WELCOME ADDRESS BY MS GRACE FU, MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE 2ND NATIONAL YOUTH DIALOGUE ON 21 SEPTEMBER 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening. Thank you for taking time to join us on a Wednesday evening. I also thank the National Youth Council and the Global Shapers Community for organising this series of National Youth Dialogues, and am heartened that Singapore’s net zero ambition is a topic of interest as we discuss future-oriented issues through this platform.
SINGAPORE’S PLACE IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD
2 Climate change is an existential threat that needs to be addressed quickly, and with international collaboration. Yet today, we are living in an increasingly fragmented world. The world’s largest emitters, the United States and China, have ceased climate talks amidst heightened tensions in their relationship. Meanwhile, the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war has disrupted the stability of food and energy supplies, sending prices to new highs and putting countries in danger of not being able to access basic needs.
3 The instability of access to essential resources has been exacerbated by extreme weather events. In Sichuan, China, factories had to shut down as prolonged heatwaves have significantly reduced hydropower output, which fulfils 80 per cent of their energy demand. Closer to home, the unusual heavy rain pouring over Malaysia depleted crop yield for vegetables across the country and we are expecting price hikes in the near term.
4 As an island city-state that is dependent on imports for energy and food, Singapore is susceptible to the impact of these events. Our policies and strategies have strengthened our resilience and helped us weather through adversities in the past. But we are at a critical juncture now. As we face more uncertainties and disruptions, how do we maintain Singapore’s relevance to the world so that our people continue to have good jobs and opportunities? How do we leave behind a stronger, better Singapore for our future generations?
FORWARD SINGAPORE: THE NEED FOR AN INCLUSIVE TRANSITION
5 In the context of environmental sustainability, Singapore needs to keep pace with global momentum in climate action and press ahead with our green transition. At Budget this year, we announced that we will raise our climate ambition to achieve net zero by or around mid-century. The carbon tax will also be progressively raised from S$5 per tonne today, to S$50 to S$80 per tonne by 2030 to accelerate decarbonisation efforts.
6 However, our transition will come with costs, for example the price of goods and services that we enjoy today may increase. The pace at which we transit will also have an unequal impact of society. Earlier this week, we launched engagements for the Steward pillar under the Forward Singapore exercise. My Ministry and our statutory boards will be holding conversations with the public and our partners to discuss our social compact in three aspects:
a) First, inter-generational equity. What should our generation do to minimise the cost of climate change to future generations? How much of the costs of long-term investments and economic shifts to address climate change should be borne by the current generation?
b) Second, as a society, how should we pursue competing economic, social, and environmental goals? How do we ensure that access to essential resources remains affordable and secure? How can our workforce remain relevant in the green economy?
c) Third, what are the social norms, shared values, and formal rules that we should abide by to steward our resources? How can the Government, businesses and individuals contribute to lasting and meaningful change for our environment?
7 These are difficult but necessary questions that we must ask ourselves, to ensure a successful green transition, where our people and companies maintain their relevance and competitive advantage. Most importantly, it ensures that our future generations have a liveable environment, access to good jobs and enjoy a good standard of living.
ACTIVE GREEN CITIZENRY AMONG YOUTHS
8 This dialogue session is therefore timely. As the next generation inheriting this planet, your views on the future we want, and your contributions towards that vision are important. Beyond sharing your thoughts and ideas, I invite you to take actions to shape Singapore’s future with us. Our recent survey showed that despite having a high awareness of the importance of climate action, those who avoid the use of disposables at least once a week have decreased.
9 Our challenge therefore lies in encouraging more of our youths to translate awareness into actions and help them realise the positive impact they can create. I am glad to see many have started their own ground-up initiatives in sustainability. Let me share a few examples:
a) Recognising that the younger generation today has an increased interest and shared responsibility for the future wellbeing of our planet, undergraduates Timothy Chee and Matthew Koh led a team to start The BAUM Movement. Through education, marketing research, sharing of actionable insights and community dialogues, The BAUM Movement aims to provide its community with the knowledge and tools to invest in the long-term progress of our planet.
b) The Plastic Project, run by Lee Yew Jin, Amber Soong and Paul Lee, is injecting fun into plastics recycling with their workshops. By allowing participants to experience the end-to-end process of sorting, cutting, and turning plastics into new reusable products, the initiative helps the community visualise how each of us can be a part of the circular economy if we manage our waste properly. I hope these examples will inspire you to think about how you can make a difference.
10 This week is Climate Action Week, an annual initiative by my Ministry to rally our partners in the People, Private and Public sectors to call on individuals, businesses and communities to take collective action to tackle climate change. More than 80 partners are organising close to 140 activities covering a wide range of sustainability topics. If you are getting started on your green journey, I encourage you to take this opportunity to explore your interests and the various ways that you can contribute to our climate goals in the Singapore Green Plan.
11 For those of you who are ready to offer solutions, the SG Eco Fund and Youth Changemakers, who are here with us today, provide seed funding to help your projects get started. The DBS Foundation and National Environment Agency are also calling for ideas to address food waste challenges at the Hungry for Change Challenge from now to 21 October. I look forward to your participation in these initiatives.
12 Let me conclude. We are living in an uncertain world that is battling geopolitical turbulence and climate change at the same time. Against this backdrop, Singapore must continue to find its relevance in the world and collectively identify our vision for the future.
13 As leaders and stewards of tomorrow, you can shape our future today by sharing your views in conversations being conducted under the Forward Singapore exercise. You can also lead by example through adopting sustainable habits, offering solutions or rallying your community to take climate action. On this note, I invite you to make a Green Nation pledge at the Forward Singapore website, and help make Singapore a green, liveable and climate-resilient nation.
14 Regardless of where you are in your environmental sustainability journey, I hope that today’s session will inspire you to start or do more for our nation’s green movement and help us achieve the goals under the Singapore Green Plan 2030. I look forward to exchanging views with you.