Keynote Address by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the 7th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources on 4 November 2020
Pak Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment,
Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs,
1 Good morning to everyone. I am pleased to join you at the 7th Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources. To our friends from overseas, thank you for joining us virtually.
COVID-19: FROM CRISIS TO OPPORTUNITY
2 This year’s dialogue takes place amidst a global crisis which has dramatically altered the way we live and work. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the sharpest contraction in the global economy since the Great Depression and is a vivid reminder that we live in an interconnected world. Being an open and globally connected economy, Singapore has been hard hit and our economy is expected to contract by five to seven per cent. But we are working hard to build back better.
3 In this context, I would like to discuss the importance of putting sustainability at the core of our recovery from COVID-19. Even as we battle the immediate public health and economic challenges, there are new opportunities to build a stronger and greener future.
4 All of us are important stakeholders in managing our resources and environment. We are at a significant juncture, where we have the opportunity to put sustainability at the core of our recovery plans and policies, and change the way we produce and consume. We should also work to strengthen our resilience to future shocks, including climate change, supply chain disruptions and other public health threats.
5 Let me make three points on how we can rebuild post-COVID in a sustainable and inclusive manner.
BUILDING A ZERO WASTE, CIRCULAR ECONOMY
6 First, we must work towards a zero waste, circular economy. In an increasingly resource- and carbon-constrained world, countries, corporations and communities must make the paradigm shift from a linear “take, use, throw” model, to a circular one where waste becomes a resource to be reused again and again, and repurposed into valuable secondary products, including harnessing waste for energy.
7 This concept of circularity is not new to Singapore. We have closed the water loop by reclaiming wastewater to become NEWater, and reusing water endlessly, putting the circularity concept into practice.
8 But we can and hope to do more, as part of our vision to becoming a Zero Waste Nation. Last year, we launched our Zero Waste Masterplan, where we set ourselves the target of reducing waste sent to landfill by 30% by 2030.
a. This will involve becoming much more sustainable in production. For example, by adopting more energy efficient practices, as well as practising industrial symbiosis, where the waste streams from one part of the production process becomes feedstock for another.
b. It also means consuming in a more sustainable way. This would mean reducing waste, reducing single use disposables and encouraging reuse of products and materials.
c. It also means exploring more innovation to close our waste loops. We are now trialling the use of treated Incineration Bottom Ash as construction material, or NEWSand. We are also exploring chemical recycling solutions to turn waste plastics into pyrolysis oil, or NEWOil, which can be feedstock for our petrochemical industry.
9 These moves are supported by strong regulatory measures such as our Resource Sustainability Act, which puts in place an Extended Producer Responsibility framework for our priority waste streams, to drive circular economy approaches nationally. We will start with our three priority waste streams namely, packaging waste including plastics, e-waste, and food waste.
10 Let me share an example that embodies the exciting possibilities of the circular economy approach. For over 30 years, Singapore has operated our incineration plants and water reclamation plants separately. We are now seeking to realise synergies from co-locating these plants. By 2025, we will establish the Tuas Nexus, where a water reclamation plant will be co-located with an Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF). At Tuas Nexus, food waste will be mixed with used water sludge and co-digested, increasing biogas production by 40%. This in turn enhances the thermal efficiency of the IWMF, which will generate more than enough energy to power Tuas Nexus. This and other enhanced processes at Tuas Nexus will contribute to a reduction of an estimated 200,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year, equivalent to taking 42,500 cars off the road.
CATALYSING INNOVATION AND SUPPORTING ENTERPRISE
11 Second, we should go big on innovation and redesign for greater sustainability, resilience, resource-efficiency, and with a smaller carbon footprint.
12 Singapore is pressing on to make our towns greener, by installing smart lighting, solar panels, centralised cooling systems, and car-lite features, all aimed at reducing energy consumption and hence reducing emissions. Besides exploring new energy solutions including hydrogen, we are ramping up deployment of solar energy throughout the island, including floating solar PV on three of our reservoirs; one of which, at 60 megawatt-peak, will be among the world’s largest when completed. PUB’s solar PV system will generate sufficient energy to power all the water treatment plants in Singapore. This is a significant step in PUB’s efforts to produce water from green energy.
