SINGAPORE: Minister for National Development Desmond Lee on Friday (Aug 27) urged youths to adopt sustainability as a core value, such that it becomes a part of “what it means to be Singaporean”.
"Wherever you go, you can help make sustainability a part of our lives," said Mr Lee at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum organised by the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) students’ political association.
"We need all of you to come on board our sustainability drive," said Mr Lee said in his keynote address.
Mr Lee called on youths to take action for sustainability, saying that sustainability commitments require resolve.
“Above all, what we hope for is a deep shift in our culture, such that we adopt sustainability as a core value and a part of what it means to be Singaporean living in a city state,” said Mr Lee in his speech.
Mr Lee's address was followed by a dialogue that was not for open for media coverage.
MAKE SUSTAINABILITY INGRAINED IN US
“Just as multiculturalism is one of our defining traits, so too should sustainability be so ingrained in us and our future generations that it informs our actions and decisions, and the kind of society that we strive to be,” said Mr Lee.
Adding that climate action will be the “defining fight of our times” and for future generations, the National Development Minister said the Government “cannot do this” on their own.
Everyone needs to play a part with diverse skills and perspectives, said Mr Lee.
As students graduate and enter the workforce, they can help to power many of Singapore's Green Plan initiatives, he added, addressing those in the audience.
“Some of you, as future engineers, could work to electrify our vehicles, upgrade our charging infrastructure, or enhance our green energy capability. As an ecologist or conservationist, you could help us to green Singapore further, protect our biodiversity for future generations,” he said.
“As architects, developers, engineers, builders, you could design and build super low energy or even net-zero energy buildings, or even positive energy buildings. As teachers, you can teach and groom future generations about sustainability, and many more. ”
The Green Plan 2030 was unveiled in February, unveiling Singapore’s green targets for the next 10 years.
The plan positions Singapore to achieve its long-term net-zero emissions goal “as soon as viable”.
It also strengthens Singapore’s commitments under the United Nations' 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Paris Agreement, said the Government at the time.
Among the Green Plan initiatives, Mr Lee touched on Singapore’s conservation measures. Singapore has reserved about 7,800ha of land for nature reserves, nature parks and other dedicated green spaces, he noted.
“That’s more than 10 per cent of our land area, and doesn’t include all the other pockets of greenery around our island, like trees planted along our roads, or our military training areas,” he added.
Singapore is already seeing positive results from its conservation efforts, said Mr Lee. For example, several local mammal species have had their conservation status downgraded compared to 2008, and are considered less endangered than before.
Singapore is also making headway in the public transport area, by building more MRT lines and testing new technologies such as driverless or electric buses, he added. The Government aims to phase out all internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040, or about 20 years from now.
"The cars on the road that you're used to seeing and take for granted all these decades will no longer exist from 2040, which means that your children could grow up in a Singapore where all vehicles run on much cleaner energy sources,” said Mr Lee.
“That’s a fundamental overhaul of our transport system, which will need major infrastructure upgrades, like new charging stations everywhere."
The country’s cycling network will be more than 1,300km long by 2030, or long enough to cycle to Phuket from Singapore, he added.
Buildings and towns, as well as Singapore's power sources will be more green. About 50 per cent of HDB blocks will have solar panels affixed to their roofs over the next two to three years, and 70 per cent by 2030, said Mr Lee.
Singapore will also try to import more green electricity from other countries in the region that have better access to renewable energy like hydropower, he added.
“We want to bring sustainability right into our daily lives. In fact, we’re making our HDB towns, where 80 per cent of Singaporeans live, more sustainable through the Green Towns programme," said the National Development Minister.
"By using technologies like smart lighting, we aim to reduce energy consumption in existing towns by 15 per cent more from 2020 to 2030.”
Even if Singapore does its part, global emissions may still not fall fast enough, and the country must be protected from the worst effects of climate change, said Mr Lee.
Long-term moves like improving flood resilience and defending the coastline against rising sea levels could cost Singapore S$100 billion or more over the next 50 to100 years, he added.
Singapore also aims to produce 30 per cent of its nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030 because climate change may cause crop failures, which could disrupt food imports, said Mr Lee.
"We must also remember that all these endeavours will involve some trade-offs, even painful ones. And as young people, your leadership is important."
All Singaporeans "need to take action in our own ways", said Mr Lee in closing.
"Going beyond ideas and discussion, as valuable and important as these are, to roll up our sleeves, get to work, experiment with different solutions, figure out the ground issues and how we can overcome them,” he added.
“And who better to take this action than young people like yourselves, with your ambition, your energy, your inspiration and your conviction. Not just when it comes to sustainability, but also in tackling all the other challenges coming Singapore’s way.
“Because that’s the wonderful gift of youth, that sense of endless possibility, that confidence to open new doors, the willingness to take risks, to explore the unknown, because so much of your life lies ahead of you. And that brings with it a certain responsibility too, to march forward bravely and to blaze new trails, and bring the rest of society with you.”