OPENING ADDRESS BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE 15TH ECOFRIEND AWARDS ON 7 OCTOBER 2022
Professor Leo Tan, Chairman of the 15th EcoFriend Awards Evaluation Panel,
Members of the Panel,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join you at this 15th EcoFriend Awards Ceremony. Today, we are gathered here to recognise the efforts and achievements of individuals who have contributed significantly to our sustainability journey.
2 The EcoFriend Awards was introduced by the National Environment Agency (NEA) in 2007. It recognises individuals from different walks of life for their exemplary effort and the important role they play in promoting environmental sustainability. These individuals are school teachers, students, and community volunteers from both the public and private sectors. They dedicate their personal time and effort to protect, promote and improve our environment. This year, NEA received a total of 352 nominations for individuals across the five categories in the EcoFriend Awards – Private Sector, Public Sector, Non-Governmental Organisations and Grassroots Volunteers, Educational Institutions, and Youth and Students. I am encouraged to see the growing number of environment champions fighting for climate action.
FACING CLIMATE CHANGE CHALLENGES
3 The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented changes in our lives and brought about a new normal. On the positive side, the pandemic led to a decline in global carbon emissions, reduced air pollution, and hence led to some nature healing This is strong evidence and an important reminder that our actions and lifestyles severely impact our environment.
4 Thus, as the world recovers from the pandemic, we must continue to take urgent steps to tackle the existential threat that climate change poses. The harsh impact of climate change is becoming increasingly pronounced. We are seeing more extreme weather events across the world. Rivers in Europe, US and China are drying up, affecting power generation, riverine transportation and agriculture. Devastating floods along the east coast of Australia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have affected millions of people and caused countless fatalities. In Singapore, we are experiencing record temperatures and intense rainfall more frequently. We have also seen disruptions to our food supply due to extreme weather events.
SINGAPORE’S SUSTAINABILITY EFFORTS - FORWARD SINGAPORE
5 To tackle the wicked problem that is climate change, we launched the Singapore Green Plan as a whole-of-nation movement last year. The Green Plan charts bold and concrete targets for Singapore to achieve net-zero emissions by or around mid-century. This includes decarbonising our economy, electrifying our vehicles and increasing the use of renewable energy.
6 We are also strengthening the resilience of our essential resources. We continue to enhance our water security by expanding our capacity for desalination. To strengthen food security, we are diversifying our imports and ramping up local production. By 2030, we aim to develop the capabilities and capacity of our local agri-food industry to sustainably produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs. To achieve a circular economy, we are reusing our resources, reducing the amount of waste generated and finding new ways to recycle better.
7 We have recently started the Forward Singapore exercise to build consensus on what we want to see for Singapore’s future, and how we can all work together to achieve our shared vision. If we want Singapore to continue to be green and liveable, what are we as individuals, as business owners and employees, as NGOs, and as members of a community, willing to do and contribute? We hope that through the upcoming engagements and dialogues, we can arrive at a consensus on how we should approach the future for Singapore and how we should harness the opportunities in the future as a country. I urge you to continue to bring sustainability issues to the forefront of this public discourse. I urge you to come forward with concrete commitments and proposals to actively drive the sustainability agenda within your spheres of influence.
THE 15TH ECOFRIEND AWARDS
8 The 12 recipients of the 15th Ecofriend Awards today are good examples of how individuals galvanise action on the ground. Coming from diverse backgrounds, they have demonstrated exemplary leadership and commitment towards environmental stewardship. They share the common cause of creating sustained and positive environmental impact within their communities. Congratulations on your achievements.
9 One of the award winners is Samantha Thian. Samantha is the founder of Seastainable Co., a social business that supports marine conservation in Southeast Asia and plastic upcycling in Singapore. Under Samantha’s leadership, Seastainable has collaborated with numerous organisations in Singapore to develop plastic upcycling capabilities. She also started two other initiatives to rally the community to keep our environment clean. The first is the #EastCoastBeachPlan, where she encourages the community to keep the beach clean through self-led clean ups and raise awareness on the problem of plastic pollution. The other is the development of the Stridy app, which collates data and tracks the number and types of litter collected into a global, open-sourced, community-led database. As of 2022, Stridy has 2,000 participants worldwide across 50 countries. In Singapore alone, 108 self-led cleanups, or “strides”, have been completed by users of the app. Samantha is also a member of the Climate Action SG Alliance (CASA). Her efforts in garnering community actions are commendable. Congratulations to Samantha!
10 Another award winner is Preston Wong. Preston founded Treatsure, a social enterprise that reduces food wastage by linking up businesses with surplus food with consumers using a mobile application platform and technology. This creates value for businesses, while encouraging them to participate in sustainable efforts. The app has helped to save at least 30 tonnes of food from being thrown away. Today, Treatsure has a community of over 30,000 users. Besides the app, Preston also started Treatsure’s buffet-in-a-box initiative to allow users to pack food from participating hotel or restaurant buffets in the last 30 to 60 minutes of the buffet time slot at $10. On the side, Preston shares his experience and knowledge to students and staff through sustainability-related talks and workshops. Thank you, Preston for championing the reduction of food waste!
11 This year, for the first time in the history of the Ecofriend awards, we will be presenting a special Distinguished Award. This award recognises the deep involvement of an individual who has contributed significantly to environmental sustainability in Singapore in their lifetime.
12 I am happy to announce that the inaugural Distinguished Ecofriend Award recipient is Mr Edward D’Silva, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council (PHC). Edward has been actively championing hygiene and cleanliness in Singapore through developing new initiatives to support the PHC’s mission and vision. He orchestrated the development of the nationwide SG Clean Day initiative, where participating town councils cease sweeping at open areas and ground levels of housing estates for a day to show the amount of litter there will be when we go without cleaners. Once an annual exercise, he has since expanded the initiative to become a quarterly exercise. He also broadened the initiative beyond town councils to different sectors to encourage Singaporeans to take ownership of the cleanliness of public spaces and to appreciate our cleaners more. Besides this, Edward pioneered the Sustainable Bright Spot programme in 2019 to encourage residents to organise regular clean-up activities in their common living spaces. As of April 2022, PHC has recognised 39 Sustainable Bright Spots islandwide. Under Edward’s leadership, PHC has also made the availability of CleanPods more widespread across Singapore. CleanPods are community storage facilities where litter picking tools are stored and shared for easy access. Thank you, Edward, for spearheading many outreach initiatives over the years to keep Singapore clean!
13 Let me conclude. The recipients today have demonstrated that individuals can create a positive change to the environment and play a part in making Singapore a greener, more sustainable home. Their achievements prove that anyone – regardless of age, gender or profession – can be an EcoFriend.
14 Congratulations again to all the winners of the 15th Ecofriend Awards. I hope that your efforts will inspire more individuals to strive towards environmental sustainability.