13 In the area of food, Singapore aims to locally produce thirty per cent of our nutritional needs by 2030. This is our “30 by 30” goal. Given that we produce less than ten per cent now, we will need to aggressively tap on technology and develop a good master plan. Earlier this year, we launched the “30x30 Express” grant to ramp up food production and almost $40 million has been extended. Our farms also aim to become more resource efficient. A good example is Eco-Ark, a floating fish farm, which uses solar power to supplement its energy use. Through smart design, Eco-Ark also uses gravity and head pressure to push seawater through the filtration system towards final discharge, thus reducing its energy use.
14 We will continue to encourage our farms to adopt climate-control technologies that mitigate adverse weather conditions and adopt productive techniques like vertical farming. Currently, an average vegetable farm in Singapore produces about 130 tonnes/ha per year. In contrast, a high-tech vegetable farm has the potential to produce over 1,000 tonnes/ha per year. With about 1% of Singapore land available for agriculture, technology certainly enables us to overcome our limited resources.
REMAINING STEADFAST IN ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE
15 Third, even as we deal with the immediate challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, we must continue our efforts to address the existential challenge of climate change.
16 In March this year, while battling the pandemic, Singapore submitted our enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Our LEDS aspires to halve our emissions from its peak by 2050, with a view of achieving net zero emissions as soon as viable in the second half of this century. This is an ambitious aspiration given our constraints as a small island city state, with limited option to deploy renewable energy at scale. We are pressing ahead with these long-term decarbonisation plans not only to demonstrate our commitment to address climate change, but also to support our recovery plans by unlocking new economic opportunities and jobs in a low-carbon, climate-resilient and more sustainable future.
17 To drive climate action nationally, we have put in place a comprehensive suite of measures to reduce carbon emission across all sectors. This includes the implementation of a carbon tax, grants to improve industrial energy efficiency, and the greening of our transport. This year, we introduced further measures to mitigate climate change, including to reduce the use of refrigerants with high Global Warming Potentials in the refrigeration and air-conditioning sectors, a $25 million Climate-Friendly Household Package to help households purchase energy-efficient appliances, the Maritime Singapore Decarbonisation Blueprint 2050, and the commissioning of net zero energy buildings at our army camps. Singapore has also set the goal of planting more than one million trees over the next 10 years, as part of efforts to become a City in Nature.
18 In our climate actions, we must be guided by science. We are setting up a new Climate Science Research Programme Office, under the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, to lead the formulation of Singapore’s national climate science research masterplan, and to build up local expertise in climate science. Last year, we played host to the Scoping Meeting for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Cycle Synthesis Report. The report is scheduled to be published in 2022, and will inform governments and policymakers around the world with the most up-to-date climate data and projections to guide their adaptation plans. At the regional level, the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre based in Singapore committed $5 million in 2018 through its 5-year Regional Capability Building Programme to help ASEAN countries build capabilities in weather forecasting, sub-seasonal and seasonal prediction, climate change projection and haze monitoring. We will continue to support international engagements and global efforts to address climate change.
19 Let me conclude. While the COVID-19 crisis has introduced new challenges, it also provides us with new opportunities to put sustainability at the core.
20 Last week, A/P Simon Tay and Ms Meixi Gan from the SIIA co-authored a commentary which was published in The Straits Times. They argued that we should turn climate risks, such as forest fires, into business opportunities by monetising forest and peat conservation through the generation of carbon credits. There were two things that stood out in their piece.
21 First, South-east Asia has largely been spared from fires and haze this year. While risks of reoccurrence remain, there are opportunities to be gained if action is taken. I would like to acknowledge the strong leadership and determination that President Joko Widodo and his government have exhibited in reducing land and forest fires in Indonesia. With climate change, warmer and drier weather can be expected in the years to come. We must continue to enhance regional cooperation to achieve ASEAN’s vision of a haze-free region.
22 Second, governments alone cannot drive sustainability. Partnerships with industry and civil society organisations are necessary. By using technology, incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles into decision-making, and pooling ideas and resources, corporates and communities can co-create solutions that enhance resilience and contribute to environment protection. I believe several of the participants here are active members of such partnerships and I would like to acknowledge their efforts.
23 As we navigate our way forward during these uncertain times, we must continue to set our sights on building a brighter and greener future for the generations to come. This can only be achieved if we place sustainability high on our agenda, and fully harness the potential and opportunities that come with it. Together, we can ensure recovery not only makes our businesses and communities stronger, but also set us on a path that is more sustainable.
24 I commend SIIA for organising this annual event despite the challenging times and for bringing together key stakeholders who are passionate about forging a sustainable future.
25 I look forward to fruitful discussions. Thank you.