Developing an economy is no more "grow now, clean up later".
Instead, countries are now prioritising both growth and environmental concerns, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli. Singapore had always integrated sustainability in its long-term economic growth, and was now reaping the fruits of that foresight, he added.
He was speaking at a sustainability event at the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel yesterday.
"Singapore today enjoys the dividends of our early investment in green growth and environmental resilience," said Mr Masagos.
These dividends, he said, include a clean, safe and liveable Singapore that attracts talent and investment; as well as the creation of jobs and business opportunities.
For example, Singapore managed to turn water scarcity into business opportunity, Mr Masagos said.
In 2015, the water sector contributed $2.25 billion to Singapore's gross domestic product and 14,000 jobs.
But Singapore's success did not come by chance, he said during the fifth Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, organised by think-tank Singapore Institute of International Affairs.
It boiled down to three things: policies, partnerships and passion.
Policies such as the upcoming carbon tax next year are twofold, said Mr Masagos. The tax will help curb earth-warming emissions. It will also encourage large emitters to invest in energy-efficient technologies, with the tax revenue being ploughed into schemes that help firms achieve this.
Said Mr Masagos: "The Government will spend more than the carbon tax collected in the initial years, to support green growth projects that deliver emissions reductions."
Forging partnerships, such as those within Asean and the international community, can help identify new green growth areas, and allow start-ups to gain access to larger markets in the region, the minister said.
But "to unleash the potential for green growth", Singapore must have a critical mass of people who are passionate about the environment, Mr Masagos said.
He cited accountant-turned-business owner Joline Tang as an example. Ms Tang set up The Sustainability Project, which sells items such as metal straws and beeswax wraps that can help people reduce their use of single-use plastics.
Said Mr Masagos: "As we look to the future, it is clear that green growth is the only sustainable path for development. It is the key that can unlock continuing prosperity and well-being for the current and future generations."