Address by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Design Business Chamber Singapore Gala Dinner on 25 August 2022
Ms Chee Su Eing, President of Design Business Chamber Singapore
Members of the Executive Committee of Design Business Chamber Singapore
1 Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to join you tonight to celebrate this occasion with all of you. It feels great to be here at Jewel, an icon of Singapore and a symbol of our travel industry. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of you for your support in the management of COVID-19. Changi Airport is ready for expansion with the construction of terminal 5 (T5) and this will be a significant and exciting undertaking that will strengthen our position as an aviation hub. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Leong has explained in his National Day Rally, we are designing T5 better after incorporating lessons learnt from COVID pandemic.
A Nation by Design
2 PM Lee once said, Singapore is a nation by design. Nothing we have today is natural or happened by itself or by chance. Design has indeed been a core element of our nation building, and all of you present here have contributed to this cause. Design will continue to be of paramount importance to our future, as we seek to understand and define the problems we face, invest in research and development, prototype, test innovative ideas, review the solutions, and scale them up to address our challenges.
3 The green and liveable home we enjoy in Singapore today was made possible by deliberate design, to carefully balance our needs for economic development while ensuring environmental protection and social inclusion. With strong leadership and immense efforts by our people, Singapore has transformed from mudflats into a clean and green modern metropolis. Today, we have clean air, a robust and diversified supply of water, strengthened food security, and hawker centres within easy reach to enjoy affordable meals with our friends and family.
4 However, we face a new challenge that needs to be addressed by design. Climate change poses an existential threat to all of us. Severe weather events have affected energy and food production, as well as our access to these essential supplies. The rate of rising sea-levels is a crucial concern to us as a low-lying city state. It is therefore imperative that we embed environmental sustainability into every design in Singapore.
5 Under Forward Singapore, we want to have a conversation across Singapore on our social compact. As we face major challenges and uncertainties in the world – inflation and weakening economic growth; disruptions in global supply of energy and food; geopolitical tensions; and growing nationalism and protectionism – how should we progress as a nation, focusing on our common priorities and making trade-offs along the way? For environmental sustainability, this conversation is about the compact across individuals, businesses, and the Government. It is also about the compact across generations and how we should address the inter-generational inequity of climate change. What do we need to do in this generation so that we do not pass on the inordinate cost of climate change to future generations? Who does what, and when?
6 We announced the Singapore Green Plan 2030 last year, integrating our climate actions and sustainability developments. Let me share just three work streams that we are focusing on.
7 First, we need to decarbonise our economy. As a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), we are committed to mitigate our carbon emission. We have announced earlier that we will be raising our ambition to reach net zero emission by or around mid-century. We will be raising our carbon tax progressively and significantly from now to 2030. Carbon tax revenue will be used to provide incentives to companies to reduce their carbon footprint. We will increase the share of renewable energy through deployment of solar panels and import of green energy. We are transforming Jurong Island to be best in class in the petrochemical industry. We encourage our built environment to be designed and operated more energy efficiently.
8 Second, we need to close our waste loop. The world’s resources are unable to sustain our present modes of extraction, consumption, and production. In land constrained Singapore, we must also be efficient in using our Semakau landfill. We must transit towards a circular economy and plans have been laid out to achieve greater sustainability in all three stages of the value chain: sustainable production; sustainable consumption; and waste and resource management. We aim to be a Zero Waste Nation and are prioritising three waste streams: electrical and electronic waste (e-waste); packaging waste (including plastics); and food waste. Designers can contribute to a circular economy in many ways, such as working on sustainable packaging designs, designing products that go beyond one-time use, as well as reusing and repurposing discarded materials.
9 Third, we need to protect our coastlines to safeguard our future. Sea level rise is driven by climate change and global warming. Singapore’s mean sea level is projected to rise by up to 1 metre by 2100 and it could rise to 4 or 5 metres if we take into account the compounding effects of the 1 metre rise and phenomena such as daily tidal activity, storm surges or land subsidence. We have started site-specific studies at East Coast and will commence similar studies at Jurong Island and the North-West Coast coastline this year. These studies will inform us on key trigger points to look out for and allow us to phase in our solutions at the appropriate timing and amount. We can also look out for opportunities to incorporate or dovetail our requirements when we undertake major infrastructure building, such as when expanding our airport. Designers can be involved in the conceptual design of coastal adaptation measures and the development of innovative solutions that are multi-functional, integrated with land use and development plans, as well as enhance the nature environment.
Role of the Design Community
10 How we design will determine how sustainable we are. I encourage all of you to consider incorporating sustainability into the designs that you create. Good design needs to be human centric, taking into full account the impact of human consumption on the environment and the future generations of mankind. We must create solutions to solve human needs without inflicting further damage to our planet.
11 I am glad to note that sustainability is a non-negotiable criteria under the SG Mark. I understand that the sustainable design category was first introduced in 2020 as a special category, and it has now become a permanent category since 2021. This year’s SG Mark is truly a reminder of the human spirit that thrives in times of crises like the pandemic. The quality standard set by SG Mark will not only inspire designers to devise practical solutions through individual products, but also shape the world through all disciplines of design that impact both communities and the environment.
12 As we have just celebrated our National Day, it is meaningful for us to reflect on our journey as a young nation. Thought to be an impossible country, we have beaten the odds on many fronts. The “Little Red Dot”, coined by taking reference to our presence on the map – a mere red dot without a significant hinterland – is a constraint for us in many ways. And yet, we have not allowed it to constrain our ambition and our vision. Good design and long-term planning have allowed us to build this beautiful Jewel over what otherwise would be a typical multi-storey car park that we see in most airports. The Lim Chu Kang Masterplan will unveil our “30 by 30” food story – our ambition to grow 30 per cent of our nutritional needs with one per cent of our land through productive farming methods; integrating a circular flow of farm waste into our design of infrastructure for waste management; and bringing our research community closer to our farming community. Through these efforts, the Government wants to work with our people and partners, to co-create solutions and engender a greater sense of ownership over our environment. I hope the design community can come forward with concrete commitments and ideas to actively drive the sustainability agenda.
13 Let me extend my warmest congratulations to all awardees. I look forward to presenting the top awards later. Let us all continue to make a difference for environmental sustainability. Together, we can make Singapore the greenest, most inclusive and the best home for all of us.