Speech by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at the launch event for the Year of Climate Action, 26 January 2018
SPEECH BY MR MASAGOS ZULKIFLI, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES, AT THE LAUNCH EVENT FOR THE YEAR OF CLIMATE ACTION, 26 JANUARY 2018
Mr Sherman Kwek,
Chief Executive Officer of City Developments Limited
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. We are here today to mark a significant event – the official launch of the Year of Climate Action for Singapore. I am happy to see such a big gathering – from ambassadors to corporate chiefs, trade association representatives, school principals, NGOs and the media.
Why Year of Climate Action?
Why did Singapore designate 2018 our Year of Climate Action? Climate change is an important issue affecting Singapore and the international community. Our world is warming at an unprecedented rate, caused by the excessive emission of greenhouse gases, in particular, carbon dioxide, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. Climate change poses an existential threat. The impact of rising sea levels, and weather extremes such as droughts and flash floods caused by intense rainfall, can have devastating consequences for lives and livelihoods. Singapore is already feeling the impact. 2017 was our warmest year on record that was not influenced by an El Niño event.
Consciously or otherwise, our journey to fight climate change is well embedded throughout our development policies: in our care for the environment, greening, public transport and even by putting funds to half the energy needed to produce desalinated water.
We feel however, it is as important to raise the level of national consciousness around the need to take individual and collective action to fight climate change for a sustainable Singapore. Because the government cannot do it alone. This is a year when we will join forces with all of you here, plus many other parties across Singapore and beyond, to rally everybody to take action to reduce our carbon footprint and fight climate change. Our vision is to ensure Singapore’s sustainability and make Singapore the best liveable city for our citizens and visitors.
Recently, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres identified the fight against climate change as one of the top priorities for the UN and international community. And next year, the UN Sec-Gen is convening a climate summit to mobilise the international community for more ambitious emissions reductions and climate change adaptation. We welcome the Secretary-General’s commitment to the global fight against climate change.
Internationally, there is an urgent need for all countries to work together to fulfil the goals and commitments of the Paris Agreement. Although Singapore contributes a minuscule percent, we will do our part as a responsible global citizen to reduce our carbon emissions. Our Climate Action Year also supports the 2030 Development Agenda, and we are working with countries around the world to build capacity and help them achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, SDG 13 calls for urgent climate action to combat climate change and its impacts. Taking climate action as part of the international community’s concerted effort to fight global warming is both our moral obligation and commitment to ensure that future generations can inherit a sustainable planet.
Taking climate action
Singapore has long-term plans to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change. We are strengthening our resilience and adaptive capacity, and integrating climate change measures into our policies, strategies and planning. These include significant investments in infrastructure, such as raising the height of coastal roads, building seawalls, widening drains and erecting flood barriers.
Even if we had done much in the past to build a sustainable Singapore, we will do even more. We have invested in solar energy. We continue to encourage green buildings with more stringent standards. We have frozen the growth of the car population and expanded public transport. We are funding R&D for low carbon technology. This year, we will be passing legislation to introduce a carbon tax from 2019. The carbon tax is part of our wide-ranging suite of climate mitigation measures. It will provide the price signal to catalyse economy-wide behavioural changes to prepare our businesses to be more energy and carbon efficient. This will help enhance the competitiveness of our industries, and transition our economy to a low-carbon future. Not only do we want to make Singapore the best liveable city, we also want Singapore to remain the best choice when companies decide where to place their business because of our successful climate action policy and active citizenry.
Initiatives from 3P Partners
At the same time, we should focus on what the individual, the organisation and the community can do. Everyone has a part to play. Many of you have come forward to express your strong support for the Year of Climate Action and what you plan to do. Let me share a few examples.
CDL recently launched a sustainability blueprint – ‘CDL Future Value 2030’, which sets out key climate action goals and targets contributing to more than half of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. CDL also worked with DBS to launch its ‘Green Bond’, connecting green building with sustainable financing.
Global Compact Network Singapore (GCNS), the sustainability arm of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), is helping the business community, particularly SMEs, to take action to be more climate friendly and environmentally responsible. It is developing a “Climate and Business 101” seminar to help companies build capacity to manage their resources more efficiently, and champion climate action in their operations. I believe SMEs will find it beneficial to learn how to invest in green business practices and ready themselves for a low carbon future economy.
Sembcorp Industries is developing a carbon emissions intensity reduction target, which will focus on ambitious plans to reduce emissions intensity, and manage the impact of its businesses on the environment. This includes having a diversified energy generation portfolio of thermal and renewable energy assets.
