Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Singapore COP26 Youth Climate Dialogue on 17 March 2021
Her Excellency Kara Owen, British High Commissioner to Singapore
His Excellency Raffaele Langella, Ambassador of Italy to Singapore
Her Excellency Jo Tyndall, New Zealand High Commissioner to Singapore
Speakers and moderators,
1 Good afternoon. I would like to thank the organisers for the opportunity to speak at the Singapore COP-26 Youth Dialogue. This Dialogue is timely as governments prepare for what we hope to be a watershed COP26. We have a history of close partnership with the British High Commission, one of the co-organisers. In 2019, we teamed up to co-organise the Partners for the Environment Forum, which brought together partners to explore ideas and collaborations on environmental issues. We have worked with the New Zealand High Commission closely in capability building, specifically in promoting understanding of climate change commitments under Paris Agreement in the ASEAN community. I also acknowledge the Embassy of Italy for co-creating this opportunity for our local youth leaders to learn more about the multilateral work involved in international negotiations. I am confident that the views of our youths will contribute constructively to the organisation of Youth4Climate Milan in September and COP26 in November.
2 Every country must play their part to tackle climate change. Singapore will continue to contribute to international climate action. We have participated actively and constructively in negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (or UNFCCC COPs). Singapore’s Chief Negotiator for Climate Change, Mr Joseph Teo, will elaborate more on our efforts at the fireside chat later. Let me just say that as a strong advocate for a multilateral, rules-based approach to addressing climate change, we have always worked with other like-minded countries at the UN to push for the best possible multilateral deal on climate change. We were privileged to have played an instrumental facilitator role at crucial moments in the climate negotiations, which culminated with the successful adoption of not only the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015, but also the agreements on the Katowice Climate Package in 2018 and the Chile Madrid Time for Action in 2019. We were glad to be able to make a contribution at these talks.
3 While not complete in themselves, these agreements serve as significant steps to injecting momentum in climate actions by all countries. Our challenge is to maintain this momentum at a time when the multilateral system is under strain. Singapore will continue our active and constructive engagement in the negotiations and look forward to working with the incoming UK COP26 Presidency and other Parties to secure successful outcomes for COP26 at Glasgow.
4 I will now share how Singapore is responding to climate change.
Accelerating Sustainable Development to Tackle Climate Change
5 Sustainability has always been a part of Singapore’s DNA. Since our independence, we have prioritised environmental protection in tandem with economic growth and social inclusion. With the growing threats from climate change, we are determined to accelerate our transition to a more sustainable, low-carbon, and climate-resilient future.
6 That is why we have launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 last month, to galvanise a whole-of-nation movement to fight against climate change. The Green Plan will be a major policy priority for this Government. It sets out ambitious and concrete targets over the next 10 years in support of Singapore’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.
7 Pursuing sustainable development requires hard trade-offs to be made, and close coordination in execution. This is especially so for Singapore, as a small, island city-state with limited access to alternative energy sources, land and manpower. To overcome our constraints, we have embarked on careful long-term planning, and leveraged innovations in policy and technology. For instance, due to our small size and dense urban landscape, even the deployment of solar energy, our most viable renewable energy source, is challenging. Unlike bigger countries, we do not have large plots of land for extensive solar farms. To overcome our land constraints, we have taken decisive steps to deploy panels on the rooftops of HDB blocks, and on our reservoirs. The solar farm at Tengeh Reservoir is the first of its kind in the region and one of the world’s largest.
8 Even as we work to minimise our carbon emissions, we have been conscious of the need to keep costs affordable, and to ensure good jobs and opportunities for our people. There will be costs which consumers and businesses will bear as we pursue sustainability. These include tangible costs which may manifest in higher prices for goods and services, such as petrol prices, the need to allocate scarce resources to a new and more sustainable solution, or investment in new infrastructure. The costs may also be intangible, in the form of some inconveniences in our daily lives. For instance, we can consume less disposables, use less air-conditioning and recycle more. We will need to evaluate our trade-offs carefully, and find the right pace and balance in our policies and actions, in close consultation with, and support from, all our stakeholders.
9 The public sector will lead the change in putting sustainability at the core of everything we do. Under the GreenGov.SG initiative, we have set a carbon emission target for the public sector for the first time. The Government is also committed to partner the private sector and the people of Singapore, to deepen and accelerate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change and embed sustainability as a way of life in Singapore. The Green Plan will evolve as we develop and refine our strategies, take into account technological developments, and as the Government partners citizens and communities to co-create solutions.
Engaging our Youths on Sustainability
10 A sustainable future for Singapore must be co-created by all stakeholders, working hand in hand. My Ministry will work with the National Youth Council and other partners to engage our youths on the Green Plan. Our youths have an important role to play in this journey of co-creation. And rightly so, as they have a greater stake in the future. I am encouraged by the passion and innovativeness of our youths. Many of you here are leaders in your own right in championing sustainability causes. I recall joining Samantha Thian’s East Coast Beach Plan in cleaning up the coastline at East Coast Park. Samantha also co-founded Seastainable, a social business which supports marine conservation in Southeast Asia. The co-organisers for this dialogue, Melissa Low and Eric Bea, are building capacity in our youths on climate change negotiations, organising training workshops since 2018 and events such as the dialogue today. Kate Yeo, who is amongst us today, founded BYO Bottle SG in 2018, which is a ground-up initiative aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastics in Singapore. And there are many more in the audience and outside of this hall, leading, championing, and showing the ways towards sustainability. I thank all of you for your leadership in making a difference.
11 Under the Green Plan, we seek to inculcate environmentally-friendly habits from an early age. With the Ministry of Education’s Eco-Stewardship Programme, environmental sustainability will be integrated into the school environment and curriculum, building a culture of sustainability with the efforts of schools, families and the community. The Ministry of Education is also working towards a two-thirds reduction of net carbon emissions from the schools sector by 2030, and aiming for at least 20 per cent of our schools to be carbon neutral by 2030 for a start, with the rest of the schools to follow thereafter.
12 Let me conclude. Governments across the world, including Singapore, are accelerating our sustainable development efforts and climate actions in recognition of the growing urgency to tackle the existential threat of climate change. Climate change is happening and we cannot wait any longer. We need action now. Through frank and open dialogues and partnerships with local and international partners, we can make a more meaningful, coordinated and coherent contribution to global efforts to tackle this crisis of many generations. I wish you a fruitful dialogue ahead. Thank you.