Address by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the REDAS Mid-Autumn Event on 7 September 2022
Mr Chia Ngiang Hong, President of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore,
1 Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to join you to celebrate the mid-autumn festival. I recall carrying lanterns made of paper during the mid-autumn festival when I was little and lighting their candles with matchsticks. Lanterns have evolved quite significantly since then. They are now largely battery-operated, and I have seen elaborate, fanciful designs of cartoon characters that come with accompanying music too! So have our mooncakes. The packaging has become very elaborate, very often discarded immediately after receipt. They generate significant packaging waste and, I suspect, is highly unsustainable.
2 Just as our traditions have evolved, our aspirations for ourselves, our families and Singapore too have risen. What do we want to see in Singapore’s future? What are we willing to do to reach the future we want? And what are the challenges that could hinder us? These are some of the questions we want to discuss under the Forward Singapore exercise.
3 There are several major challenges and global uncertainties over the horizon. These include inflation and weakening economic growth; disruptions in the global supply of energy and food; geopolitical tensions with growing nationalism and protectionism; and climate change. How should Singapore navigate through these challenges, together as one united people? How can we steward our environmental resources, and address the intergenerational equity in paying for climate change? We will be embarking on Forward Singapore conversations over the next few months. We need to make responsible choices to ensure that Singapore can remain a green, liveable and climate-resilient home for our future generations. This is not just the Government’s responsibility. It is a goal everyone in society must contribute to, whether as a consumer, business leader, or a property developer.
Our Net Zero Target
4 We had announced our climate ambition to achieve net zero emissions by or around mid-century. We are currently conducting consultations on enhancing our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). To enable the transition to a low-carbon future, we will be raising our carbon tax progressively and significantly from now to 2030. The raised carbon tax puts an explicit price on carbon emissions, encourages the adoption of energy saving technologies, and steers action towards more sustainable practices. It could mean higher energy costs for everyone in the short term but not if we adopt more energy efficient technology. The revenue from the carbon tax will be used to support our transition to a low-carbon economy through incentivising green solutions and cushioning the impact on businesses and households.
5 Targeting to achieve net zero is not only about saving the planet, but also our jobs and livelihoods. If the world reaches net zero carbon emissions in 2050, products and services that are carbon intensive will have no demand. They will become stranded assets, and economies and companies with high carbon footprints will be left behind. Singapore needs to have a net zero target for our economy and companies to stay competitive and relevant.
How the Built Environment Sector Can Contribute
6 Our built environment sector plays an important role in our fight against climate change, as our buildings account for around 20 per cent of national emissions. The Government is committed to work with the built environment sector through the Green Building Masterplan, which is an integral part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030. Together, we aim to achieve “80-80-80 in 2030”:
• By 2030, we aim to green 80 per cent of buildings. In particular, we are encouraging existing building owners to explore solutions to improve energy performance;
• We are striving for 80 per cent of new buildings to be Super Low Energy (SLE) buildings from 2030. The public sector is taking the lead by targeting for all new public sector buildings and existing ones (upon major retrofit) to achieve the Green Mark Platinum Super Low Energy; and
• By 2030, we seek to achieve an 80 per cent improvement in energy efficiency for best-in-class buildings. To do this, we are supporting building owners and developers, and their value chains to embark on industry partnerships to co-create and accelerate solutions and commercialisation.
7 I encourage the built environment sector to consider “4Rs”:
• First, reduce a building’s carbon footprint. This can be done by incorporating carbon and resource efficiency considerations in the design phase. For instance, consider harnessing cross-ventilation and natural lighting, adopting low-carbon construction materials, and leverage technology to optimise energy and resource consumption during the operations and maintenance phase.
• Second, replace the use of electricity generated from fossil fuels with green energy produced by solar panels. I urge building owners and developers to consider the installation of solar panels during the design phase of your developments.
• Third, relook at the construction processes that contribute to carbon emissions. Built environment stakeholders can work together, especially with your value chain, to adopt greener construction methods and machinery. For instance, explore using lower-emitting off-road diesel engines (ORDEs), which include cranes, excavators, forklifts and power generators, or green building materials such as timber, mineralised concrete and recycled concrete aggregates.
• Fourth, enable recycling in your building. From food waste, paper to packaging waste, plan and build in facilities for effective recycling and waste collection. These may be non-revenue generating services, but they will differentiate you from others.
8 I thank built environment stakeholders for your commitment and efforts towards environmental sustainability. Many new technologies are now available, waiting for commercialisation opportunities. Set sustainability goals for your projects. Urge your consultants, engineers and architects to push the boundaries. Your decisions today will set the operational parameters of your buildings for decades to come. What you do not invest in today, will be passed on to your children and grandchildren in costs, in damages, in losses many times over.
9 So, I urge all of you to start embracing sustainability as a business goal today. As developers, you have the responsibility to transform the construction and real estate sectors. We can tackle the challenges posed by climate change and enable a prosperous, green, and inclusive future for Singapore and our generations to come.