OPENING REMARKS BY MS GRACE FU, MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE GLOBAL COMPACT NETWORK SINGAPORE'S VIRTUAL YOUTH FORUM ON 22 MAY 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 A very good morning to you. I would like to thank GCNS for organising this event. It is a great way for youths in Singapore, around the region, and the rest of the world to come together.
COPING WITH THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
2 It has been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit us. Apart from being a health crisis, the pandemic has also caused economic and social disruption globally. ASEAN economies, which depend heavily on global trade, tourism and exports, will take a considerable economic and social hit from the pandemic. COVID-19 is likely to impede our progress towards achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
3 The management of the pandemic is fraught with challenges. To stamp out transmission, countries closed their borders and stopped the movement of people. While this is effective against the virus, it takes the oxygen out from the economy. Businesses are struggling to survive; people are losing jobs. Vaccination and mass testing are useful tools, but cost a lot of money, putting Governments in debt.
4 The dilemma that Governments face in fighting COVID-19 is similar to the difficult choices we have to make in taking climate action. For Singapore, climate change is an existential threat. We are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and extreme weather events such as more frequent and intense rainfall and droughts. At the same time, being a small country, we have far fewer options in climate action than most countries. Some of our options come with a high cost — to the economy, and to the people. But just like COVID-19, we must find the right solutions.
5 We need to put sustainability at the core of everything we do, including our recovery from COVID-19. While the pandemic has affected many lives and livelihoods, it has provided an opportunity for us to emerge stronger and more sustainable, as we build back. We must embrace a new normal and seize opportunities for green recovery.
TOWARDS A SUSTAINABLE RECOVERY FOR THE REGION
6 Just like COVID-19, collective, committed global action is required to overcome climate change. ASEAN member states must work together to realise our sustainability goals as we embark on recovery. Let me share how Singapore is contributing to regional efforts.
7 As ASEAN Chair in 2018, we convened the first Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action to step up regional climate action. We launched the Climate Action Package to develop capacity in areas such as disaster risk reduction, climate science, flood management and long-term mitigation and adaptation with our ASEAN partners. We supported the UK COP26 Presidency during the September 2020 ASEAN-COP26 Climate Dialogue to galvanise regional climate action ahead of COP26. All 10 ASEAN member states have submitted or enhanced their NDCs. This reflects ASEAN's readiness to address climate change.
8 Singapore is supporting regional efforts to build and enhance climate resilience. We have committed S$5 million over five years through the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre to help build capabilities in weather forecasting and haze monitoring. Together with Japan and the World Bank, we jointly established the Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility (SEADRIF) in Singapore to enable ASEAN countries to access disaster risk financing solutions and increase financial resilience to climate and disaster risks. For many countries, rebuilding and recovering from disasters require a lot of financial resources. SEADRIF aims to address this. The first financial solution developed by SEADRIF is a regional flood risk insurance pool for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to provide post-disaster rapid response financing.
9 ASEAN has also set targets for the transition to renewable energy via the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation. We are currently exploring a trial for electricity imports from Malaysia, as well as regional arrangements such as the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project. In the long run, we are exploring an ASEAN Power Grid which would enable electricity to be traded freely between ASEAN countries, and help the region reach its aspiration of increasing the share of renewable energy in its energy mix to 23 per cent by 2025. By tapping on a regional grid, Singapore will have more access to renewable energy choices.
10 Climate change also exerts pressures on our water systems, with rising sea levels and erratic rainfall afflicting many cities in ASEAN. We can have too much water, and too little water, at the same place. To help implement the ASEAN Strategic Plan of Action on Water Resources Management, our national water agency PUB is working on a set of guidelines for urban water demand management for ASEAN countries. The project will identify best practices around the world that ASEAN can adopt. In addition, the Singapore Water Academy also conducts courses on water supply networks, water quality and stormwater management for countries in ASEAN and beyond.
11 Singapore's cooperation with ASEAN countries extends to food security. ASEAN Ministers for Agriculture and Forestry issued a Ministerial Statement in April 2020 to reiterate ASEAN's commitment to keep trade lines open to facilitate the flow of agricultural and food products as well as ensure that critical infrastructure such as air and seaports remain accessible.
SINGAPORE GREEN PLAN 2030
12 Even as we work with regional partners, we are working with our local community to build a sustainable future. In February this year, the Singapore Government launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030. It outlines our whole-of-nation efforts to advance the sustainability agenda in Singapore, and builds on our efforts to strengthen economic, climate and resource resilience. The Green Plan charts ambitious and concrete sectoral targets for the next decade and positions us to achieve our long-term net-zero emissions target as soon as viable.
13 Our efforts under the Green Plan include harnessing sustainability as a new engine of growth, and supporting businesses to transit towards more sustainable models. We are also investing in research and development in new areas such as carbon capture. We will learn from best practices in sustainability solutions from our neighbours in ASEAN and around the world, and consider how to incorporate them in our context.
14 With increasing resource constraints, we will continue to pursue circular economy approaches and work towards our vision of becoming a zero-waste nation. By 2026, we aim to reduce the amount of waste sent to our landfill by 20 per cent. Besidesregulatory measures targeting our key waste streams of e-waste, packaging waste and food waste, we have embarked on national campaigns to encourage our consumers to practise the 3Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
PARTNERSHIP WITH CITIZENS
15 The Green Plan is a national strategy that can only succeed if government, businesses and individuals work together to co-create and implement solutions. We are engaging citizens and partners through platforms such as the Green Plan Conversations, Citizens' Workgroups and Alliances for Action.
16 Last November, we launched a S$50 million SG Eco Fund to support projects that advance environmental sustainability and catalyse activism. We received a strong response of more than 200 applications from individuals and organisations in our first grant call. I am pleased to share that the SG Eco Fund will be awarding $3.7million to 37 projects. The projects range widely, from recycling and food security, to public cleanliness and climate action.
17 Many projects are led by passionate youths like yourselves. Take for example, Rachel Lee, a 20-year old who actively volunteers for environmental initiatives. With the support of the Eco Fund, she will be engaging store owners and residents in neighbourhoods to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags and recycle contact lens blisters. Another example is Eddie Chen, who runs a herb farm. His aim is to convert waste by-products into mycelium-based materials, which could serve as a sustainable alternative for packaging material.
18 Besides Rachel and Eddie, I have seen many youths step up to lead ground-up initiatives or co-create solutions in their communities. This can-do and innovative spirit is an inspiration to all of us. No effort is too small and your collective actions will make a positive difference to the environment.
19 Let me conclude. The fight against climate change and journey towards sustainability will not be easy. However, we can overcome challenges and achieve our targets if everyone works together and contributes towards building a sustainable new normal. By working together, we can create a movement and change societal norms. I thank GCNS for organising this platform, which brings together youths from around the region. I hope all of you will share your experiences, learn from one another, and propagate the good ideas in your daily lives. I wish you a fruitful session ahead.
20 Stay safe. Thank you.