From high-tech systems that allow farmers to predict yield and waste to recyclable food packaging material, Singapore is looking to technology to overcome challenges such as climate change, pollution and the over-consumption of resources.
"Science can shed light on the most appropriate pathways towards a sustainable future, while technology can help us get there more efficiently," said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday at the Leaders in Science Forum, organised by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), developer JTC Corporation, and the National Research Foundation (NRF).
"Climate change, the over-consumption of resources, pollution of the air, land and water; these are all pushing our planet to a breaking point, threatening our very existence," he added.
Singapore is moving towards a circular economy in which resources are reused again and again, so that new resources do not have to be diverted to making fresh products.
Last week, the Resource Sustainability Act was passed in Parliament, providing regulatory teeth for the Government to compel large firms to reuse and recycle food, electronic and packaging waste.
Speaking to The Straits Times on the sidelines of the event, Dr Lee Chee Wee, director of the Aquaculture Innovation Centre at Temasek Polytechnic, likened technology to weapons in Singapore's quest for greater food security - echoing an analogy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong used in his National Day Rally speech.
Dr Lee said: "Similar to how soldiers cannot fight a battle barefoot, farmers must invest in the latest technology to overcome constraints in land."
A*Star's Urban and Green Tech Office executive director Alfred Huan said science and technology can help. Waste sorting, for example, can be made easier and more efficient. "This will allow waste to be treated and reused, and brought back into the manufacturing cycle," he said.
"Getting the public to accept that sustainability has to be a way of life, that they all have to play a part, is also important," he added.
NRF chief executive Low Teck Seng said: "Science enables us to make informed decisions as we develop policies for a sustainable Singapore."
Science, technology and engineering are key, be it in terms of growing sustainably and reducing the nation's carbon footprint, or adapting to climate change's impact, he said.
For instance, he said, small island states such as Singapore are vulnerable to rising sea levels. Therefore, data is needed to determine how Singapore can protect its coastlines, and the impact of development on the environment and biodiversity.
To this end, the NRF's Marine Science Research and Development Programme aims to spur research into how Singapore can cope with challenges such as climate change, heavy shipping and urbanisation.
The NRF will also work with the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, which will drive the development of the national climate science research master plan, Professor Low said.
The public sector is also leveraging science to guide its policies, said Mr Masagos. His ministry will set up a climate science research programme office next year to strengthen local climate science capabilities.
Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.