Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Green Action for Communities Capacity Building Workshop
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very happy to be here with you today.
Climate Change and Singapore Green Plan
Keeping Singapore clean and green was a top priority of our Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Back in the 1960s, Singapore faced many challenges. Yet he devoted a great deal of his personal energy and vision to this effort. Why? Fundamentally, Mr Lee believed that a clean and green city gives its people a sense of well-being. As a compact city, Singapore should never be a concrete jungle. At the same time, keeping our city clean and green also shows the discipline that we have as a people. Mr Lee and his team mobilised our people, through tree planting, Clean and Green campaigns, and cleaning up our waterways. Sustainability has therefore been a key national priority since independence, even though we may not have termed it as such back then.
These efforts have transformed Singapore into a City in a Garden. Building on this foundation, NParks is now seeking to develop Singapore into a City in Nature.
In recent years, scientists are warning us about climate change, which will affect all life on this planet.. The recent report by the UN paints a sobering picture. Global emissions are still rising, and the world is not on track to keep global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius.
For Singapore, as a low-lying island-nation, climate change is an existential challenge. We are also likely to experience more extreme weather patterns, such as dry spells or heavy rainfall. Climate change will also affect the world’s biodiversity and food supply. But it is not all doom and gloom. As the world focuses on climate change, there will be new jobs and business opportunities relating to the green economy, such as in renewables and green finance.
To address both the challenges and opportunities arising from climate change, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 last year. Today’s workshop has given you with an overview of the many aspects of the Green Plan, and I won’t go through them again. The Green Plan is an ambitious, whole-of-nation movement to rally collective action to tackle climate change. While we may contribute only 0.1% to global emission, we must do our part for a greener and more sustainable world. This is also why at this year’s Budget, the Government announced plans to raise Singapore’s ambition, to achieve net zero emissions by or around mid-century. Each and everyone of us – as citizens, as consumers, as workers, as business owners, must do our part.
GAC and Singapore Together
For the Green Plan to succeed, it will be critical to harness the ideas and energy of the community. I am therefore pleased that we are launching the Green Action for Communities or GAC movement today. By the Community, and for the Community - this is the impetus behind the GAC movement. The GAC brings together members of the community to plan, organise, and implement sustainability initiatives. The possibilities are boundless when we tap on the creativity, passion, and expertise of the community. This is especially so for an issue like sustainability, which many care strongly about, and are prepared to do something about it.
Today is the inaugural capacity building workshop for the Southeast District. I thank Kiat How and Fahmi for hosting this event. It has been a long time since Southeast CDC had a physical event of this scale, and I am glad that we are able to meet in person today! I also thank Desmond from MSE and ITE East for hosting us today. In the coming months, all districts across Singapore will also have their workshops. Through these workshops, community leaders like yourselves will develop sustainability blueprints for your divisions, to brainstorm actions that can be taken at the individual and community level, and projects that the community can participate in or co-create. Apart from workshops, there will also be “deep dives” to build upon and refine the ideas you had discussed at the workshops and further strengthen your Community Action Plans.
These efforts are in the spirit of the Singapore Together movement, which aims to deepen the partnership between Government and the people, and among our people, our businesses and civic groups. We launched the Singapore Together movement in 2019, precisely because we wanted to harness the diverse strengths and passions of our people. It is my conviction that this will help us to build a stronger society that can better weather crises and seize opportunities.
Apart from harnessing the creativity of our people, such community action also strengthen our social bonds. In fact, a key lesson from the COVID crisis is the importance of social bonds in meeting unexpected and complex challenges. Many societies that were divided and had low trust to begin with, found themselves further polarised when confronted with a crisis like COVID. In Singapore, I was heartened to see the collective spirit in action within our communities, with many stepping forward to support those in need. Our people were willing to make sacrifices, and to take socially responsible actions to protect the community. Similarly, strong community bonds can make a critical difference in tackling complex challenges like climate change. I believe that the Green Action for Community will not only enable us to harness the creativity and passion of our community, but also strengthen the bonds of our people. We are in this together.
I thank all of you for taking the time to be here on a weekend. You are here because you are passionate about sustainability, and because you want to mobilise and work with the community for this cause. I heard some of you share about the Community Action Plans that you had developed earlier, and your passion certainly shone through. I hope you have learnt something useful about the GAC movement, and how we can bring our people to work together. I am sure that Dawn has done an excellent job in facilitating the workshop. Finally, I thank the Green Plan agencies for organising this session and bringing all of us together.
As the name Green Action Community suggests, to achieve our green goals, we must take action, together as a community. I look forward to seeing you translating your ideas into action, and achieving results, in the upcoming days.