KEYNOTE SPEECH BY MS GRACE FU, MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE SINGAPORE ENVIRONMENTAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS 2023 ON 17 AUGUST 2023
Ms Isabella Loh, Chairman, Singapore Environment Council,
Ms Joan Pereira, Vice-Chairman, Singapore Environment Council,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good afternoon to all. It is my great pleasure to be here and also to recognise some of these outstanding companies that we have amongst us. This is the 24th year that SEC is conferring the awards, and it exemplifies the efforts of companies towards environmental sustainability and stewardship.
Existential threat of climate change is upon us
2 Climate change is a threat to our existence as mankind. We have read about it, we have seen it happening around the world, and experienced it ourselves in Singapore.
a. According to the European Union’s (EU) climate observatory, July 2023, which is last month was the hottest month ever recorded on earth. Heat waves were experienced across parts of Europe, United States and North Africa.
b. And most recently, in Maui, Hawaii, abnormally dry conditions contributed to wildfires that have killed at least 110 people and destroyed over 2,200 properties and structures. Death toll is expected to rise, and thousands remain homeless. This extremely hot weather with dry drought conditions that have really provided a lot of fuel for the fire. When we have dry conditions, it affects us in many ways. With dryness, you have wildfires. Wildfires produce even more carbon dioxide, and we get into a vicious cycle.
c. We are experiencing rising temperatures in Singapore. The last decade, from 2013 to 2022, was our warmest on record.
Government leading the charge
3 With the climate crisis upon us, sustainability is no longer a choice but a necessity. We are taking climate action across many fronts. We raised our national climate target to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, with the public sector taking the lead to achieve this by 2045. Singapore is also working towards the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) goal for international aviation to reach net zero carbon emissions in 2050, and the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) target of net-zero GHG emissions close to 2050.
4 We are making a strong push towards decarbonisation through our four key thrusts – catalysing business transformation, investing in low-carbon technologies, pursuing international cooperation, and adopting low-carbon practices.
5 Decarbonisation must take place in all sectors – Power, Industry, Transport, Buildings and Households.
6 Power generation accounts for 40 per cent of Singapore’s carbon emissions. Though we rely heavily on imported natural gas, which is already the cleanest form of fossil fuel, for our power, we are pressing ahead to tap on the four switches to transform our energy supply – solar, regional power grids, emerging low-carbon alternatives and natural gas.
a. We are studying emerging low-carbon technologies like hydrogen, carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) as possible options to decarbonise our power sector.
i. Under the Low-Carbon Energy Research (LCER) Funding Initiative, we have awarded $55 million to support 12 research, development and demonstration projects on low-carbon hydrogen and CCUS, with another $129 million set aside for the next phase of the programme.
7 About 15 per cent of our national emissions come from transport. To decarbonise the sector, our approach is to make “walk-cycle-ride” the preferred mode to travel, and to promote the use of cleaner-energy vehicles.
a. These efforts include:
i. Expanding our rail network
ii. Encouraging walking and cycling as commuting choice
iii. Gradually replacing existing diesel buses with cleaner-energy buses by 2040.
b. To promote the adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs),
i. We have introduced vehicle incentives and tax measures such as EV Early Adoption Incentive and Vehicle Emissions Scheme for electric cars.
ii. We are stepping up EV charger deployment. We target to deploy 60,000 EV charging points nationwide by 2030 to support the adoption of EVs.
8 If we include emissions from secondary use of power, Industry would account for about 60 per cent of our emissions. It is therefore important for businesses to decarbonise. We support this process through several schemes.
a. Energy Efficiency Fund by National Environment Agency (NEA) helps businesses with industrial facilities improve energy efficiency.
b. Enterprise Sustainability Programme (ESP) by Enterprise Singapore will help companies build capabilities and capture new opportunities through courses and funding.
i. Since the launch of the programme in October 2021, it has benefitted over 700 companies, with more than250 companies having participated in the ESP sustainability courses.
c. Working with partners such as Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) and corporates has enabled us to develop industry-specific initiatives that can best address sustainability needs of the industry.
i. One example is the collaboration with Schneider Electric to launch the SME Kickstarter Decarbonisation Programme, in which Schneider Electric provides training and mentorship to participating SMEs on sustainability.
d. Green financing schemes, such as the Enterprise Financing Scheme-Green, support SMEs in the access to capital. We have disbursed about $260 million of green loans to 50 SMEs developing and providing green solutions, spanning areas of solar energy, energy storage, energy efficiency technologies, water treatment, electric vehicle technologies and more.
How SEAA winners have contributed towards our sustainability goals
9 While the Government sets out the timeline and frameworks, we need contributions from the private sector to reach our goal.
a. Today we are gathered to recognise exemplary organisations that have embraced sustainability as their core value, and are contributing significantly to the national sustainability agenda. The winners today have challenged the status quo and created or adopted innovative products, services or processes to make a positive environmental impact.
b. I am heartened to note that the SEC has set comprehensive criteria for the Award. Organisations must demonstrate:
i. Sound policies and systems to manage ESG (environmental, social, governance) risks that are specific to the organisation
ii. Performance on ESG measures such as resource consumption levels, GHG reduction and capacity building to enhance ESG awareness
iii. Board and C-suite’s commitment to promote their sustainability efforts internally to their employees and externally to their stakeholders.
10 The breadth of the award categories also demonstrates that sustainability initiatives are applicable to all sectors. From low-carbon fuel in transportation, to energy-efficient built environment, to innovative waste management solutions, companies in different sectors are pioneering new ways of sustainable development.
a. A new category is added this year: the Green Innovations – Water Solutions category. It is timely to recognise the importance of water management.
i. Prolonged dry conditions are expected to occur more frequently due to climate change, and this could add additional stresses to our water supply.
ii. We have recently made it mandatory for large water users to recycle water on site.
iii. At the same time, PUB has raised its funding support for water recycling projects from $1 million to $5 million under the Water Efficiency Fund.
iv. We hope that more businesses will be encouraged to take action to conserve, treat and recycle water.
11 Sustainability is not the sole responsibility of large businesses. All organisations, for-profit and not-for-profit, big and small, can and should contribute.
a. This year, SEC has also introduced an SME tier in each award category to recognise the efforts of our SMEs.
b. The SMEs award recipients have not only created solutions to reduce waste but also seized opportunities of green growth that sustainability development offers. From expanding into new markets, to building credibility through sustainability reporting, to building entire businesses on helping others reduce their environmental impact, these SMEs are riding the wave of green transition.
Collaborating to co-create solutions
12 The efforts of all the winners underscore the importance of collective action and partnerships between all sectors of society in achieving our net zero targets.
a. This year’s Go Green SG is an excellent example of how we can co-create and co-deliver solutions for a more sustainable way of life.
i. MSE worked with more than 150 partners, including SMEs and MNCs, across the People, Public and Private sectors to organise over 300 activities in July alone.
b. Another initiative by my Ministry to galvanise action by the 3P sectors is the Green Nation Pledge.
i. It calls on individuals and organisations to make a commitment towards a green, liveable and climate-resilient Singapore.
ii. At this juncture, I would like to encourage everyone to take the pledge if you have not already done so.
13 My heartiest congratulations once again to all winners of the Singapore Environmental Achievement Awards.
a. I look forward to your sustainability efforts bearing fruit.
b. Hope that you will lead the way for even more companies to follow suit and place our environment at the very centre of their operations.
14 Lastly, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to SEC for having this Awards and for having me today, and also to the judges and all of you involved in the assessment.
15 Thank you very much and congratulations again.