Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Actions For Earth Global Leaders’ Summit on 23 August 2022
Ms Ann Phua, President and Founder of Hemispheres Foundation,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1 Good morning. A year ago, we met virtually for the launch of the Actions for Earth: Global Leaders Challenge, where community leaders from different parts of the world came together to brainstorm and propose ideas to achieve seven sustainable development goals. Today, I am happy to see all of you in person at the Global Leaders’ Summit. I understand that we have around 80 community leaders who have flown in from 14 different countries to join us today.
Threat of Climate Change
2 Actions for Earth is a meaningful initiative by Hemispheres Foundation that aims to develop sustainable solutions to address environmental challenges faced by cities around the world. While your projects cover a wide range of topics such as clean energy, forest preservation and waste minimisation, they were created for the same reason — to fight the existential threat of climate change. At current rates of global warming, climate change will threaten our access to essential resources, exacerbate diseases, and pose a physical risk to communities. No country will be spared from its impact.
3 International resolve to tackle climate change has been growing. At COP26 last year, parties pledged to limit warming to 1.5 degree Celsius and reach net-zero emissions. The number of countries committing to net-zero has also risen sharply — from 18 in 2020 to 84 as of end-2021. Singapore also recently raised our ambition to reach net-zero by or around mid-century.
4 Achieving net-zero will require the collective efforts of all stakeholders. In 2019, Singapore launched our first ever Zero Waste Masterplan to lay out our vision and strategies to build a sustainable, resource-efficient, and climate-resilient nation. This includes adopting a circular economy approach to waste and resource management, and shifting towards more sustainable production and consumption. By 2030, Singapore aims to reduce the amount of waste going to our landfill by 30 per cent per capita per day. Last year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030. It charts bold and concrete sectoral targets, to further strengthen our efforts to tackle climate change and catalyse a whole-of-nation movement to take collective action.
5 Realising a low-carbon, sustainable future will come with trade-offs and costs. For example, companies will have to transform their business models and operations. Their workers will have to reskill for green jobs in new areas of growth. However, it is important that our industries and businesses act now to pursue environmental sustainability, as this will position them to avoid future costs that may be many times greater, and the risks of shrinking demand and stranded assets.
6 To reach our net-zero goal, we will have to harness innovation and technology to overcome limitations of what can be done. For example, in order to meet our water needs and security, we have invested heavily in R&D to close our water loop. Similar efforts are also underway to close the loop for other resources, such as looking at ways to turn trash, such as plastic, food waste, Incineration Bottom Ash, into treasure.
7 International collaborations, and collaborations within and across industries, will also provide us with game-changing solutions to reach our targets. For example, Singapore joined the First Movers Coalition, or FMC, as a government partner, alongside Denmark, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. The FMC will allow companies to harness purchasing power and supply chains to create early markets for innovative low-carbon technologies. This serves as a launchpad for them to reach commercial scale. I hope this will open doors for businesses to innovate with like-minded partners and unlock access to low-carbon technologies.
Role of Individuals in Climate Action
8 Besides governments and corporates, individuals too have an important role to play in the fight against climate change. Simple daily habits such as bringing our own bags and containers, conserving electricity and water, and taking public transport can help to lower our national carbon footprint. For example, if every household in Singapore were to raise the air-conditioning temperature by one degree Celsius, we will cut carbon emissions by 23 kilo-tonnes, equivalent to the annual carbon emissions from 7,000 cars.
9 We can also influence the industry and the broader community through our actions. For example, if we avoid or decline single-use disposables, bring our own reusable bags and containers, and choose energy-efficient appliances, we will create ripple effects that can lead to the emergence of greener and more sustainable practices and solutions. You can also galvanise your community by organising ground-up initiatives to drive sustainable practices.
Collaboration and Upskilling
10 Let me highlight two ways we can create a larger impact within our respective communities. They are: Collaboration and Upskilling.
11 First, Collaboration. Working together with others allows us to pool resources, refine ideas and combine networks. This will help us to overcome our limitations and achieve greater outcomes.
12 In Singapore, we are deepening the involvement of our stakeholders in policy making, through consultation, co-creation and co-delivering. For instance, Singapore will be implementing the disposable carrier bag charge from next year. The bag charge framework was developed after more than a year of extensive consultations and engagements with the industry, and with the public through a Citizens’ Workgroup on Reducing Excessive Consumption of Disposables. The Citizens’ Workgroup comprised members of the public from diverse backgrounds.
13 We also have many ground-up groups and individuals who run initiatives and programmes on climate action. One example is the Climate Action SG Alliance (CASA), which serves as a partnership between civil society, corporates and the Government.
14 CASA members have organised various programmes for the community, such as creating educational videos on recycling, encouraging businesses to reduce waste, and setting up public exhibitions on climate change. I encourage you to explore such collaborative efforts within your country, or even between countries, to amplify your efforts and achieve greater outcomes.
15 Second, Upskilling. I believe many of you have a strong passion for the environment. Through your projects, you would have picked up useful knowledge such as solar technology and sustainability reporting.
16 As the world ramps up efforts to tackle climate change, these green skills will be increasingly important and sought after. Companies and organisations will need skilled individuals to enable their transition to a low-carbon future.
17 Some priority areas that have been identified include carbon footprint management, sustainability management and green process design . I encourage you to upskill yourself and equip yourself with such green skills, so that you can contribute to the green economy and lead the change from within.
18 To conclude, I hope my sharing today will inspire all of you to drive positive change in your respective communities.
19 Thank you once again for having me, and to the organisers and partners for bringing this together. Have an enriching learning journey ahead, and all the best with your presentations in the coming days.