SPEECH BY DR KOH POH KOON, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, AT FIDIC GLOBAL INFRASTRUCTURE CONFERENCE ON 12 SEPTEMBER 2023
Esteemed Members of the FIDIC Board,
Dr Nelson Ogunshakin, Chief Executive Officer of FIDIC,
Mr Anthony Barry, President of FIDIC,
Ladies and gentlemen,
1 Good morning, and welcome to Singapore. I am pleased to join you at the FIDIC 2023 Global Infrastructure Conference.
2 Today, as we come together to discuss sustainable strategies for a better world, it is fitting to recognise the journey of the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) over the last 110 years. Beginning with three members in 1913 to its current stature with more than 100 members from around the world, FIDIC has contributed much to our living environment. Allow me to extend my congratulations on reaching this milestone!
3 As a grouping for consulting engineers, FIDIC’s role has expanded beyond its initial position as the international voice of the consulting engineering industry. It has become a beacon of innovation and sustainability, and a testament to the dedication and foresight of engineers who have helped to reshape our world.
Role of Engineers to Water Management in Singapore
4 We have much to thank the engineering industry for. In Singapore, engineers play an instrumental role in helping us navigate the unique challenges of our environment and circumstances, marked by our limited land space, highly built-up cityscape and tropical weather. Therefore, simply replicating measures from other countries would not suffice. Instead, we must adapt and fine-tune these approaches to align with our specific needs and unique circumstances, a task at which our engineers excel in.
5 Take, for example, our approach to managing water and energy needs in Singapore. Our engineers have to consider how to optimise land-use in Singapore, while tackling our water and energy needs. Our engineers have found ways to utilise the broad surface areas of our reservoirs by deploying floating solar platforms. Additionally, they have created more room for further urban development by freeing up 150 hectares of land previously occupied by water pumping stations aboveground. This was achieved by constructing underground sewers to convey used water by gravity to water reclamation plants. 150 hectares of land may not sound like a lot to many of you from larger countries, but Singapore is only a small island of 730 square kilometres, so 150 hectares saved from infrastructure to use more meaningfully is a huge saving.
6 But beyond devising innovative solutions in water management for land-scarce Singapore, we also need engineers – and the appropriate infrastructures – to help us keep pace with the increasing demands for water in a growing population and economy.
7 Currently, our daily water consumption is approximately 440 million gallons, equivalent to around 800 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Projections suggest that this demand will nearly double by 2065, with the non-domestic sector accounting for almost half of our total water consumption. To tackle this challenge, we are committed to collecting, treating, reclaiming, and reusing every drop of used water while expanding our water resources.
Building a Sustainable Future
8 This commitment takes on added significance in the context of climate change. Weather events that were once rare are now becoming more frequent. Aside from the increased risk of haze, the intensification of El Niño conditions – predicted to persist until the end of 2023 – could lead to more droughts and water shortages across the region.
9 This reality underscores the importance of long-term planning and investments in resilient infrastructure and sustainable practices to safeguard our communities. Engineers, as problem solvers and innovators, are not merely key players in building a sustainable future but also our protectors against climate change. For the many of you in our midst today, you play a pivotal role in addressing the unique challenges posed by climate change whichever country you are residing in. Whether it is addressing water scarcity or reinforcing coastal defences against rising sea levels, engineers are best placed to lead the global charge against climate change. In the search for alternative cleaner energy sources, engineers, again, play a very important role. To combat climate change, we need good engineering solutions to help us transit into a low-carbon future.
10 Building a sustainable future requires engineers to collaborate, not just among themselves, but more importantly across borders and geographies. International collaboration is crucial, as it allows engineers to pool resources and work together to find new ideas and solutions that transcend geographical boundaries. One avenue for engineers to effect change is through active participation in fora like the Conference FIDIC has organised today. Global initiatives such as international research partnerships and knowledge-sharing networks will help to catalyse innovative ideas and spark new innovations and bring about change. In doing so, engineers will have the opportunity to drive transformative change on both national and international fronts.
11 Through these efforts, engineers can become catalysts for positive change, leading the way towards a more sustainable and resilient future for future generations, echoing the legacy of our forefathers who had worked hard to make the world a better place.
Singapore’s Commitment to Sustainability
12 Even as we find ways to tackle the existential threats that come with climate change, we must also prioritise minimising our impact on the planet. To that end, Singapore is fully committed to accelerating our sustainability efforts and transitioning toward a low-carbon future. In 2021, we launched our Singapore Green Plan 2030 as a nationwide movement to tackle climate change. This comprehensive plan charts bold and concrete strategies for Singapore to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
13 The Green Plan not only focuses on decarbonising our economy and increasing the use of renewable resources, but also emphasises the importance of enhancing Singapore’s climate resilience.
14 Integral to the Green Plan is the latest edition of the Singapore Green Building Masterplan, which was similarly launched in 2021. The Masterplan clearly outlines our ambitious sustainability goals for the Built Environment — to achieve “80-80-80 in 2030”:
80% of our buildings to be green by 2030;
80% of new developments to be Super Low Energy (SLE) buildings from 2030;
and 80% improvement in energy efficiency (over 2005 levels) for best-in-class green buildings by 2030.
15 The Masterplan creates significant opportunities for engineers to contribute to sustainability. Sustainable infrastructure projects not only fulfil critical societal needs, but also minimise environmental impact and enhance long-term resilience. In doing so, engineers can champion for a more sustainable future, where infrastructure serves as a cornerstone of both progress and our responsibility to the environment.
16 Let me conclude. The progress of society at large is very much intertwined with the good work of the men and women in the engineering industry. While the challenges of climate change may not make your work any easier, they underscore the vital role you play in addressing the most pressing issues of our time.
17 You have the unique privilege and responsibility to venture into uncharted territories, question prevailing norms, and shape an enduring future. I am confident that the insights and connections forged today will serve as a wellspring of inspiration and progress.
18 Thank you, and I wish everyone a great day ahead.