Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the OCBC Sustainability Event on 18 August 2022
Ms Helen Wong, Group Chief Executive Officer, OCBC Bank
Associate Professor Alberto Salvo, Deputy Head for Research, NUS Department of Economics
Ladies and gentlemen,
1 Good afternoon. I am glad to join you here today for OCBC’s Sustainability Event.
2 Let me first thank OCBC for organising this event to facilitate discussion about sustainability and its adoption. I believe that OCBC and its partners have power and influence to facilitate climate action and the adoption of sustainable businesses. Besides today’s event, OCBC has notable partnerships, which Helen has highlighted in her speech. These include:
• The OCBC Sustainability Innovation Challenge to lead and sponsor sustainable and innovative solutions. SATS is collaborating in the first edition to address challenges such as the management and reduction of food and packaging waste;
• The #OCBCCares Environment Fund, which offers financing for ground-up, actionable solutions that enhance sustainability in Singapore;
• The OCBC Arboretum at the Singapore Botanic Gardens that will conserve more than 2,000 dipterocarp trees; and
• The OCBC Climate Index, which is developed with Eco-Business to measure the levels of environmental sustainability awareness and climate adoption among Singaporeans as well as nudge climate actions.
Towards a Low-Carbon Future
3 Partnerships and collaborations are needed in climate action as global warming and resource depletion are complex wicked problems that no country or company can solve on its own. The OCBC and NUS partnership on sustainability adoption is one where the strengths of both organisations are brought together to complement each other and strengthen the research outcome. The nexus between the academia, with strong foundation in theory and methodology, and the business sector, with real life data and broad sectoral exposure, will enable the synthesis of knowledge that is relevant, current, and robust. It can help develop better understanding of the pertinent issues that we face and solutions that can help solve contemporary problems. I understand that you will begin with the topic of electric vehicle adoption, and subsequently move on to other relevant topics like ensuring food security and promoting local food produce. These topics will be very relevant for my Ministry. I look forward to the progress of future research collaborations to contribute towards the Singapore Green Plan.
4 The Singapore Green Plan is an important agenda for the Government. It incorporates our efforts in emission mitigation, adaptation and sustainable development. Let me elaborate.
5 We have announced our raised climate ambition to achieve net zero emissions by or around mid-century. To nudge the transition to a low-carbon future, we will be raising the carbon tax progressively. This provides a clear price signal for businesses and individuals to internalise the costs of carbon, encourage the adoption of technology, and steer action towards more sustainable practices. The carbon tax revenue will be used to support the transition to a greener economy through incentivising low-carbon solutions, and cushioning the transitional impact on businesses and households.
6 On adaptation, the Resilient Future pillar of the Green Plan is about building our resilience to climate change. Key areas of work include coastal protection, addressing the urban heat island effect and food security. These are major long-term security challenges for Singapore and there is much work to be done.
7 For coastal protection, PUB has embarked on site-specific studies for East Coast to come up with adaptation options for the site and will be commencing similar studies for Jurong Island and the North-West coast. For the urban heat island effect, we will be expanding our national network of urban heat sensors to measure urban heat, so that we can identify hotspots, and prioritise cooling such areas. Climate change has contributed to the occurrence of droughts in many parts of the world. This will reduce the supply of water and in turn affect energy (e.g. hydro) and food supply. For food security, we have a “30 by 30” goal, to build up the capacity and capability to produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030. This is by no means an easy feat, with the constraints of having less than one per cent of our land being designated for agricultural use. Technology and research and development (R&D) will be needed for our agri-industry to transform. As for water security, we will continue to invest in water technology that is energy efficient.
8 The Green Plan is more than climate action. It is also about a more sustainable draw on Earth’s resources as we develop our economy, including our use of land and space. With our realities as a small city-state, we must calibrate our sustainable development approach carefully to balance economic development with environmental sustainability.
9 To overcome the challenges of resource consumption and waste generation, we are adopting a circular economy approach and have laid out plans to achieve greater sustainability in all three stages of the value chain: sustainable production; sustainable consumption; and waste and resource management. We aim to be a Zero Waste Nation and are prioritising three waste streams, namely: electrical and electronic waste (e-waste); packaging waste (including plastics); and food waste. An Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach has been introduced for e-waste, where producers bear the responsibility for the collection and treatment of their products when they reach end-of-life. We are studying the feasibility of extending the EPR to packaging waste and other waste streams.
10 We are at a crucial point in our fight against climate change. Let us all continue to collaborate and partner one another to work on fostering a greater sense of shared ownership and responsibility to steward our resources and care for our environment. The Forward Singapore exercise aims to re-evaluate the approach to take for the way ahead. We will need to be socially inclusive of all segments of our population as we cannot journey ahead as a nation if one segment is left behind. What will be the roles of the Government, businesses, and people in achieving our desired future? We welcome companies, such as OCBC and your partners, to share your views on how you can play a part and lead initiatives. Together, we can ensure Singapore remains a green and resilient home for future generations.