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Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, at the Singapore Green Building Council Gala Dinner on 5 September 2019 at Orchard Hotel Singapore

Dr. Ho Nyok Yong, President of the Singapore Green Building Council

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and gentlemen

1        Good evening. It is my pleasure to join you today to celebrate the Singapore Green Building Council’s 10th anniversary.

2        Let me first commend SGBC and its members for your contributions over the past decade. Your efforts in creating and maintaining a sustainable built environment have played a key role in Singapore’s journey towards sustainable development.

 

Taking Action Against Climate Change

3        Since our independence, we have sought to balance the pursuit of economic development with environmental protection and social inclusion. With climate change, it has become even more critical that we continue on this path of sustainable development. Now, more than ever, we can no longer live and operate in a ‘business as usual’ mode. We need to take action now, to ensure that our future generations can continue to thrive.

4        Even though Singapore contributes only 0.11% of global emissions, we continue to play our part to realise ambitious climate actions. We have put in place a comprehensive suite of measures to reduce carbon emissions across all sectors. These include exploring innovative ways to harness solar energy and implementing a carbon tax to enhance energy and carbon efficiency. We will use the nearly $1 billion revenue we expect to collect from the carbon tax to provide grants and incentives to help businesses reduce their emissions and become more energy and carbon efficient. We are also greening our transport system. By 2040, we aim to have 100 per cent of our public bus fleets and taxis convert to cleaner energy vehicles (e.g. electric or hybrid), and have nine in 10 of all peak period journeys made on “walk, cycle and ride” transport modes, where “ride” refers to public and shared transport.

5        We are also building up three types of resilience in Singapore. First, we are building up our climate resilience by taking steps to protect ourselves from the effects of climate change. Since 2011, we have raised minimum reclamation levels for newly reclaimed lands to at least four metres above the mean sea level. We have raised the minimum platform levels for new developments and are building critical future developments such as the Changi Airport Terminal 5 and Tuas Terminal mega port at higher platform levels. We are also making plans for coastal defences to better protect our coastal areas as a whole, such as sea walls or pumping stations. These are major investments that we intend to make, to safeguard our future as the effects of sea level rise are felt in the coming decades. We are also investing in climate science research to strengthen our understanding of climate change and sea levels around Singapore.

6        Second, we are building up our resource resilience. Climate change will put increasing pressures on essential resources such as energy, food and water. We must not take these resources for granted. Our inaugural Zero Waste Masterplan, which we launched last week, maps out our key strategies to manage three key waste streams – e-waste, food waste and packaging waste including plastics. The Resource Sustainability Bill introduced this week will give legislative effect to our regulatory measures to target the waste streams. We need to move towards more sustainable consumption and production, and adopt a circular economy approach to reuse our resources for as long as possible. We have done this successfully for water, and will pursue the same for other critical resources.

7       Last but not least, we are building up our economic resilience. As we transit towards a resource- and carbon-constrained future, businesses must transform themselves to adopt circular economy strategies and be more energy- and resource-efficient. This brings me to the role all of you in the built environment industry play.  

 

Role of the Built Environment Industry

8        The Government has initiated the momentum for action. But we cannot fight climate change alone. We will require collective efforts from all sectors of society to make a positive difference to the environment. I am therefore heartened to hear Dr Ho mention that SGBC is actively engaging both the industry as well as the general public.

9        The built environment industry is in a good position to make an impact and lead by example. As Singapore is a dense urban centre and regional business hub, our buildings contribute 17 per cent of our carbon emissions and use more than half of the electricity we generate. They also contribute to the urban heat island effect, which is caused by many factors, ranging from types of materials used on roads, roofs and buildings, to the height and geometry of the buildings. Ironically, the use of air conditioning worsens the effect.

10       Therefore, it is important that the industry implements green building design, sustainable practices and energy-efficient solutions. The professionals here today play a big role in protecting Singapore against rising temperatures. Through maximising the permeability of the urban areas, increasing the use of natural ventilation rather than air-conditioning, and using retro-reflective materials, we can mitigate urban warming as well as reduce carbon emissions. Research plays an important role in enhancing our fight against climate change. Researchers in the Cooling Singapore project have been looking into the urban heat island effect, and have also formed a task force to address this issue. Some of you here may even be in this task force. I am also happy to hear the recent announcement that the industry has received extra support in the form of a $20 million top-up to enhance the Green Building Innovation Cluster. I hope that you can tap on this to look into new energy efficient solutions for buildings.

11       Green certification schemes, like the Singapore Green Building Products (SGBP) certification scheme, are invaluable in guiding buying decisions, and enables the industry to choose building and furnishing products which are more environmentally-friendly. The SGBP scheme also allows buyers to choose products that are low in chemical emissions, which lead to healthier indoor environments.

12       Increasingly, many of our buildings and associated infrastructure are being designed, constructed, operated and maintained in efficient and sustainable ways. The Singapore Green Building Council, with its public-private partnership engagement model, has played an instrumental role in nudging the industry in this direction.

 

Leaders in Sustainability

13       Today we pay tribute to the 21 winners of the SGBC-BCA Sustainability Leadership Awards 2019. These Awards recognise outstanding contributions in green building and sustainability development at the individual, organisational and project levels.

14       I am happy to note that the majority of the winners are local firms and home-grown companies. This is testament to the high standard and quality of local green building capabilities and competencies. Many of our winners in the Individual and Organisational categories were involved in creating the distinctive buildings which dot the Singapore cityscape today. Others have developed products and solutions that elevate the sustainability of our buildings.

15       This year’s winning building projects also include a number of iconic and familiar buildings. Let me highlight two examples. The ParkRoyal on Pickering stands out with their hotel-in-a-garden concept. It has won several international awards such as the World’s Leading Green City Hotel and Asia’s Leading Green Hotel. They are a good example of how a building design can be both sustainable and aesthetically pleasing at the same time. Wisma Geylang Serai is another unique example. They have managed to integrate a strong cultural identity with green design, through the use of sustainable materials and products.

 

Conclusion

16       Let me conclude. Climate change is not a problem that will happen in the future, but a clear and present danger that we have to tackle now. The built environment industry plays an important role in Singapore’s climate action efforts. It is encouraging to see the industry responding in such a positive way. Let’s continue to work together to protect the environment, so that we can ensure a liveable and sustainable Singapore for our future generations. 

17       Congratulations to SGBC on your 10th anniversary, and all our winners of the Sustainability Leadership Awards. I wish everyone an enjoyable evening ahead.

18       Thank you.

 

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