OPENING ADDRESS BY MS GRACE FU, MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT,AT THE INSTITUTION OF ENGINEERS, SINGAPORE ANNUAL DINNER ON 17 JANUARY 2023
Mr Dalson Chung, President of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1 Good evening to all. It is my pleasure to join you at the annual dinner of the Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES). Tonight’s dinner is a celebration of the contributions by leaders, individuals, and organisations to the engineering progression. My heartiest congratulations!
2 I would also very much like to commend the IES on the launch of its Green Plan 2030. I am heartened that IES is taking the initiative to help advance our national sustainability agenda through developing and driving its own Green Plan. I understand that the plan highlights the role of engineers in addressing sustainability challenges that Singapore faces, and sets out a framework for sustainable growth across all industry sectors. This is an important step for the engineering community as we strive towards our sustainability goals.
Environmental Sustainability Challenges
3 Climate change is a serious problem. We are seeing more extreme weather events across the world. Drying rivers in Europe, US and China are affecting power generation, riverine transportation, and agriculture. Devastating floods along the east coast of Australia, India, and Bangladesh have affected millions of people and caused hundreds of deaths. In Singapore, we are also experiencing record temperatures and intense rainfall more frequently. The ongoing and worsening effects of climate change, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions, have also disrupted global food production and supply chains.
Singapore’s efforts in sustainable development
4 These challenges may seem overwhelming, particularly when we consider our land and resource constraints. Nonetheless, Singapore is committed to accelerate our sustainability efforts and transition towards a low-carbon future. In 2021, we launched our Singapore Green Plan 2030 as a whole-of-nation movement to tackle climate change. The Green Plan charts bold and concrete strategies for Singapore to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. These include decarbonising our economy, electrifying our vehicles, and increasing the use of renewable energy.
5 We are also strengthening the resilience of our essential resources. We continue to enhance our water security by expanding our desalination capacity, and our food security by diversifying our imports and ramping up local production. By 2030, we aim for the capability and capacity of our local agri-food industry to sustainably produce 30 per cent of our nutritional needs. To achieve a circular economy, we are reducing the amount of waste generated, reusing our resources, and finding new ways to recycle better.
6 The Government cannot achieve sustainable development on our own. Achieving net zero and tackling climate change will require the collective actions of all stakeholders. Last year, we launched the Forward Singapore exercise to build consensus on what we want to see for Singapore’s future, and how we can all work together to achieve our shared vision. I am heartened that IES is taking the lead by reaching out to industry stakeholders and members of the public in this regard. This forward-looking initiative to coordinate national-level institutional support will help us achieve the ambitious goals under our Singapore Green Plan.
Importance of Engineers’ Role in Building a Sustainable Singapore
7 Tackling climate change is a complex engineering problem. It requires innovation in products, productions, and systems. Over the years, from our water and energy infrastructure, housing, and transport systems, engineers have established new frontiers for Singapore with your expertise and innovative solutions. Looking ahead, there is great potential for engineers like yourselves to lead and contribute in a significant way to Singapore’s sustainability journey. Our investments in research and development in urban solutions and sustainability – in food security, in coastal and inland flood protection, in circularity, in urban heat, in built environment – offer many opportunities for engineers to contribute and create impact.
8 For instance, in the space of agri-tech, engineering plays a critical role in achieving our 30 by 30 goal. There are plenty of opportunities for engineering innovations and solutions to come into play to develop climate-resilient, resource-efficient and high-yield farming solutions. Precision-irrigation technology, automated feeders and pump systems, and sensors and robotics are just some examples of how our farms are incorporating technologically-advanced infrastructure and smart systems to optimise food production.
9 On coastal protection, as we fortify our coastlines against rising sea level, this is also an opportunity for us to tap on engineering ingenuity to reimagine the way we design our flood protection structures. Take seawalls for example. They can be simple, functional structures to keep the sea at bay. But we would like to challenge our engineers to go beyond that, and explore if we could build new uses on top of it, integrate the wall with nature elements, or perhaps create new recreational amenities that can be enjoyed by our people.
10 We are also developing Tuas Nexus, a state-of-the-art facility that integrates the Tuas Water Reclamation Plant and the Integrated Waste Management Facility. We went beyond merely co-locating the facilities and found engineering solutions that will maximise the benefit of waste recovery and minimise our carbon footprint. We are constructing the two as a single entity, so that Tuas Nexus will harness synergies from the water-energy-waste nexus. It is expected to produce more than 40 per cent of biogas from water treatment alone, which will improve the overall plant thermal efficiency and electricity generation.
IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement Awards
11 The five team recipients of the IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement Awards today are examples of how the engineering community can drive sustainable development.
12 One of the award winners is a joint team from Samwoh Innovation Centre, Singapore Polytechnic (SP), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA).
Samwoh and SP initiated a research study to evaluate the use of plastic waste in asphalt, commonly used in road construction. A field study supported by LTA and NEA was conducted and the test results are promising. The project will potentially provide an alternative use of plastic waste in road construction. This will in turn increase the plastic recycling rate in Singapore, as well as provide environmental and economic benefits to the built environment industry. This is an excellent example of how applied research and development can contribute to our Green Plan and Singapore’s push towards a circular economy. Congratulations to the team!
13 Engineers are also recognised for their individual contribution to the society. The IES Lifetime Engineering Achievement is presented to Mr Seah Moon Ming, Chairman of SMRT Corporation Ltd, SMRT Trains Ltd and SMRT Buses Ltd. As President of ST Electronics from 1997 to 2013, Moon Ming was instrumental in transforming ST Electronics Limited from a company serving the local market to a leading global systems house. He constantly challenged his engineers to ‘think out of the box’ and set aside a $2 million fund annually to encourage ideas and motivate staff to experiment and initiate new ideas. This helped to foster an engineering and innovation culture in ST Electronics. Moon Ming also contributed significantly to the engineering community by promoting engineering education when he was Chairman of Temasek Polytechnic’s Board of Governors. He helped to shape the Polytechnic’s engineering courses and pushed for the introduction of new diploma courses in response to industry needs. Congratulations, Moon Ming!
14 Let me conclude. Recent global climatic events and challenges remind us that the window to act on climate change is closing.
We do not have the luxury of time. As engineers, you are in a special position to develop the technologies and solutions to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. I invite you to work alongside us to take bold collective action to address the climate crisis now and build a sustainable Singapore for future generations. Please join us in our journey. I invite each and every one of you to make a Green Nation pledge to help build a greener, more liveable and climate-resilient Singapore.
15 Congratulations again to all winners of the IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement Awards. Your efforts will inspire the engineering community to continue generating innovative and needed solutions to further environmental sustainability.
16 Thank you.