Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the MOU signing event between Singapore University of Social Sciences and Singapore Scout Association on 19 February 2022
Prof Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University of Social Sciences
Dr Ang Hak Seng, Director, Centre of Excellence for Social Good
Mr Raymond Chia, President, Singapore Scout Association
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 Good morning everyone. I thank the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) and the Singapore Scout Association (SSA) for inviting me to join you today.
2 I am happy to hear that SUSS and SSA will be developing and delivering a United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Educational Programme to equip and empower our youth with an understanding of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through courses, workshops as well as community projects.
3 To have courses or workshops that are readily available for youths, and at the same time, allowing them to come offline, to physically experience through community projects, is a great idea to have an in-depth learning and practical application of what they learned in the course. This is a sign of how training and acquiring of skills is going to look in the future. We are not going to have long, formal courses that require people to commit long periods and large amounts of their time. To make it convenient, bite-sized, and having the opportunity to work with partners to come together, build community, and learn from one another with practical examples – this will really make learning a lot more relevant and effective.
4 As you can see from the Budget yesterday, more emphasis will be placed on making our manpower relevant for the future. There is more emphasis on making training opportunities available and putting in more resources in skills transfer and acquisition. More importantly, it is to allow the ageing workforce in Singapore to be ready for the much higher social needs in the future. We are going to have a larger segment of ageing population. At the same time, the number that is going to be active in the economic and employment phases is shrinking in proportion. Therefore, having the emphasis on skills acquisition and continuous education, and taking the opportunity to acquire new knowledge on-the-go is going to be the factor that will determine whether we are able to transform as a society and as an economy. I am glad to see some of the steps taken. This is one example of the many opportunities that is available for SUSS and our Institutions of Higher Learning that are looking at continuous education.
Urgency of Sustainable Development
5 The need for sustainable development has never been more urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the world’s biggest challenges, such as poverty, livelihood, healthcare, food insecurity, and inequality. The Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) has always placed importance on good, high quality, clean water in Singapore. This basic need of readily available, clean water is missing in many parts of the world, showing starkly the urgent need for SDGs across the world. The United Nations is going to do a stocktake in 2023 and we will be informed by the study on how much more we need to do. The SSA taking this on a global basis will help us focus the energy of our youths and community groups on an urgent need for sustainable and comprehensive development across the world.
6 Climate change is a wicked problem that we are facing as mankind. It poses a serious threat to humanity. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Sixth Assessment Report on climate change. The report showed that global warming will exceed 1.50C – 20C during the 21st century unless there are deep reductions in carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades. We talked about achieving net zero emissions by the mid-century, but immediate actions need to be taken in the next two decades in order to change the trajectory of global warming. Every region in the world is expected to experience more droughts, intense and frequent rainfall events, and flooding. We are already seeing extreme temperatures in places that we never imagined happening. For example, Canada is experiencing temperatures of as high as 40-45 degrees Celsius. This is the reality facing us. We need to be prepared for a warmer world. At the same time, we must do our utmost as a humanity to try and reverse the global warming trajectory. This underscores the urgency for all countries to reduce greenhouse gases even as we emerge from the impact of the pandemic.
Singapore Green Plan 2030
7 As a low-lying island city-state, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions. Climate change can also affect our access to critical resources such as food and water. With limited land and alternative energy options, Singapore faces much starker trade-offs in reducing our emissions and building our resilience to the impact of climate change. However, we are not starting from ground zero.
8 Since our founding, Singapore has kept long-term sustainability in mind when developing our national policies. Rather than pursuing economic development at all costs, we have prioritised quality, inclusive and sustainable growth. We have preserved our natural environment to nurture a City in Nature, frozen the growth of the vehicle population, and have closed our water loop to strengthen water resilience for our population. As a result, Singaporeans today enjoy a clean and green Singapore.
9 Last year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which charts ambitious and concrete sectoral targets over the next ten years. The Green Plan touches on all aspects of our lives: from how we live and eat, to how we work and play. Its five pillars are supported by two key horizontal enablers: a Green Government, and a Green Citizenry.
10 Realising this plan will require a whole-of-nation effort. We need all stakeholders – government agencies, corporates, youth, community – to contribute and build a sustainable future for generations to come.
Empowering Youths to Effect Change from the Ground Up
11 SUSS and SSA’s programme to equip youth with skills and knowledge in the SDGs is a good step towards empowering youth to act and contribute towards achieving inclusive and sustainable growth. Youths can plant seeds of sustainable development in their own spheres of influence, be it in the organisations they work in, education institutions they study at, or social enterprises they belong to.
12 Edible Garden City is an example of a social enterprise that aims to balance sustainability with social goals. It advocates for food resilience and the ‘grow our own food movement’. Its initiatives include training and providing autistic adults with employment opportunities in urban farming.
13 UglyFood is another example. It rescues blemished fresh produce from supermarkets and importers, and turns them into profit by creating cleaning agents and fruit juices. Through this, food that would have been thrown away is put to new uses, and food waste is reduced. These are just two examples of how our youths can drive sustainable development from the ground-up.
14 I believe many of you here today are passionate about sustainability and have fresh and innovative ideas buzzing in your minds. I encourage you to transform your ideas into action. You can start small within your network, school, or community, and build your ideas over time. If you need support, you can tap on government funds such as my Ministry’s SG Eco Fund and MCCY’s National Youth Fund to get your initiative started. The process to apply is simple, and there are different categories which offer funding support of up to $1 million.
15 Let me conclude by once again commending SUSS and SSA’s collaboration. With better knowledge of SDGs in their toolbox, I believe youths can effect lasting and positive change from the ground up.
16 I encourage all of you to learn more about the SDGs and step forward to lead by example. Together, we can build an inclusive and sustainable future for generations of Singaporeans.
17 Thank you for having me, congratulations on your MOU, and have a pleasant day ahead.