SPEECH BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT AT THE SINGAPORE UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLGY AND DESIGN’S SUSTAINABLE DESIGN HACK 2022 GRAND FINALS ON 27 FEBRUARY 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good afternoon. Thank you for having me here today.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE IMPETUS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
2 As global temperatures rise, countries around the world are witnessing an increasing frequency of extreme weather events. Last year, killer heat waves brought temperatures in Northern America to a record high of 50 degrees Celsius, while China and Europe were hit by deadly flash floods. Other events have displaced millions from their homes as access to essential resources were disrupted. A report by Christian Aid highlighted that 10 of the most destructive weather events in 2021 have cost US$170 billion in damages.
3 In Singapore, we have also felt the impact of climate change. Last year was the second wettest and tenth warmest year on record. Climate change can also affect our access to essential resources. In January this year, the flash floods in Malaysia destroyed many of its farms and crops, limiting the supply of Malaysian produce to Singapore.
4 Scientific evidence has found that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or even two degrees Celsius, would be beyond reach unless immediate, rapid, and large-scale actions are taken. Sustainable development has therefore become more important than ever.
SINGAPORE’S SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
5 Singapore is no stranger to sustainable development. We have strived to balance economic growth with environmental protection and social inclusion since our independence. Our commitment to continue doing so is embodied in the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which outlines our ambitious plans and concrete sectoral targets over the next decade to ensure Singapore remains a green and liveable home.
6 The Green Plan is a long-term roadmap that will evolve as new technologies and ideas emerge. As global momentum for climate change accelerates, Singapore is also raising our climate ambition. In his recent Budget statement, Minister Lawrence Wong announced that the carbon tax will be increased to $45 in 2026 and 2027, and $50 to $80 by 2030 to accelerate decarbonisation. The public sector will take the lead in developing a green economy with the issuance of $35 billion worth of green bonds by 2030. With these initiatives, we hope to achieve net-zero emissions by, or around mid-century.
7 The low-carbon future will require new processes, products and skillsets. While the Government has introduced various initiatives to facilitate this transition, we cannot do this alone without the support of corporates and the community, including youths like yourselves.
THE ROLE OF YOUTHS AND DESIGN THINKING
8 As our future generation, there is much that you can contribute to our sustainable development. Individually, you can adopt sustainable lifestyle practices such as using reusables, taking public transport and reducing waste to lower your carbon footprint. These may be small steps, but collectively, we can make a positive difference.
9 We are heartened to see that many of you are proposing ideas and solutions to address the challenges posed by climate change. The National Youth Council provides many platforms for youths to turn conversations into action. One example is the Youth Action Challenge (YAC), where youths are empowered to identify problem statements and initiate solutions with guidance from government agencies, youth leaders and industry experts. Since the launch of the YAC in 2019, there has been a high level of interest in environment and sustainability issues. About 60 teams have pitched ideas to reduce food waste, encourage sustainable living practices, and enhance food security. Another example is the City Developments Limited-Global Compact Network Singapore’s Young Sustainable Development Goals Leaders Awards, which provides youths with the opportunity to work with corporates on real-world sustainability challenges. The programme has groomed more than 2,400 youth leaders since it started in 2011.
10 As more ideas emerge, we need to ensure that they are practical and can be adopted by the communities to drive large scale and meaningful impact. Design thinking is particularly useful for this purpose, as it places the end users’ needs and habits at the centre of the solution. For example, to address the issue of contamination in recycling bins, we recently piloted transparent bin designs in HDB estates that allow people to see what is inside, to deter the improper use of the bins. A similar experiment conducted by a National University of Singapore student on campus in 2020 found that this approach helped to reduce contamination rate from 60 per cent to 27 per cent.
11 This shows that understanding users’ needs and behaviour is just as important as having the technical know-how when designing solutions to address sustainability issues. I am glad that the Singapore University of Technology and Design’s environmental club Greenprint has organised the Sustainable Design Hack as part of the university’s Sustainability Plan. Participants are able to apply design thinking principles to address challenges in energy transition, food supply and food safety. I hope this initiative has connected you with like-minded peers and fostered a new community of youths passionate about environment and sustainability causes.
12 Let me conclude. There is a growing imperative for global sustainable development. To ensure a green and liveable environment for our future generations, we need to accelerate our efforts and take bigger, bolder actions for climate change.
13 As future leaders of Singapore, your imagination and creativity bring limitless opportunities to our nation’s sustainable development. I hope your journey with the SUTD Sustainable Design Hack has inspired you to continue contributing towards our environment and sustainable development. I encourage you to take the next step, whether through incubator or seed funding programmes, to turn your ideas into reality.
14 To all our participants, I wish you all the best. Thank you, and I look forward to an interesting Sunday afternoon with you.