SingTel has clear carbon reduction targets and is committed to transparent disclosure of its climate-related risks. It has partnered SingPost to add more options for a nationwide electronic waste recycling programme. The public may dispose of their e-waste at ReCYCLE bins or by mailing them through any post box, with waiver of postage cost.
Schools have always been passionate champions for climate action. Youths and children readily embrace the call to action because they see the impact of global warming to the environment and damage to wildlife. Anchor Green Primary School has been infusing climate action content in its school curriculum and website. They also have a long-term partnership with IKEA Tampines to campaign for a sustainable living environment; projects include converting recycled fabric into bookmarks which are sold to help needy pupils. Jurong Junior College will be organising the Love Fiesta 2018 where students will act as environmental ambassadors to encourage the schools and community in the Jurong district to adopt green practices.
I will be visiting Bukit View Secondary School to see their JOULES (Junior OUtstanding Leaders in Energy for Sustainability) Smart Centre. This is a learning platform showcasing and educating students on the functionalities of green products contributed by companies. Students have this innovative green space to get inspiration for design and project work.
The Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) members produced a new year video to energise the ground on climate action and organised a forum discussion with the green groups in Singapore to synergise their climate action efforts. An idea that came out from the discussion was People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze)’s initiative of a “Social Change Toolkit” which aims to empower advocates to address underlying systemic causes of climate change and to drive individuals towards a more sustainable Singapore.
Individuals are playing their part for climate action too. Ms Pamela Low, from the SYCA, started a project, Tingkat Heroes, to encourage schools and youths to go disposables-free and tackle food waste.
I hope to see more of such ground-up initiatives throughout this year and beyond.
Special ASEAN Ministerial meeting on climate change
As the ASEAN Chair this year, we look forward to leading discussions on climate action. We intend to raise awareness on the need for climate action at several key events. In July, we will organise the Singapore International Water Week, CleanEnviro Summit Singapore, World Cities Summit, and the Partners for the Environment forum, a week-long event to drive the conversation on sustainable development. In conjunction with this, Singapore will host a Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change on 10th July. This will be an important meeting for ASEAN to show leadership on climate action. We will also hold a back-to-back expanded meeting between ASEAN and Ministers from China, Japan, ROK and the UNFCCC COP current President and President-designate Fiji and Poland. It will send a strong signal internationally that we in Asia remain fully committed to the Paris Agreement and will take collective action to tackle climate change.
Launch of climate action pledge & logo
To signify the official beginning of our rallying together for climate action, I am happy to launch the Climate Action Pledge. By making a pledge, we make a public declaration of our readiness to take climate action and be counted as a positive influence to inspire others to do likewise.
We have received more than 200 pledges from individuals and organisations to date. I want to encourage everyone here to make a pledge, if you have not already done so. It is a good positive action and will help us push forward collectively during this Year of Climate Action.
We have set up a new Climate Action SG blog to keep the public up-to-date on all climate-related matters in Singapore. This blog will be a community-run effort and I hope all of you can contribute and share your climate action stories, articles, events and photos with us on this site.
I also encourage all of you to use the Climate Action Logo to brand your sustainability activities and events. The “red dot” in the logo references Singapore as a small country amongst the global family of nations; while the iconic Singapore skyline forms a strong base, and shows that everyone has a part to play in Climate Action. Taking climate action will help to preserve a Sustainable Singapore. Please use the hashtag #ClimateActionSG for your social media posts – to help raise awareness on this call to action.
Let me conclude by sharing a story with you. There was a king who loved the game of chess so much that he granted its inventor any reward he desired. The inventor requested for rice, for the king to place one grain on the first square of a chessboard, double the amount on the second square, and so on, with each square containing double the amount of rice on the previous square until all 64 squares on the chessboard was filled. Thinking that it would just be a small amount, the king agreed. As we all can guess, the amount of rice added up to an astronomical sum, far beyond what the king expected.
Likewise, our efforts can multiply like the grains on the chessboard if all of us were to influence and encourage others to take climate action. We want to make Singapore the best liveable city to live and do business. This is our vision. The government cannot do it alone. Together we can help build a Sustainable Singapore. And from Singapore, to ASEAN, to Asia and the world, we want to work together as one global community to ensure that our planet remains liveable for generations to come.
I thank CDL for co-organising this event with my Ministry, and for graciously hosting us at this beautiful Singapore Sustainability Academy. I also thank all of you for attending this morning’s event and supporting our Year of Climate Action.