Speech by Minister Grace Fu - Building a Green Singapore - Fostering a liveable, more sustainable nation
Speech By Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment’s Committtee of Supply (COS) Debate 2023, 2 March 2023
1 Mr. Chairman, before I address the “cuts” filed by members, I would like to thank many members who spoke on sustainability during the Budget debate. In particular, Professor Koh Lian Pin’s call for climate change and sustainability to always be among the bread-and-butter issues we focus on; and Ms Carrie Tan’s motto to Share More, Use Less, Waste Not, resonated with me. Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean also spoke about our raised climate ambition and the urgent need for climate action. He explained that a whole-of-nation effort was needed to transition to a greener future.
2 This nationwide effort is underpinned by the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which we launched two years ago. The Green Plan charts bold and concrete policies and actions for Singapore to achieve our net zero emissions goal. It serves as a critical compass on our path to sustainability. My colleagues from other Ministries have been or will be providing updates on their Green Plan initiatives over the Committee of Supply debate.
3 We must press ahead on this inter-generational effort to steward a green, liveable and climate-resilient home for Singaporeans and our future generations. Today, my colleagues from the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment and I, will share how we are laying the foundations for a green nation that is Climate-Resilient and Climate-Friendly.
A Climate-Friendly Nation
4 First, we will elaborate on how we are leading, enabling, and facilitating Singapore’s transition to a climate-friendly nation.
Leading the Transition
5 The public sector will lead the way for Singapore’s decarbonisation journey and pave the way for green efforts to take root.
6 Under the GreenGov.SG initiative, the public sector has committed to achieving net zero emissions around 2045, five years ahead of our national target. Professor Koh Lian Pin and Mr Don Wee asked for a progress update. To spearhead the effort, we have appointed Singapore’s first Government Chief Sustainability Officer (GCSO). Each Ministry has also appointed a Chief Sustainability Officer to oversee sustainability matters across their Ministry family. They will work closely with the GCSO to develop and coordinate strategies to meet this ambition.
Our public sector agencies are pushing ahead with decarbonising their systems and processes. For instance, the National Environment Agency (NEA) is working with Keppel Seghers on a joint feasibility study to capture carbon dioxide emitted from Waste-to-Energy plants.
Ms Poh Li San asked about PUB’s decarbonisation plans and solutions. PUB has also committed to achieve net zero emissions around 2045, in line with our GreenGove.SG ambition.
Their decarbonisation strategy is underpinned by 3Rs – Reduce, Replace and Remove:
First, PUB will reduce carbon emissions by improving the efficiency of energy-intensive processes such as desalination and NEWater. It targets to reduce the energy consumption for desalination from 3.5 to less than 2 kilowatt-hour per cubic meter by 2025. PUB’s upcoming Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (WRP) will be fully energy self-sufficient by harnessing synergies with NEA’s Integrated Waste Management Facility.
Next, PUB will also replace carbon-based energy sources with renewable energy, including solar. We are already home to one of the world’s largest floating solar farms at Tengeh Reservoir. We are deploying the next floating solar farm at Pandan Reservoir, and plan to call the tender for this later this year.
PUB is also exploring innovative technologies to remove carbon. In partnership with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), PUB is test-bedding the use of novel electrolysis technology to capture carbon dioxide in seawater as part of the desalination process. This will produce hydrogen and pre-treat seawater so that it can be desalinated at lower energy.
7 Mr Don Wee and Ms Cheryl Chan will be pleased to hear that from this financial year (FY) onwards, the Government will publish an annual GreenGov.SG report. The report will show our efforts, progress, and plans. We will start with reporting Scope 1 and 2 emissions, electricity, and water consumption, with reference to international standards and frameworks. From FY2024, all statutory boards will also make their annual environmental sustainability disclosures. Several statutory boards have started making sustainability disclosures. They have been systematically incorporating sustainability in their decision-making and risk management frameworks to achieve concrete sustainability outcomes.
8 As Mr Don Wee, Mr Louis Ng and Professor Koh Lian Pin pointed out, the public sector can drive the nation’s transition to a green economy by leveraging on its procurement budget.
Let me elaborate on our plans for green procurement in the public sector. The public sector has adopted green procurement since 2007. Thus far, we have introduced sustainability requirements for selected goods and services. For example, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) equipment, electrical appliances, and printing paper must first meet environmental standards before they are assessed on price and quality attributes. Building on this foundation, we intend to raise the bar. Starting from 2024, besides prequalifying the products on environmental standards, we will also consider the sustainability practices of the company we buy from.
As announced by SMS for Finance, Mr Chee Hong Tat, we will start with large construction and ICT tenders. These make up more than 60 per cent of the value of Government procurement contracts. Such projects include public infrastructure, industrial buildings, and office ICT equipment contracts. Using ICT as an example, in addition to the requirement of matching the best-in-class in energy efficiency, we may evaluate the efforts of the tenderers in reducing packaging, and carbon footprint of their operations, when we evaluate the tender bids. As this is a new concept, we will start with setting aside up to 5 per cent of the evaluation points for environmental sustainability. We will review the amount and engage the industry closely as we expand the adoption of sustainability criteria to more public sector procurement sectors.
