SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH MP FOR NEE SOON GRC AT THE COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY DEBATE FOR THE MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES (9 mins)
Just weeks ago, in December/January, we were all experiencing some very big swings in weather. Our temperature was hitting the low 20 degrees Celsius and there were also a few flash floods from heavy down pour. I would expect during the hot months, it is going the other way and we will experience very hot weather. Global warming, rising sea water will affect all of us. Yes, we have spoken a lot about climate change. We have recycling of waste. We have tree-planting to green our environment. But there are areas where we aren’t doing enough. We can still see litter around us. We can still see callous throwing of rubbish at void decks and other public areas.
We see litter from plastic bottles to just about anything, dump into the drains, clogging the water flow, and causing the breeding of mosquitoes, rats, cockroaches etc. So, while one group is doing all the good things to save our environment, there is another group just senselessly undoing all the good work. I hope the latter is the minority.
In Singapore, we may be too far away to realise the ice at the poles are melting away at a worrying rate. This is causing warmer weather and rising water. Marine species affected by climate change include plankton – which forms the basis of marine food chains – corals, fish, polar bears, walruses, seals, sea lions, penguins, and seabirds. And we must not think we can escape. Most scientists believe that global warming will bring about a new era of extreme and unpredictable weather.
Tropical storms and heavier rainfall may increase. Look at the hurricanes in the west.
The impacts of climate change from rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, intensity of some extreme weather events, will have an impact on our health. These will affect the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the weather we experience. If nothing else can wake those who don’t believe in these phenomena, I hope even if we escaped the floods, at least the chilly weather and howling winds will remind us of the climate change issues and the need to take responsibility in our environment. I am pleased that we are designating 2018 as the Year of Climate Action. I would like to take this chance to remind Singaporeans that as individuals and organisations, they can easily pledge their own climate action on MEWR’s website. The website will give a list of suggested actions you can take to be greener. I have pledged myself and I hope you will join me. It’s a good reminder of what we can do for the environment.
I hope more Singaporeans will take responsibility for their environment this year.
Whether it is not littering or taking green actions, it all starts from a mind-set change. Let’s pledge our climate action and persuade people around us to do so, and we can preserve the environment for future generations.
Energy and Water Efficiency
The carbon tax is meant to increase our energy efficiency. Can the Minister share what are our goals for energy efficiency?
And we should break the goal down at different levels: What part of that should households contribute? How can the community encourage energy efficiency? And for an individual household, what are the goals to work towards? Can we have an estimate of how much household utilities bills will be affected by the carbon tax? Although there are rebates from 2019 to 2021, how will the government help lower income families cope beyond 2021? How can we reach these households and give them easy, affordable ways to save electricity?
Er Dr Lee Bee Wah asked about the estimated impact of the carbon tax on households. We expect it to be small, at about 1% of total electricity and gas expenses on average. The additional U-Save rebates will help households adjust. My Ministry will also work with the community to help households reduce their energy consumption.
Energy saving lights
Energy saving is something that we should promote to all households. Perhaps we can also look into how we can help lower income families by providing them with energy saving bulbs? It would certainly be welcome by these families as it would cut down on their electricity bills. Will the Ministry consider giving help to these families? May I suggest changing all bulbs of 1 & 2 rooms flats to energy saving bulbs? Don’t just give vouchers or the bulbs. Can Ministry do one step more, ie install the bulbs for them with the help of some corporations. This can be good corporate CSR. By doing so, Ministry would know if the bulbs are installed, or not, whether the bulbs could fit into old light fittings or not. Otherwise a good scheme may not get its maximum benefit because of implementation on the ground.
We will be launching a bulb replacement programme for one- and two-room HDB households to encourage the use of energy efficient light bulbs to reduce energy use. NEA will also be organising an Energy Savings Challenge this year to raise awareness about energy efficiency and conservation.
Next, I want to touch on Water Conservation.
We have done much in this area though I believe not all Singaporeans consciously show concern about water supply because there has not been a crisis to hit the message home. It also didn’t help that we have a transient foreign work force who may not appreciate the importance of water conservation for our city state. Under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, we have set a target to lower water demand for households to 140 litres per capita per day, by 2030. I know we have the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme which helps consumers to make informed choices when they buy products such as taps, flushing cisterns, washing machines etc. Retailers must put the new water efficiency labels on the products to help consumers make informed choices. May I ask what else are we doing apart from the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme? Saving water is not just for households. Our non-domestic sector also needs to look at how they can use water more efficiently.
I believe they are expected to contribute to our water demand growth. Can the Minister share with us what are the initiatives that will be introduced to help businesses in managing their water demand and increasing their water efficiency?
Our water conservation efforts are yielding results because Singaporeans have a national consciousness to conserve water. As part of PUB’s comprehensive outreach programme, many schools are inculcating this consciousness in our children through education and water rationing exercises. Similarly, Government agencies have committed to improve water efficiency by 5.1%, or 900,000 cubic metres a year, by 2020 under the Public Sector Sustainability Plan.
PUB started the water closet replacement project last year to help needy families save water with more efficient fittings. 1,100 households have already benefited, and saw a 10% reduction in their water bills on average. This builds on HDB’s Home Improvement Programme, where participating households can replace their fittings with water-efficient ones. PUB will continue to engage other eligible households.
Finally, I would like to touch on vehicular emissions. Singapore is one of the countries where we have taken commendable effort in controlling vehicular smoke emission. Hence, we are spared from the smog that we read about which occasionally engulfed the cities in several neighbouring countries. I am not sure if all motorists are aware that leaving their vehicle engines idling is an offence.
Besides locally registered vehicles, we have an average of 20,000 foreign registered vehicles that enter Singapore daily. Are they adhering to our laws? Can I ask for an update on what other measures that the Ministry is doing to further control vehicular emission?
We do not inherit the Earth from the previous generation, we borrow it from the next. Unfortunately, it looks like we will leave a sick and coughing Earth to the next generation. We must urgently change our ways and reverse this trend as much as we can. So let’s grab the Year of Climate Action by the horns!