Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the “Towards a Zero Waste NUS” 2030 Action Plan Launch on 28 August 2020
Professor Yong Kwet Yew, Senior Vice President, Campus Infrastructure
Dr Peck Thian Guan, Director, Office of Safety, Health and Environment and Chairman of NUS Waste Minimisation and Recycling Taskforce
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 Good morning everyone. Thank you for inviting me to the launch of the ‘Towards a Zero Waste NUS’ 2030 Action Plan today.
2 I graduated from NUS close to four decades ago, and I am heartened to see the progress the University has since made in championing research and development in sustainable solutions and equipping our next generation of leaders with the knowledge and skills to pursue this frontier. Such efforts are a step in the right direction.
Importance of Sustainable Development
3 As Professor Yong rightly pointed out, my Ministry was renamed as the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment to reflect the growing importance of sustainability in our national agenda.
4 Sustainability is not a new concept to Singapore. We have in fact always strived to balance economic development with environmental protection and social inclusion since our independence. But the environmental challenges we face today require us to put sustainability at the centre of everything we do.
5 Many of you will be aware that climate change is an existential threat to Singapore. As a low-lying island city state, we are extremely vulnerable to sea level rise. Extreme weather conditions arising from climate change will also affect our access to essential resources such as food and water.
Building up Three Types of Resilience
6 We are taking a three-pronged approach to fight climate change and build a more sustainable Singapore. First, we are strengthening our climate resilience. We are implementing measures to protect our people from impacts such as sea-level rise and extreme weather conditions. Key upcoming infrastructure such as Changi Airport Terminal 5 will be built on higher platform levels. We are also investing $10 million into a National Sea Level Research Programme to strengthen our understanding of sea levels around Singapore. This will enable us to develop more robust sea level rise projections, which we hope will also benefit our neighbouring countries.
7 As part of studying the impact of rising sea levels, the Coastal Protection Agency recently called a tender to look into adaptation measures along our coastlines which are vulnerable to rising sea levels. The study will also look into possible engineering solutions such as reclaiming a series of offshore islands to create freshwater reservoirs.
8 Recently, national water agency PUB and Sembcorp also commenced on the construction of a 60 MWp floating solar photovoltaic system on Tengeh Reservoir. Once ready, the project will be one of the world’s largest inland floating solar PV systems. It will offset 7 per cent of PUB’s annual energy needs — a significant reduction in our carbon emissions.
9 Second, we are building up our resource resilience. As I have mentioned, climate change will put pressure on essential resources, and we must plan ahead to effectively address these challenges. One example is how we are working to provide Singaporeans with a robust and sustainable water supply. With our water use projected to double by 2060, we are harnessing innovative solutions and investing in weather-resilient water sources to meet our population’s long-term water needs.
10 Last week, I also spoke to NUS college residential students on the importance of food security, and what Singapore is doing to increase local food production, amidst the challenges of climate change and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
11 Even before the pandemic, the Singapore Food Agency had embarked on various strategies to increase local food production. Last year, we announced our goal to meet 30 per cent of our nutritional needs with locally produced food by 2030, with a focus on vegetables, eggs and fish. This is what we call our “30 by 30” goal. In April this year, SFA announced a $30 million “30 X 30 Express” grant to further accelerate local production of eggs, leafy vegetables and fish over the next six to 24 months. SFA is now coordinating with various agencies to facilitate the necessary regulatory clearances so that farms can start producing these three types of foods as soon as possible.
12 The third resilience we are building up is economic resilience. We are helping our businesses, through grants and support schemes, to reduce carbon footprint, adopt circular economy strategies and become more energy-efficient. This will ensure that they are able to adapt and thrive in a future economy that is resource and carbon constrained.
13 One example is Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Co. Pte Ltd (SSMC), a semiconductor fabrication company. Tapping on NEA’s Energy Efficiency fund, SSMC carried out an energy assessment of their existing facilities and determined an optimal level of refrigerant charging for chiller efficiency. They also implemented a controller to maintain optimal performance of the chillers under different conditions, resulting in annual cost savings of $319,000.
The Need for Collective Action
14 These are some examples of what the Government is doing in the pursuit of sustainability. But our efforts alone will not be enough. We need every individual, business and organisation in this country to join us on this national agenda and make sustainability a part of their everyday lives.
15 I am happy to note that NUS is doing its part to reduce carbon footprint. Sustainability has always been a part of NUS’ DNA. Following the launch of its Sustainability Strategic Plan in 2017, NUS has achieved further progress in the areas of carbon emissions and energy use intensity reduction, as well as implemented increased recycling initiatives, particularly for food waste, horticultural waste, and e-waste. Your goal to attain carbon neutrality on campus by 2030 is highly commendable. I hope this will inspire other organisations to follow suit.
Benefits of a Circular Economy
16 The launch of the ‘Towards a Zero Waste NUS’ 2030 Action Plan today is another milestone in your institution’s journey towards sustainability. In fact, what the plan has set out to achieve is very much aligned with the strategies in Singapore’s inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan, which was launched by my Ministry last year.
17 To achieve Singapore’s vision of becoming a Zero Waste Nation, we must move towards more sustainable consumption and production, and adopt a circular economy approach to reuse our resources for as long as possible.
18 The possibilities of a circular economy are endless. For example, my Ministry and the National Environment Agency are studying how to turn Incineration Bottom Ash into NEWSand, which may potentially be used in roads and non-structural concrete. This will help to extend the lifespan of Semakau Landfill beyond 2035. We will also look to develop chemical recycling solutions, and convert plastic waste into NEWOil. Just like how we have closed the water loop by recycling used water into NEWater, we can potentially close the waste loop with NEWSand and NEWOil.
19 A circular economy approach has immense potential to create new markets, products and services. The shift towards more recycling, reusing, repairing, and remanufacturing of products will generate new supply and demand streams, creating new jobs and business opportunities for our companies locally and abroad. Take e-waste for example. Last October, TES Singapore announced a $25 million investment to develop two facilities – one locally and another in France – to recycle lithium-ion batteries using proprietary technology. So apart from creating economic value for Singapore and solutions that we can export to the rest of the world, we are also creating higher-value jobs.
20 Let me conclude. The threat of climate change is real. Even as we fight Covid-19, the crisis of a generation, we must continue to fight climate change, which is a crisis that not only this but future generations will increasingly face. The journey towards sustainability is arduous and challenging. But if we come together as one, and take collective action for the environment, we will be able to make Singapore a role model city for sustainability, and a green, liveable home for our future generations.
21 Thank you. I look forward to hearing from the other speakers, and our discussion later.