SINGAPORE: To address climate change and promote sustainability, Singapore will soon launch a Green Plan that will be a major policy priority for the Government, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu in Parliament on Monday (Feb 1).
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a multi-ministry effort, she said, adding that agencies will set “ambitious and concrete targets on a sectoral basis”, building on what has been achieved so far.
“We want to rally and work with our 3P partners by articulating our priorities and goals, and we will consciously create space for the community to join hands and do more together,” she said, referring to the people, public and private sectors.
“Ministers and political office holders will be actively involved in the development of comprehensive programmes, as part of this national engagement process,” she added.
“It is not just about getting feedback on government policies, but working together to co-create solutions. Every sector, and every action, will count. Through this process, we hope to catalyse bold, balanced and collective action.
“Bold – that we push the envelope on all fronts, challenging ourselves to do more, in spite of our national circumstances and constraints. Balanced – for we know that with every action and target, there are considerations and trade-offs to be made, and every Singaporean must have a voice and stake in our sustainability journey. And collective – because we need all parties, all 3P, all segments of society to work with us to make the Green Plan a reality.”
READ: Raising carbon tax, improving public sector’s sustainability standards among MPs’ proposals to tackle climate change
Ms Fu was responding to a motion on climate change filed by a group of Members of Parliament, and said that the Government has been making preparations over the last few months to launch a “whole-of-nation movement” to advance the sustainability agenda in Singapore.
More details will be announced in the coming weeks, she said, with Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat slated to speak on the Government’s sustainability agenda during this year’s Budget debates.
Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, will deliver Singapore’s Budget 2021 statement on Feb 16.
READ: Singapore targets to halve peak emissions by 2050, achieve net zero emissions 'as soon as viable' in second half of century
On Monday, Ms Fu said the Green Plan would be a “living document” and that the Government would adapt its plans, ambitions and policies over time.
“Circumstances will change, new opportunities will emerge, and new ideas and initiatives will present themselves as we work with our citizens, businesses and communities,” she explained.
Singapore also needs to act with the same sense of solidarity that it had when coming together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, added Ms Fu.
“We must build the social compact to deal with the challenges of climate change and sustainability," she said.
"This will involve candid discussions on the costs and trade-offs involved, which we will have to bear whether as consumers, as businesses, or as the Government.
“These costs may manifest in the change in the price for a good or service we enjoy today, the cost of producing a product, the need to allocate scarce resources to a new solution, the investment in new infrastructure, or some inconveniences in changing our habits and the way we do things.”
DEALING WITH CONSTRAINTS
Ms Fu said Singapore has always pursued sustainable development, and with climate change “looming”, this should continue to be the case.
But even as Singapore looks towards strengthening its national approach to climate change, there are some “key immutable realities”, she said, such as physical constraints, limited alternative energy options and the lack of a hinterland and natural resources.
With its “City in Nature” vision, the country has protected and enhanced ecologically important sites as green spaces and carbon sinks over the years, said Ms Fu.
The ministry will look into enhancing ecological connectivity and providing more green spaces for Singaporeans, she added.
As there are limited options for alternative energy, Singapore is taking a “holistic approach”, the minister said.
“We are tapping our four energy supply ‘switches’ – other than solar, we rely on natural gas, which is the cleanest burning fuel, regional power grids, and low-carbon alternatives. Energy conservation is a key priority.”
Without a hinterland and natural resources, Singapore needs a “vibrant” and “diversified” economy, which includes maintaining manufacturing capabilities and capacity.
However, she noted investors’ and consumers’ concern for sustainability, and added that Singapore aims to be a “responsible supplier” of products from the Energy & Chemicals (E&C) sector. The Government will help industries to shift towards lower carbon products and be the “best-in-class” in energy and carbon efficiency globally.
“The E&C sector will play a key role in the global transition to a low-carbon future,” she said.
STRATEGIES TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE
In her speech, Ms Fu reaffirmed plans to review Singapore’s carbon price by 2023, with the intent of raising the carbon tax rate by 2030.
The carbon tax is “central” to the country’s climate mitigation strategy, she said, adding that it is the one of the “most comprehensive globally” at 80 per cent of total emissions. No covered facilities have been given exemptions.
“Our carbon tax framework has been tailored to our context, putting in place a fair, uniform and transparent price signal to incentivise emissions reductions,” she said.
Even as Singapore has raised its building sustainability standards and improved efforts to encourage the adoption of green technology and sustainable practices, the Government will continue to push for the adoption of Super Low Energy Buildings, said the minister.
It will also support development of energy-efficient and cost-efficient green technologies.
A long-term approach on adaptation is crucial to building up climate resilience, Ms Fu said. “From coastal adaptation to mitigation in urban heat island effects and enhancing our food supply resilience, we will plan ahead, invest in science and technology and develop innovative solutions.”
Meanwhile, the Government will build an ecosystem to encourage business to seize opportunities in sustainability, including developing Singapore’s capability in green financing and growing Singapore into a leading carbon trading and services hub.
In addition, the Government is looking into "closing the plastic loop", said Ms Fu. This includes chemical recycling which can turn plastics not suitable for traditional mechanical recycling into NewOil.
It is also looking into implementing regulations to collect, separate and aggregate plastic waste.
Another priority is to educate students on environmental sustainability and climate change, said Ms Fu.
“While building on many of our past policies and programmes, we can do more to pull these different strands and efforts together, culminating in a common, united vision,” she said.