SPEECH BY DR KOH POH KOON, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE EB IMPACT CHARITY GALA DINNER ON 1 FEBRUARY 2024
Ms Jessica Cheam, Founder, EB Impact
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 Good evening. I am delighted to join you this evening at the EB Impact Charity Gala Dinner to witness the launch of the EB Impact Sustainability Education Grant.
The global climate crisis
2 At last December’s COP28, the UN’s annual climate change conference, the world came to a historic agreement following the conclusion of the first Global Stocktake to transit away from fossil fuels, triple renewable energy capacity, and double energy efficiency improvements globally by 2030.
3 However, the Global Stocktake was also a stark reminder that current efforts are not sufficient to keep us within 1.5 degrees Celsius of temperature rise. More than ever, countries realise the urgent need to step up efforts to reduce their emissions. Many countries around the world are impacted by extreme climate events.
4 Climate change is an existential challenge for Singapore. As a small and low-lying island state, Singapore is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including sea level rise. The increasing occurrence of erratic weather patterns around the world also threatens our water and food security. To better understand the impacts of climate change on Singapore, we have undertaken three National Climate Change Studies since 2007. These studies provide climate projections for Singapore and Southeast Asia until the end of this century, and shed valuable insights to help us better plan and strengthen our climate adaptation measures.
5 The Third National Climate Change Study, or V3, was released just last month. The bad news is, based on projections from V3, we will have to contend with more extreme climate conditions – accelerating rate of sea level rise, higher temperatures, heavier rainfalls, as well as longer and more frequent dry spells.
6 While end-century may seem somewhat far away, we are already feeling the impacts of climate change. 2023 was Singapore’s fourth hottest year on record, and the world’s warmest year on record. The impacts of climate change are very real, and we must collectively take climate action now to safeguard the well-being of our current and future generations.
Youths as agents of change
7 Our youths, as the leaders of tomorrow, play a pivotal role in shaping a sustainable Singapore. All around the world, youths are driving change.
8 For the first time, Singapore sent an official youth delegation to COP28, with participants identified from the Climate Youth Development Programme. The programme is an initiative co-led by the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE), the National Climate Change Secretariat, and the National Youth Council to strengthen our partnership with the youth community in advancing climate action and sustainable development. In addition to learning more about international climate negotiations, our youth delegates hosted guests and helped to share the Singapore story at our Singapore Pavilion. They also organised programmes to profile our youth climate actions. I am heartened by their passion, and hope that their activism and commitment will inspire many more youths in Singapore to step up for sustainability.
9 Indeed, more youths in Singapore are emerging as agents of change to make a difference in their communities. Every positive action, no matter how small, contributes to the greater cause of environmental sustainability. Some of these youth changemakers are amongst us tonight. For example:
a. Ms Oh Chu Xian is the founder of Magorium, a business that transforms plastic waste into road construction material;
b. Ms Kong Man Jing, or more widely known as Biogirl MJ, creates accessible environmental content to educate and engage communities on climate change;
c. Mr Yasser Amin heads Stridy, a non-profit organisation which developed a mobile app to encourage accountability in waste cleanup efforts;
d. Mr Ho Xiang Tian co-founded LepakInSG, an environmental advocacy group which organises discussions with subject matter experts and members of the public on our environmental policies;
e. and Mr Mihir Pershad runs Umami Bioworks, a company that produces cultivated seafood using innovative production methods.
10 Thank you for your good work, and we look forward to your continued contributions towards our sustainability journey in your respective ways.
Education as a key enabler to catalyse climate action
11 Education is a key enabler to catalyse collective change, and our youths, equipped with the right knowledge, are an important driving force behind creating a green and resilient shared future. Under the Ministry of Education’s Eco Stewardship Programme, environmental education is incorporated into the Campus, Culture, Curriculum and Community (4Cs) in our Primary, Secondary Schools and Junior Colleges to enhance our students’ understanding of sustainability and climate change, and to build sustainability-conscious mindsets and habits in our younger generation. Our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) partner with companies, agencies and the community on research and innovation projects in sustainability, and develop new solutions that advance the national sustainability agenda. IHLs are also investing in skills for the future so that graduates and working adults can tap on new opportunities presented by the green economy.
12 Corporates and organisations also play an important role in nurturing our youths to become environmental stewards. The new EB Impact Sustainability Education Grant will provide financial assistance and leadership development opportunities to selected youths in Singapore aiming to achieve a higher educational degree in a sustainability-related field. I am also happy to hear about the various initiatives under EB Impact that support our youths’ sustainability aspirations. EB Impact’s Sustainability Exchange is a youth mentorship-programme developed in collaboration with a wide range of partners including MSE, to enable youths in Singapore to work on real-world projects under the guidance of sustainability professionals. The programme has benefitted over 130 aspiring youths to date. I encourage more corporates and organisations to engage our youths and equip them with the relevant skills to thrive in the green transition.
13 The need to address and mitigate the worsening impacts of climate change has never been more critical. However, it is not all doom and gloom. The world is undergoing a green transition, and this opens up new opportunities in many sectors for our youths to pursue.
14 Let us continue to enable our youths to become agents of change, and empower them to lead the charge and contribute actively towards our sustainability development. Thank you.