Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Singapore Scout Association’s Launch of the Diamond Jubilee Challenge 2023
Mr Ngien Hoon Ping, Vice President, Singapore Scout Association
Mr Desmond Chong, Chief Commissioner, Singapore Scout Association
Ladies and Gentlemen
1 Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to thank the Singapore Scout Association for having me at the launch of your Diamond Jubilee Challenge 2023.
2 This challenge is a unique one. It breaks down the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals into four themes: diversity and inclusion, environment, skills for life, and civics and citizenship. The Challenge also makes learning fun and experiential for our youth. It uses learning journeys and community engagement activities, and opens the door for our youths to play a larger role in driving action in our community.
3 Held over four years, the challenge will culminate in 2025 with the celebration of Singapore’s 60 th year of nationhood – our diamond jubilee. It will be a very significant year and I’m glad that by then, we will have more than 12,500 scouts ready to play their part to build a better Singapore and a better world.
Singapore’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change
4 The challenge’s focus on the environment is also timely and important as we collectively work towards addressing climate change. Last year, Singapore raised our climate ambition to achieve net zero by 2050. This strengthens our commitment to realising the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving net zero will be no easy feat. We are geographically small and have limited access to renewable energy sources. Despite these limitations, we are committed to do all we can to contribute to global climate action.
5 Already, we are experiencing the impacts of climate change. Just last year, there were many extreme weather events across the world. For example, droughts in Europe, floods in Pakistan, and severe heat waves in China. Singapore is not sparred from these impacts. It is projected that we will face more frequent and intense rainfall, which could overwhelm our drainage system and cause flooding. Sea levels are also projected to rise by up to a metre by 2100. With the confluence of extreme high tides and storm surges, the sea could easily overwhelm Singapore’s coastlines and significantly lower our liveable land area.
6 We are working on dealing with these changes. We have commenced the development of inland flooding models to assess flood risks, and begun studies on more vulnerable parts of our coasts, such as the City-East Coast area.
Refreshing our Social Compact in the face of Climate Change
7 The Government’s efforts alone are not sufficient for Singapore to achieve net zero. Last year, DPM Wong launched our Forward Singapore exercise, for us to come together in the face of more complex challenges, to examine our values and aspirations, build consensus, and refresh our social compact.
8 As we deal with the complex challenge of climate change, we must look at the balance of trade-offs and agree on the way forward, as well as involve all stakeholders in this collective effort. What is the right balance, and what are our roles? In the spirit of Forward Singapore, I have two questions for everyone today.
9 First. What trade-offs are we willing to accept? This journey toward a greener, more liveable and climate-resilient Singapore will involve significant trade-offs. For example, protecting Singapore against rising sea levels with seawalls and natural barriers will be a major investment in the coming decades. It is estimated to cost $100 billion and will need to come out of our taxes. This is a significant long-term investment lasting a hundred years or more, and it would take even longer for us to see the fruition of these efforts. How much of this should we take out of our public spending today, say on healthcare and education? Or should we spend this money later, so we have more public spending for the current generation? These are questions we need to reflect on.
10 Another example is carbon tax. Last year, we announced that Singapore’s carbon tax will be raised from the current $5 per tonne of emissions to $25 per tonne in 2024, with a view to reaching $50-80 per tonne by 2030. The tax will help us achieve our goals as it pushes companies to reduce their emissions, and accelerates the shift to greener options. But as a result, we may see cost increases for carbon-intensive goods and services. For households, the effects of carbon tax will be felt primarily through an increase in electricity bills. Is this a trade-off that we can all accept? We are particularly mindful of the tax’s impact on lower-income households, and are using the proceeds from the carbon tax to help these households through utility vouchers.
11 My next question is, what role are you prepared to play to help Singapore achieve our climate action goals? The Government’s role is to develop good policy, and set an example for others to follow. Companies can drive sustainability within their organisations and influence their partners to multiply impact.
12 All of us, as individuals, also have an important role to play. When we collectively adopt sustainable habits, such as bringing our own bags and containers, conserving electricity and water, and taking public transport, it can help reduce our national carbon footprint. Individual actions can even influence companies. If we demand for products with less packaging or choose energy-efficient appliances, companies will start to adopt greener and more sustainable products and solutions. How many of these habits are you already practising? Are we willing to lead a more sustainable lifestyle?
13 All of us can influence our networks and communities. Youth leaders such as yourselves have the ability, know-how, and energy to influence your colleagues, school mates, friends, or families to take action. Indeed, many groups and organisations that we see today doing great work for the environment were started by passionate youths like yourselves.
14 I encourage you to reflect on the role you want to play in Singapore’s efforts to tackle climate change, and be ambitious as you go about the Diamond Jubilee Challenge. For example, what initiatives can you take on to encourage others to conserve resources, reduce packaging or food waste, or recycle more? You can start small and build your idea over time. To support you, you can tap on government funds such as my Ministry’s SG Eco Fund to get your project started.
15 I hope you will continue to reflect on these questions. I encourage you to find out more about our Forward Singapore exercise and join the conversation in charting our collective journey towards a greener, more liveable and climate-resilient Singapore. I also invite you to make a Green Nation pledge at go.gov.sg/greennationpledge and commit to play your part in this effort. Do encourage your friends and families to do so too.
16 Thank you once again and I wish the scouts a great year of the environment ahead. I look forward to seeing the initiatives that arise from the challenge.