Budget debate: More clarity needed on Singapore's great green transition, say MPs

Workers' Party MP Leon Perera asked if the Government could share its expected outlook for jobs in the oil and gas and petrochemicals industry clusters.
Workers' Party MP Leon Perera asked if the Government could share its expected outlook for jobs in the oil and gas and petrochemicals industry clusters.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The country wants to recover from the economic fallout of Covid-19 in a sustainable way, but there are still plenty of unknowns surrounding this great green transition, especially on the employment front, MPs said on Wednesday (March 3).

They noted that it is not yet clear how jobs in Singapore will be affected by the global decarbonisation trend. There is also no clear definition on the type of work available in a green economy or how people can better equip themselves for such roles.

These were among the concerns raised by nine MPs at the start of the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE).

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, and her colleagues are expected to reply when the debate resumes on Thursday.

Workers' Party MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) and Ms Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC) asked for more details on the jobs that are dependent on carbon-intensive sectors.

Mr Perera pointed to ExxonMobil's announcement on cutting about 300 positions from its workforce here by the end of this year.

It comes after fellow oil giant Royal Dutch Shell said last November that it would be axing 500 jobs here and halving the processing capacity on Pulau Bukom in the next three years.

Mr Perera said: "No doubt, these developments owe something to Covid-19, but jobs affected by changes in fossil fuel demand over the longer term may eventually go beyond the refineries to include those in bunkering, rig-building and other businesses in the fossil fuel industry ecosystem."

He asked if the Government could share its expected outlook for jobs in the oil and gas and petrochemicals industry clusters as a result of the longer-term global decarbonisation trend.

Ms Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC) also called for the creation of a detailed roadmap and career path for those interested in being part of the green economy.

"I have met residents, youths and mid-career individuals who are keen to be part of this green economy," she said. "However, this being an emerging area meant there is more ambiguity on type of jobs available and what these jobs are like."

She suggested a number of ways to improve this, including providing a greater variety of courses at institutes of higher learning for those interested in the sustainability field.

Structured mentorship and work transition programmes could also facilitate early- or mid-career workers to move towards jobs focused on environmental sustainability, she added.

Green finance is one area in which Singapore has already made inroads - and this should be built on so the country can grow this sector and seize future opportunities, Ms Chan said.

Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC), who is also assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should be given more help in this green transition.

"While larger companies are able to plan for this green future, SMEs might not have the resources to do so," he said, and asked whether additional support will be given to such businesses on top of the help provided under the Enterprise Sustainability Programme.

The programme, first announced last month as part of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, is meant to help firms, especially SMEs, embrace sustainability and develop capabilities in this area.