Sustainability must be at centre of recovery: Grace Fu

Green push can unlock new economic opportunities, jobs: Minister

As Singapore revives its outbreak-hit economy, sustainability and the fight against climate change must be a fundamental driver in post-Covid-19 recovery plans, said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu yesterday.

"We are at a significant juncture where we have the opportunity to put sustainability at the core of our recovery plans and policies, and change the way we produce and consume," the minister added.

She was delivering her keynote address at the Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources, organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Even as Singapore works hard to "build back better" in the face of an expected economic contraction of 5 per cent to 7 per cent this year, Ms Fu outlined how this can be done in a sustainable and inclusive manner. This includes driving climate action, catalysing innovation and persisting with zero waste goals.

She cited how Singapore submitted its enhanced plan for emissions reduction to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in March, amid battling the outbreak.

The nation aims to halve carbon emissions from its peak by 2050, with a view to achieving net-zero emissions as soon as viable in the second half of this century.

"This is an ambitious aspiration given our constraints as a small island city-state, which limit our ability to deploy renewable energy at scale," said Ms Fu.

On top of that, this green push can support Singapore's recovery plans by unlocking new economic opportunities and jobs, she added.

In August, Ms Fu said the sustainability sector was expected to create 55,000 jobs in the next decade, with 4,000 created next year. These include skilled roles in the high-tech agriculture and aquaculture industry, and waste management.

The Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment will also grow the talent pool by offering scholarships in areas such as climate adaptation and climate science.

The virtual dialogue yesterday also saw Ms Fu and Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan discuss both countries' sustainability efforts and opportunities for regional cooperation.

Ms Fu said regional cooperation in sustainability efforts can include a common framework for sustainable product development and technological collaborations in areas such as agriculture.

"In the areas of agriculture and farming, we are just starting, but there are countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand that are way ahead of Singapore. I'm sure there are lots of progress being made on agriculture (in these countries) that we can benefit from," she said.

Mr Luhut also invited Singapore to be a part of Indonesia's green initiatives, such as in mangrove research. The archipelago plans to replant around 670,000ha of mangroves in the next few years.

Ms Fu noted that South-east Asia has largely been spared fires and haze this year. This is partially due to a wetter second half, caused by the La Nina climate phenomenon bringing cooler weather and more rainfall to the region.

"While risks of (haze) recurrence remain, there are opportunities to be gained if action is taken.

"With climate change, warmer and drier weather can be expected in the years to come. We must continue to enhance regional cooperation to achieve Asean's vision of a haze-free region," Ms Fu said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2020, with the headline 'Sustainability must be at centre of recovery: Grace Fu'. Subscribe