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SPEECH BY MR MASAGOS ZULKIFLI, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES; AT THE CESS CATALYST 2017 ON 4 OCT 2017

Excellencies

International Advisers,

Distinguished Speakers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     A very good morning to everyone. I’m pleased to join you. To our foreign friends, I hope you are enjoying your stay in Singapore.

Global Environmental Issues

2.     Over the past few decades, we have witnessed significant advancements in environmental governance and management. But we continue to be affected by major environmental issues that compromise our well-being and affect the planet's natural resources. Addressing these issues should be a priority.

3.     Two global environmental issues deserve a closer look: the increase in waste generation and rising global energy consumption.

4.     Unrestrained growth in waste generation can pose a major challenge to our environment. When not collected and treated properly, the waste can lead to poor public hygiene and water source contamination. According to a National Geographic article, 70% of industrial waste generated in developing countries is dumped untreated into water bodies, causing serious pollution problems.W hile many countries have tried to manage their waste generation and disposal, implementing sustainable waste management practices is becoming more challenging given the rapid pace of industrialisation and population growth.

5.     Global energy consumption is increasing. Most of the energy we use comes from non-renewable sources. According to World Atlas, at least a quarter of the countries in the world source more than 85% of their energy from fossil fuels. While fossil fuels are a valuable energy source, we need to mitigate the release of pollutants such as particulate matter and noxious gases when fossil fuels are burnt. The release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels for generating electricity is also a concern in itself, as carbon dioxide exacerbates the “greenhouse effect” and contributes to climate change.

6.     Many countries and governments recognise the significance of these environmental issues. The challenge lies in balancing economic growth and ensuring sustainable development.We must safeguard our planet for the well-being of future generations.

The Circular Economy and Industry 4.0

7.     To ensure long-term sustainability, we must pay closer attention to several areas. One important area is to examine the production and consumption models governing our industries. Today's linear “take, use, and dispose” economic model relies on large quantities of cheap energy. But we do not have infinite resources and the environment does not have infinite capacity to absorb all the pollutive matter generated. One approach being widely discussed is the circular economy. We keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them, before recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of their service life.

8.     A circular economy could reduce the amount of waste generated and disposed of through designing products from the start for remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling to keep components and materials in use. Industries would also prioritise energy from renewable sources, which are typically less pollutive. Resources are selected wisely when and where they are required; technologies and processes that use renewable or sustainable resources are chosen. There is also an associated push for resource efficiency to reduce energy demand.

9.     The key enablers of circular economy strategies are technological advancements and breakthroughs, which are facilitated and made possible by the Industry 4.0 revolution. This is the fourth industrial revolution which sees computers and automation working together in an entirely new way.

10.     There are four key features of Industry 4.0.The first is interoperability, where machines, devices, sensors and people connect and communicate with one another. The second is information transparency, where systems create a virtual copy of the physical world through sensor data. Third, there is a high degree of technical assistance, where IT systems assist humans with making decisions, solving problems, and tasks that are too difficult or unsafe for humans. The final key feature of Industry 4.0 is decentralised decision-making, where cyber-physical systems operate autonomously.

Industry 4.0 Application in Vector Control, Public Cleaning and Waste Management

11.     The value of Industry 4.0 is derived from the integration of automation, data analytics, manufacturing and products in a way that delivers unique competitive advantages and unlocks new business and operating models. While such integration is commonly applied in the manufacturing sector, there exists many opportunities that we can develop for the environmental sector.

12.     I would like to share some examples of how Singapore leverages technological advancements in the environmental services industry.

13.     The first is that of using data analytics for vector control. The National Environment Agency (NEA) worked with the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore to develop a dengue forecasting model for the incidence of dengue fever up to 4 months ahead of time. This model, powered by data science, generates the forecast through performing data analysis on the seasonal patterns of dengue cases over the past decade. It provides advanced warning of impending outbreaks, enabling us to be more responsive in implementing mitigation measures, such as conducting more frequent checks, intensifying the removal of breeding sites, and performing public education. With increased data integration, the forecasting model can enable the prediction and localisation of dengue outbreaks in specific areas throughout the country.

14.     The next example is harnessing automation to maintain public cleanliness in Singapore. In Changi International Airport’s new Terminal 4, robots are keeping the premises clean. Automated cleaning bots will be used to mop, clean and pick up small items in public areas, car parks and toilets. Cleaners will map the robot’s cleaning route by operating it manually for the first time; the machine will subsequently operate the cleaning route autonomously. Overall cleaning manpower is set to be reduced by 20%. More importantly, our cleaners will be upskilled to perform higher value tasks.

15.     The usage of sensors, together with the data collected, is also widely adopted in Industry 4.0. In the areas of solid waste management, sensor technology is playing an increasing role. In Singapore, all public waste collection trucks are equipped with GPS sensors which allow real-time tracking of their movements. All recycling bins provided under the public waste collection scheme are RFID tagged. Public waste collectors scan the tags upon collecting recyclable waste from these bins to register. Through the combined use of sensors and GPS devices, the interoperability of the waste collection network in Singapore has enabled improvements in productivity and work processes.

Industry Transformation

16.     As you can see from the above examples, Singapore is adopting Industry 4.0 technologies to enhance our environmental sustainability. As we work towards becoming a Smart Nation and Sustainable Singapore, the transformation of the environmental services industry will play a key role in mitigating environmental challenges in an increasingly urbanised landscape.

17.     When governments support local industries in their adoption of technological advancement, local capabilities can grow faster. This could spur impactful innovation. Smart infrastructure, more efficient waste-to-energy systems, and technology to improve productivity are just some of the benefits Industry 4.0 can bring to the environmental services sector to support the circular economy.

18.     However, governments cannot do it alone. Strong collaboration across stakeholders both domestically and internationally is critical. International collaboration can drive innovation and best-practices across borders.

19.     NEA has been working with industry, unions and other stakeholders on an Environmental Services Industry Transformation Map, or ES ITM. The ES ITM will focus on growing capabilities and driving innovation, encourage wider adoption of technology to raise productivity, as well as enhance jobs and skills in the environmental services industry sectors. One of the key areas of focus in developing the ES ITM would also be to increase opportunities for local and international collaboration, and between the different stakeholders in the environment ecosystem – service buyers and service providers, technology providers, academia, research institutes, government agencies and so on.

Conclusion

20.     Our vision of environmental sustainability is a long term journey. To achieve our goals, we as a nation need to be conscious of the need to care for and conserve the environment, take collective action, and stay committed to the cause. No government can do it alone and regulations alone cannot build a national consciousness that embraces environmental sustainability.

21.     I hope that today’s Catalyst event will have a fruitful discussion on how the concepts of Industry 4.0 and the Circular Economy can help the environmental services sector scale greater heights. The conclusions will form the basis for our deliberations at CESS 2018 which will be held from 8 to 12 July 2018 at the Marina Bay Sands.

22.     I look forward to seeing all of you at CESS 2018.Thank you.

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