Mr Don Wee asked if such efforts to green the public sector will entail additional costs. Environmental sustainability is not costless, and we will have to pay a bit more for greener goods and services. But as the world decarbonises, the demand for green products and services will grow. Green procurement in the public sector will encourage suppliers to adopt sustainability practices and develop green products and services. Thereby enhancing the growth of the green economy in Singapore, and the competitiveness of our companies globally. MTI had outlined initiatives that support businesses in adopting sustainability practices, such as measuring carbon emissions, sustainability reporting, and seizing opportunities in the green economy.
9 I hope that these initiatives under GreenGov.SG will spur many in the private sector to follow suit, in publishing their own sustainability reports, and incorporating sustainability considerations in their procurement policies. Together as a nation, we can transform our economy.
Enabling the Transition
10 This leads me to talk about enabling the transformation through partnering businesses and the community.
11 Building a green nation requires the participation of all – businesses, communities, and persons. The Government cannot do it alone. All of us must work closely alongside each other, as partners, to deliver on the Green Plan.
12 We will be raising our carbon tax progressively over the next few years to further incentivise carbon and energy efficiency throughout the economy and society. MTI had addressed queries on allowances under the transition framework that Ms Cheryl Chan asked about. As raised by Professor Koh, we will allow companies to use high-quality international carbon credits (ICCs) to offset up to 5 per cent of their taxable emissions. We will publish a whitelist of acceptable ICCs later this year, which will include eligible host countries, carbon crediting programmes and methodologies.
13 Businesses should do more with less. Creating more products and services with less resources and less waste will raise their competitiveness in the long run, particularly against higher carbon and energy prices. Businesses must invest in energy efficient equipment, or manufacturing processes.Some upfront costs may be incurred. However, over the long run, lower energy and resource use will lead to lower costs over the equipment’s lifecycle.
Mr Gan Thiam Poh asked about the support provided for businesses, including the SMEs, in making this upfront investment. We recognise that upfront capital investment can be challenging for our businesses, particularly SMEs. To support an inclusive transition, we will help SMEs make the switch. Enterprise Singapore introduced the Energy Efficiency Grant (EEG) for food services, food manufacturing and retail sectors last year.
NEA also enhanced the Energy Efficiency Fund (E2F) for manufacturing companies to invest in energy efficient equipment. One SME that benefitted from the enhanced E2F is ACP Metal Finishing Private Limited (ACP), which specialises in metal surface treatments and finishes. ACP tapped on the enhanced E2F to replace over a thousand fluorescent lightings in its facilities with more energy efficient LED lightings. The E2F funded 70% of the $60,000 project cost. With these retrofits, the company improved the energy efficiency of its operations. They enjoy annual energy savings of about $30,000, which represents a payback period of less than a year with support from the E2F.
14 I am happy to announce that we will further enhance the Energy Efficiency Fund to provide manufacturing companies with certainty of the grant amount, upfront, when they invest in energy efficient equipment. We will also further simplify the grant application process by streamlining the measurement and verification requirements. I encourage eligible companies, particularly our SMEs, to tap the enhanced scheme to defray the cost of switching to more energy efficient equipment. This will enhance their competitiveness, as they participate in the greening of our economy.
15 Mr Gan Thiam Poh and Dr Lim Wee Kiak also called for support for households to be more energy efficient. Our energy labels, with the number of ticks, have enabled consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing appliances. I am heartened that more consumers are choosing appliances with higher energy efficiency. Suppliers have noticed this, and are responding by expanding their offering of energy efficient appliances.
We will enhance these efforts. We will add energy labels to portable air-conditioners and more types of lamps next year. The standards for air-conditioners, refrigerators, lamps and televisions will also be raised over the next two years; to lock in efficiency gains and remove less efficient appliances from the market. These will help to further reduce energy consumption in our households; and help consumers reduce their utility bills by choosing more energy efficient appliances.
16 Mr Chairman, in Mandarin, please.
17 Aside from increasing efficiency, circularity is another avenue of being climate-friendly. SMS Amy Khor will elaborate further on our efforts towards a zero waste nation, in particular to reduce packaging waste and boost our recycling rate. She will also share about continued efforts to partner hawkers in ensuring Singapore’s treasured hawker culture is safeguarded for years to come.
Facilitating the Transition
18 Grants and policies are but tools and enablers. To unlock the next bound of the green transition, we must change our collective mindsets and behaviours. Individually, our actions may feel insignificant, but collectively, we can build a new social compact necessary for a green Singapore.
19 The Government has been facilitating the green transition through our engagements and partnerships with the community under our ForwardSG Steward Pillar. Prof Koh asked for an update. He will be heartened to hear that many Singaporeans share our ambitions and hopes for a greener Singapore, and have great ideas to help us get there.
To date, over 1,400 Singaporeans ranging from the youth to the elderly have attended close to 20 engagement sessions under the Steward Pillar. The engagements focused on the challenges and trade-offs in fiscal and environmental sustainability topics, such as: our net zero ambition, resource circularity, coastal and flood resilience, and food security.
