Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Singapore Sustainability Scholarship Award Ceremony on 24 July 2023
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to be here for the Singapore Sustainability Scholarship Award Ceremony, to be amongst many promising talents who will be pursuing a career in environmental sustainability. Congratulations to our scholarship recipients and a warm welcome to our MSE family.
2 This year, we also recognise existing officers from NEA, PUB, SFA and MSE who are awarded scholarships to further themselves. MSE is glad to support the continual learning of our officers.
Singapore’s efforts in sustainable development
3 Today, environmental sustainability is more important than ever.
4 We have all felt and read about the sweltering effects of climate change in recent weeks. Singapore experienced the highest recorded temperature of 37 degree Celsius in the last 40 years in May this year. This month is likely to be the hottest July since record keeping started in 1850. And global warming has serious knock-on effects. On water, both too much and too little of it; on food production as water as irrigation become unpredictable; on wildlife whose suffering from heat and also increase acidity in the ocean and on humans. We are suffering from heat and we read how some elderly in southern Europe now are being evacuated for medical reasons. Besides climate change, we have other environmental challenges - pollution, from industrial, agricultural and human activities; run-offs from our river, run-offs from our farms, run offs with our toxic chemicals with consumer chemicals that are being used on a daily basis. Depletion of natural resources from overconsumption in some places where we are over- logging; in some places we are over-mining, and all destroying the physical environment around us. Public health crises, the most recent being the global COVID-19 pandemic – it will not be the last. We can expect more to come.
5 In response to these issues, we have implemented several initiatives. For instance, we are improving our carbon mitigation strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We are also working towards coastal protection to safeguard our shores against rising sea levels due to global warming. Additionally, we are stepping up efforts to foster a circular economy, aimed at reducing waste and making the most of our resources. Furthermore, we are strengthening our food and water security to ensure that our nation’s essential needs are met despite global uncertainties.
How the MSE family is making a difference
6 Through the Singapore Sustainability Scholarship, we aim to develop a capability pipeline to support our works in sustainable development and climate action. Some of our work are planned on decades, or even century basis - coastal projection, for example, we are looking at all the way up to 2100. So we need a pipeline, a steady pipeline in key technical engineering and competencies. This is the only way where we can look at our plans and ensure that there is sustained and committed execution. As a member of our MSE family, your role is pivotal in strengthening the climate, economic and resource resilience in Singapore.
7 We need officers with deep skill sets in science and technology. We also need officers with exceptional leadership, creativity and a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of our world. These are traits evident in our scholars. And because of time constraint, I will just mention a few.
8 Mr Teh Ming Hwang, with expertise in Instrumentation, Control, and Automation systems is part of the team behind our nation-wide network of sensors, advance communications, and command center, and smart water grid initiatives in PUB’s Water Supply (Network) Department. Passionate about the boundless potential of digital utilities, Ming Hwang’s pursuit of a Master’s in Computing at Imperial College London will advance PUB’s digital transformation and our progress towards a smart nation. Many people know about water challenge - our water story. But few will realize the level of deep science and technical expertise that we have and must continue to build on that. This is what we need going forward. As we reap the low hanging fruits we have to reach higher and higher and be ready to look at new areas where we can find the additional energy efficiency, additional information as to the speed and additional resilience of our systems.
9 Mr Lan Yi Chieh, from the Singapore Food Agency, moved from the built environment industry to agriculture. As part of the Urban Food Solutions team, he collaborates with institutes of higher learning to translate research into tools that can contribute to our local farms’ productivity. He is currently focusing on a research to better understand the optimal growing conditions, in terms of temperature and nutrient provision, for leafy vegetables. His work will benefit our local farmers and contribute to our 30X30 Food Story. His pursuit of a Master of Science in Agricultural Science at the University of Tokyo will enable him to bring back insights valuable to Singapore’s work on strengthening food resilience.
10 Mr Chow Tak Wei graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Masters in Environmental Protection and Management. He is putting what he learnt to good use in NEA’s 3P Network Division. He works closely with partners such as NGOs & interest groups to get them involved in NEA’s public education campaigns on waste reduction, recycling and dengue prevention. He identifies their needs and brainstorms with partners to bring their environmental ideas and projects into action. He also equips partners with resources so that they can run their outreach initiatives such as workshops, talks, and events. Tak Wei’s work with partners will help them become positive changemakers in the community and drive Singapore towards achieving environmental sustainability.
11 We are looking at all of you to lead the change and forge ahead towards a stronger and forward-looking Singapore with increased resilience in our food and water supplies, a more climate-resilient green economy and future-ready infrastructure. This will ensure that Singapore’s critical resources remain uncompromised for both present and future generations.
12 I urge all of you to make full use of your time in university to discover your strengths, challenge yourselves and be prepared to continue learning even after you graduate, from the people you work and interact with.
13 It is an exciting time to be involved in sustainability as we raise our climate ambition and press on with climate action. And climate action is, as the movie title goes: “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once”- it is ubiquitous, from the water we drink, to the food we eat, the building we use for work, and the things we make and use, and the waste we generate and manage. It is also highly connected – the food that we grow, transport, market – every step of the way presents opportunity for the 3R – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Actually there are many more Rs - Replace, Refuse, Remove. This is a global endeavor requiring massive system re-engineering, change management and thought leadership. Singapore is right there at the cutting edge of this change. In many of these areas we are pioneering technology. Take hydrogen, for example. It is a very new area. Our ports, our airports, our logistics are all involved in understanding how this new form of energy is going to come about. So many of you will in your career be involved as the pioneer of new technology - a new form of energy, a new form of doing things a new form of waste management. The sustainability field is not necessarily glamorous. For example in waste management, I just came back from some facilities in the US it’s cutting edge in food waste, cutting edge in material sorting, but the place is not glamorous at all, it is waste management. But we need people that are committed and passionate and believe in the cause to be even looking at some things that are not necessarily glamorous. The work, however is rewarding as you will be able to make a positive, a real and lasting impact on people and the planet. The journey ahead will be challenging and exciting, as the MSE continues to lead the change in areas such as carbon mitigation, coastal protection, circular economy, as well as food and water security.
14 Let me conclude by once again congratulating all our scholars. Take time to thank your family and teachers for their support. For our in-service scholars, you have the added challenge of balancing your studies, your work and your families. Know that your effort and sacrifice will be worth it.
15 I look forward to your contributions in the coming years to help build a green and sustainable Singapore. Thank you.