MS GRACE FU, MINISTER FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT THE LAUNCH OF NTU SERVICE WEEK 2023 ON 25 FEBRUARY 2023, 2.15 PM – 3.30 PM
Ms Goh Swee Chen, Board Chair of NTU Board of Trustees
Mr Lo Kien Foh, Chairman of NTU Alumni and Development Committee
Professor Ling San, Acting President and Provost of NTU
Ladies and gentlemen
1 I am pleased to join all of you for the launch of NTU Service Week 2023.
2 It is heartening to see so many of you from the NTU community – not only students, but faculty, staff and even alumni – contributing your time, skills and resources for a good cause. NTU has chosen sustainability as one of four causes for Service Week, together with digital inclusivity, health and wellbeing, and social welfare.
3 I am happy that sustainability is a topic that NTU pays significant attention to, and imbues into your education programmes. It is also exciting to see that sustainability is a key driver behind many R&D projects that NTU has spearheaded, especially in the areas of solar energy, water and waste management, and circular economy. I look forward to viewing your projects at the exhibition later.
4 I would also like to take this opportunity to thank NTU for taking the Green Nation Pledge – NTU is the first university in Singapore to do so! Your pledge as a Champion signals your commitment to our nation’s green journey. I hope more organisations and educational institutions will follow in NTU’s example.
Singapore’s efforts to address climate change
5 The road to sustainability is not easy, but we are starting from a strong foundation. Take water for example. Water has and will always be an existential issue of Singapore. We are one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. Our small land mass means there is limited space to collect and store rainwater. Despite these constrains, we have progressed from a country lacking in water to one where clean drinking water is readily available at the turn of a tap.
6 We are where we are today thanks to long-term planning and decades of R&D on NEWater and desalination. Today, we are able to produce pure drinking water from seawater and have closed the water loop by treating and re-used every drop of water endlessly.
7 However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. To chart Singapore’s sustainability journey in the years ahead, the Government has launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 with concrete plans and targets. We aim to halve the electricity used in desalination from 3.5 kWh/l to 2 kWh/l. And reduce the amount of waste to landfill per capita per day by 30% by 2030. And we are driving down our energy consumption in our infrastructure and buildings.
8 We require boldness, imagination and innovation to create new sustainable solutions for our urban city to reach these targets. NTU’s R&D teams have been doing good work over the years.
9 Scientists from NTU’s Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI) have played an important role in our drive towards water security with your research in used water treatment and membrane technology to reduce energy consumption from desalination.
10 NTU also operates a Waste-to-Energy Research Facility in Tuas South to test-bed new technologies in converting municipal solid into electricity and other useful materials. Synthetic gas is generated from rubbish which can then be used to produce electricity and potentially power an airplane. Other by-products like slag and metal alloy granules can also be recycled. Such alternative waste treatment technologies will reduce the ash sent to Semakau Landfill, while creating a source of sustainable construction material.
11 Last year, Singapore took a major step and raised our climate ambition to achieve net zero by 2050. The public sector will lead by example by aiming to achieve this target five years ahead, by 2045. Executing the net zero transition will not be easy, given our small land area and lack of renewable energy sources. However, we have decided to commit ourselves to these targets because we believe that it is absolutely critical that the world starts reducing emission now. As stewards of our environment, we have a responsibility to our future generations.
12 To tackle the climate challenge, we need the active participation of all parties - Government, businesses, community, the young and the not-so young, and academia. Through our Forward Singapore exercise, we have sought ideas and views from Singaporeans from all walks of life on how we can collectively address challenges in important areas like recycling, food security, and coastal protection.
13 From the many Forward Singapore conversations that have been conducted, we have arrived at a consensus that everyone must do their part to build a climate-resilient and sustainable Singapore for future generations. There needs to be a mindset shift across all segments of society. Many participants also suggested ways to drive a change in behaviour, in favour of the environment. They were prepared to bear with some inconveniences or pay a little more for environmentally-friendly goods and services. Better infrastructure was also a point raised, to make sustainable practices more convenient. We will take these feedback and suggestions seriously. I encourage you to bring sustainability issues to the forefront of public discourse too and come forward with your own ideas and initiatives to make Singapore a green and climate-resilient home.
Working Together as One
14 The journey towards a sustainable future requires partnerships and collaborations. None of us has a monopoly of ideas and we simply cannot achieve this vision through our individual efforts.
15 If we collectively adopt sustainable habits, demand for greener products, choosing those with less packaging and more energy-efficient appliances, companies will respond, and seize the business opportunities in sustainable products and solutions.
16 You can go one step further by turning your idea for a green project that will encourage others to recycle more, waste less, or reduce carbon footprint, I encourage you to tap on my Ministry’s SG Eco Fund to start your projects.
17 We are at a crucial point in our fight against climate change. All of us have an important part to play in contributing to Singapore’s evolution to a city of green possibilities to live, work and play.
18 I would like to invite all you to make a Green Nation Pledge and make a strong individual commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Be ambitious in your goals and start making progress today. Wherever you are at home, in campus, or within the community, be the role model with your actions; encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to do the same. Our collective actions today will secure a cleaner and greener Singapore for tomorrow.
19 NTU’s commitment to sustainability and dedication to community service go beyond the Service Week. In my own constituency, NTU has been serving Yuhua residents over the last eight years. NTU student volunteers started “KidsRead”, a reading programme for children aged 4 to 6. Subsequently, the “Ace Stars” English and developmental programme started in 2017 for children aged 7 to 9. More recently, youth mentors from NTU started a programme to improve literacy and numeracy skills of Primary 3 to 6 students from lower income families. On top of coaching these students on their homework, these mentors also engage in character development activities with them.
20 I was sharing with Prof Ling San, that this is not stated in any sort of reports or collaterals, but I believe that the student volunteers, after spending a few years with the very little ones, 4 to 6, started to feel for them and wanted to progress with them, and so the programme extended to 7 to 9. And then a few years later, again, they started another programme with a new batch of Primary 3 to 6 kids. So if you look at how the programs have progressed in Yuhua, I think the student volunteers have very much developed a relationship with the younger ones.
21 Many of the younger ones come from marginalised communities in Yuhua - they live in rental blocks in the constituency. What you do, is very much appreciated by the children and their parents – even if they do not express it in words or deeds. I believe that your NTU students have really done a wonderful job and have created a lasting impact on these children.
22 So this is another reason why I was very eager to accept this invitation to launch your Service Week. Because I’ve seen your students in action and I know how it has impacted the community in concrete terms. And I would say it is not just for a week in a year. In the programs in Yuhua that I mentioned, it lasts for many many weeks and years and the students made adjustments to their study program and work commitments just to be there for the children, week after week, year after year for eight years.
23 And I fully mean it when I say NTU has been a valuable member of the Yuhua community, and the society, and I look forward to your continued contributions to Singapore.
24 NTU has been a valuable member of the Yuhua community, and the society, and I look forward to your continued contributions to Singapore.
25 Thank you once again for inviting me to join you at the opening of the NTU Service Week, and I wish all the volunteers and members of the NTU community a pleasant time in serving the community this week and beyond.