In a dialogue with seniors at Toa Payoh, I was particularly inspired by their ideas and enthusiasm towards recycling and reducing their carbon footprint. I remember Mr Wang, who sold his car and switched to cycling after the completion of a MRT station in his neighbourhood. He is also a handyman, repairing discarded electrical appliances regularly for his neighbours to reuse. We can certainly take a leaf out of the book of these residents in embodying the spirit of stewardship.
In a bid to turn more of these ideas into action, we have launched the Green Nation Pledge. We are calling on individuals and organisations to pledge – as a contributor, advocate, or champion. More than 350 educational institutions and organisations, representing 200,000 employees and students, and more than 10,000 individuals have made Green Nation Pledges thus far.
20 My Ministry will continue to facilitate ground-up sustainability initiatives and partner the community in building a green nation. SPS Baey will share more on our efforts in his speech, and also about efforts on public health resilience.
A Climate-Ready Nation
21 Mr Chairman, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report found that the Southeast Asia region is one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels pose an existential threat to us. We are especially at risk as a low-lying island state. We also expect significant increases in temperature and extreme weather patterns by the end of the century. The impacts of climate change are far-reaching and have downstream implications on food security when harvests are affected; and on water security when sources of water dry up during heatwaves.
Securing the Transition
22 My Ministry is laying the foundation for Singapore to be a climate-ready nation. I will elaborate on how we will bolster our water security; SMS Koh Poh Koon will share how we are shoring up our coastal defences, inland flood protection and food resilience.
23 Singapore has four national taps – water from local catchments, imported water, NEWater, and desalinated water. NEWater and desalinated water are weather-resilient sources. In addressing the threats of climate change, we will invest further in these weather-resilient taps.
Ms Poh has asked for an update on our water infrastructure. We will increase the capacity and efficiency of desalination capabilities. Last year, we opened our fifth desalination plant – the Jurong Island Desalination Plant. It is co-located with the Tembusu Multi-Utilities Complex (TMUC). This enables the plant to be about 5 per cent more energy efficient compared to earlier desalination plants. We will strengthen our systems for managing used water and recycling it into NEWater. Used water is a precious resource that can be recycled endlessly to fortify our water resilience. We capture our used water through our Deep Tunnel Sewerage System (DTSS) – a network of deep tunnels that form a superhighway for our used water. The used water travels through the DTSS by gravity to Water Reclamation Plants (WRPs) and NEWater factories. They are then collected, treated, and reclaimed to produce NEWater. When completed, the DTSS will reduce by 50 per cent the amount of land that would otherwise have been needed for used water infrastructure. This is significant in land-scarce Singapore, and will make room for more spaces for Singaporeans to live, work and play. We are making good progress on DTSS Phase 2 and expect tunnelling works to be completed by the second half of this year. This will connect the existing Changi WRP on the eastern side and the upcoming Tuas WRP in the west. The Tuas WRP will be completed by 2026, alongside the new Tuas NEWater Factory. We will be redeveloping the Kranji Water Reclamation Plant and NEWater Factory in the north as the new piece of our three-node DTSS. Preliminary design will commence this year. Together, these developments will strengthen Singapore’s water reclamation system, increase the treatment capacity of used water, and bolster our NEWater production.
24 Efforts to secure our water supply must be accompanied by efforts to manage our water demand. Mr Gan asked about our efforts in improving water efficiency in the non-domestic sector.
The non-domestic sector currently accounts for more than half of our total water demand, and can play a big part in water conservation. We have required large water users to establish water management systems and submit annual plans for water efficiency to PUB, under the Mandatory Water Efficiency Management Practices (MWEMP). Through this exercise, large water users are made aware of water-intensive parts of their operations and identify opportunities to increase efficiency.
To further improve water efficiency in the non-domestic sector, PUB will introduce mandatory recycling requirements on new and expansion projects in industries that have high water consumption. These are namely the wafer fabrication, electronics, and biomedical industries. They are water-intensive and have high potential for water recycling. PUB will also enhance the incentive schemes to encourage companies to go beyond the mandatory recycling rate. This will come into effect on 1st January 2024. More details will be released later.
Households can play a part through sustainable living practices and being mindful of our consumption. It is easy to take for granted that clean water is available in every household today. It is unfathomable that 60 years ago, water rationing was imposed in Singapore. The water supply had to be cut off for 12 hours, three times a week, for about eight months. We must therefore continue to promote water conservation among our population.
25 A resilient water supply is critical in safeguarding our water needs from external shocks arising from climate and environmental impacts. The Singapore Water Story is one that must carry through to future generations.
26 And that is the goal of a green nation. To steward a green, liveable and climate-resilient home. A home that is sustainable and will last for generations. The Government will lay the foundations for a green Singapore that is climate-friendly and climate-ready. But we will only make headway if this is a shared vision, and if we all take collective steps along this journey.
27 I invite businesses, to partner us in being catalytic agents to the transition, by moving ahead of the curve to bring about the next bound of sustainability. I invite the community, to partner us in building a social compact, that will make us the greenest generation so far. I invite everyone, to partner us in building a green nation, together.
28 Thank you.