Building climate-resilient S'pore: National conversation involving individuals, all sectors launched

Minister for Sustainability Grace Fu speaking with pupil Ray Goh during her tour at the Environment Forum 2022 on Sept 19. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans are being urged to take action to make the nation more resistant to climate change for future generations in a series of public engagement efforts launched on Monday.

The national conversation will involve all segments of society, including individuals, educational institutions and organisations, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu at an environmental forum.

Ms Fu was speaking at the Partners for the Environment Forum 2022, an annual forum to discuss environmental issues, at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, where she launched the "Steward pillar".

It is one of the six pillars of the Forward Singapore exercise to forge a new social compact, as announced by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in June.

Engaging the entire nation is key to building a climate-resilient Singapore, said Ms Fu, as extreme weather events will likely increase in intensity and frequency.

The island-state could be facing prolonged drought or intense floods affecting its energy sources and food production, rising urban heat threatening people's health and well-being, as well as rising sea levels engulfing large swathes of the land, she added.

"We have inherited Singapore in a good state due to the foresight and prudence of past generations. Now, with the baton squarely in our hands, we need to ask ourselves what our generation should do to minimise the cost of climate change to future generations," she said.

Singapore is currently tackling climate change in two ways: through adaptation such as the building of sea walls to guard against sea level rise; and mitigation, such as by cutting its emissions.

However, these are significant long-term investments and economic shifts will take years, so these efforts could take even longer to come to fruition, she noted.

"Therefore, we need to talk about the trade-offs that will arise across generations. How do we pay for these measures now? How quickly should we implement them? The sacrifices that we make today will not bring us immediate benefits, but they will enable us to bequeath a liveable planet to future generations of Singaporeans," said Ms Fu.

Under the new engagement efforts, discussions will centre on how the economic pie can be grown sustainably, while distributing it in a way that ensures no one is left behind, she added.

For instance, there will be temporary cost increases for carbon-intensive goods and services, she said.

Singapore will be implementing its carbon tax increases in stages, with the current $5 per tonne being raised to $25 per tonne in 2024 and 2025, eventually reaching $50 to $80 per tonne by 2030.

The carbon tax is implemented on emitters and the revenue will be used to support companies as they invest in greener and more sustainable production methods and cushion the impact of price rises on households.

As Singapore transforms existing industries to make them more sustainable - such as through the use of electric transport and more resource and carbon efficient manufacturing methods - it is important to ensure that Singaporeans are not left behind in this transition process, said Ms Fu.

A national conversation is therefore important to look at whether such a transition will be uneven for certain workers, and to ensure that they are upskilled and reskilled so that no one is left behind, she added.

While the Government will lead the change, such as getting the public sector to set ambitious targets in cutting emissions, companies too must drive the sustainability agenda in their sectors.

"But ultimately, it is individuals who will drive the change... because they determine the collective outcome" said Ms Fu..

The theme of this year's forum, attended by participants from both the public and private sectors, was "Partnership for a Green, Liveable and Climate-Resilient Singapore".

It was held amid Climate Action Week 2022 - from Sept 19 to 25 - which has more than 140 activities to rally all sectors to take action.

As the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment turns 50 this year, Ms Fu acknowledged the pioneers whose work included cleaning up the Singapore River, creating Newater, recycled water and building Semakau, Singapore's only landfill.

"The success of Singapore's green transition will hinge on the collective will, wits and efforts of the Government, businesses, the community and people," she added.

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