to build on the global efforts to take collective climate action. In March this year, we submitted our enhanced climate pledge and long-term low-emissions development strategy to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC. We hope our early submission will encourage other Parties to do likewise, thereby strengthening the momentum of global climate action at this critical time.
4 Last month, my Ministry was renamed the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, or MSE, to reflect the importance of sustainability in our national agenda. While Singapore has always strived to balance economic development with environmental protection and social inclusion, the threats posed by climate change have reinforced our determination to put sustainability at the centre of everything we do. We will rally every Singaporean to join us in this effort.
BUILDING UP OUR RESILENCE
5 Singapore is tackling climate change on three fronts — understanding climate change, mitigating it, and adapting to it. First, we are collaborating with partners to better understand climate change and its impact, through research and institutions, so that our actions can be based on robust science. For instance, we have committed S$10 million to a National Sea Level Research Programme to strengthen our understanding of sea levels around Singapore. This will help us develop more robust sea level rise projections in future, which we hope will also benefit our neighbouring countries.
6 Second, despite our constraints as an alternative-energy disadvantaged country, we are committed to reduce our emissions across all sectors with significant measures. This includes a carbon tax which we are applying with no exemptions. The Government is also moving to evolve our energy sector to be even cleaner and more efficient by further harnessing solar, and exploring ways to tap on regional power grids and emerging low-carbon alternatives.
7 Third, even as we do our full share to mitigate, we are taking early steps to safeguard our future. We are building resilience in three key areas: climate resilience; resource resilience; and economic resilience. Let me give you an example of how the Government is working with businesses to harness innovation and technology to build our climate resilience.
8 Those who are familiar with the Singapore Water Story will know how we have enhanced our water sustainability over the years by collecting every drop of water, reusing it endlessly and desalinating seawater. Today, we have “weather-resilient” sources of water from NEWater and desalinated water. But we are not stopping there. We are now working to develop energy sustainability in our water treatment. Singapore is joining the ranks of countries such as China, Japan and South Korea to deploy floating solar farms on our reservoir waters. I am happy to share that PUB and Sembcorp will commence construction of one of the world’s largest single inland floating solar farm at Tengeh Reservoir. Upon completion next year, PUB will be able to reduce its carbon footprint by 7 per cent, and aims to produce clean water from clean energy.
9 We are also building our resource resilience, to ensure a safe and secure supply of critical resources. Even before COVID-19 disrupted global supply chains, Singapore has been working to boost our local food production to buffer ourselves against such disruptions. Last year, we set an ambitious goal to meet 30 per cent of our nutritional needs with local food production, by 2030. In the immediate term, we will help local farmers increase their yield and productivity, such as by the introduction of support schemes such as the Agriculture Productivity Fund and the “30 by 30 Express” grant call. In the medium term, we will allocate more land and resources to expand the capacity of our food industry.
10 We are also strengthening our economic resilience to help our companies thrive in a future economy that is carbon-light, and to seize new opportunities in the green economy. As an example, we are adopting a circular economy approach to waste and resource management. Preliminary studies have estimated that if Singapore recovers and reuses valuable materials found in e-waste, we can reap a net benefit of S$40 million. This translates into the creation of new export markets and new jobs. COVID-19 has also provided an impetus for many companies to adapt and digitalise their businesses. In the environmental context, we are refreshing the Environmental Services Industry Digital Plan, which guides local SMEs in the industry to digitalise their businesses, plug skills gaps, and participate in industry pilot projects. One example is Chye Thiam Maintenance, a cleaning service provider. They have tapped on the Productivity Solutions Grant to adopt various productive cleaning solutions, including digital solutions such as Smart Toilet Monitoring System, and in the process redesigned the jobs to make work easier, safer and smarter for the cleaners who are now known as ‘Hygiene Specialists’. More details on the Environmental Services Industry Digital Plan will be announced soon.
EMERGING STRONGER TOGETHER
11 The examples I have mentioned are just some of the ways in which the Government is pursuing sustainability. We will not succeed if we walk alone on this journey. We started a series of dialogues known as the Emerging Stronger Conversations in June for Singaporeans to come collectively together to reflect on our COVID-19 experience, and to share our hopes and dreams for our future Singapore. In the spirit of SG Together, these conversations will guide how we work together – Government with citizens, and citizens with one another – to build our future together.
12 Today’s dialogue, to discuss how we can emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, is one such opportunity for collective thoughts and actions. It is being held during Climate Action Week to rally our Ministry’s partners to co-deliver activities to sustain the momentum on climate action. I hope that organisations and individuals will participate actively in today’s dialogue, and in upcoming conversations, to share your ideas on how we can work together to build a sustainable Singapore for our future generations. Climate action requires us to think about the impact of our individual decisions. It warrants our collective response now.
13 Thank you, and I look forward to our discussion.