Closing Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, on the Private Member’s Motion: Accelerate and deepen efforts against climate change
Sir, I grew up watching Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Some of the younger members in this House will have no idea what I’m talking about.
It was a cartoon series about protecting our planet. I loved it. This is how the opening went: “Our world is in peril. Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, can no longer stand the terrible destruction plaguing our planet. She sends five magic rings to five special young people: Kwame, from Africa, with the power of Earth. From North America, Wheeler, with the power of Fire. From the Soviet Union (yes that is how old this cartoon is), Linka, with the power of Wind. From Asia, Gi, with the power of Water and from South America, Ma-Ti, with the power of Heart. When the five powers combine, they summon Earth’s greatest champion, Captain Planet”.
I remember the show’s catchy theme song, but I read Speaker’s
Facebook post about not getting any ideas about singing in Parliament, so I shall not sing it.
I also remember one sentence, something Captain Planet said over and over again: “The power is yours.”
As I shared in my opening speech, Singaporeans, more than ever, believe in Captain Planet’s message. They believe the power to protect the planet is theirs. So they speak up and take action. That makes me optimistic.
But our optimism must not take us away from our urgency.
Greenhouse gas emissions reached a new high in 2019.
The Paris Agreement aimed to cap this century’s temperature increase at 1.5 degree Celsius. But instead we are on track for three degree Celsius. We are hurtling towards extreme climate change, and we must urgently change course.
The government must help by deepening and accelerating our efforts against climate change.
In summary, the GPC for Sustainability and the Environment is calling for:
1. Post COVID, increase the carbon tax quantum and regularise future reviews.
2. Professionalise the carbon accounting and reporting industry.
3. Incorporate sustainability into the Industry Transformation Map scheme or have an ITM for the sustainability sector.
4. Enhance the Public Sector Taking the Lead in Environmental Sustainability initiative with higher and expected expanded standards.
5. Introduce rules and incentives to promote the building of publicly accessible charging points by private developers.
6. Revise the Green Mark scheme to increase standards on carbon intensiveness.
7. Expand climate education in school curricula.
8. Introduce data-sharing mechanisms on clean energy technologies and energy efficiency.
9. Increase public access to emissions data of top-emitting private companies and public entities.
10. Add Climate Defence as a seventh pillar of Total Defence.
These ten recommendations will help us meet, and I believe, exceed our commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. Sir, many MPs have stepped forward today. All of them delivered passionate speeches. I will not be able to do justice to everyone’s speeches but let me summarise some themes of their proposals.
The first theme is nature. Members stressed the importance of protecting our natural carbon sinks.
Ms. Rachel Ong shared the science about trees, and alerted us that keeping existing trees is far more effective than planting new ones, though both are important steps.
Mr Dennis Tan asked for additional legal protection for secondary forests.
Ms. Nadia Samdin, Prof Koh Lian Pin and Ms. Rachel Ong rightly noted that our corals, our mangroves, and indeed our forests powerfully trap carbon and help us fight climate change.
The three members also stressed the importance of helping Singaporeans learn and become more in touch with nature.
This brings me to the second theme: education.
Our youths are our future. For them, Ms. Nadia Samdin discussed installing sustainability as a core pillar of our education system.
Education should also involve vocational training. Ms. Cheryl Chan suggested preparing young adults so they have the interest, skills, knowledge and connections needed for the green sector.
But education isn’t just for the young. Mr Christopher de Souza discussed his exciting vision for Ulu Pandan as a nature surplus neighbourhood – with nature trails, community gardens and food composting sites. Ms. Hany Soh painted a colourful portrait of her Woodgrove community and discussed how all Singaporeans could learn about sustainability through hands-on experiences and convenient technologies.
Incentives and regulations
The third theme from today is incentives and regulations – in other words, carrots and sticks.
All members proposed solutions that would limit carbon intensive activities. But they also made sure to suggest ways to soften the impact and spark the economy.
Mr. Don Wee discussed using carbon tax revenues to grow our industries and protect our households.
Mr. Jamus Lim similarly asked to give out a green dividend from our carbon tax revenues.
Mr. Gan Thiam Poh suggested sharing government data to help the private sector figure out where to build electric vehicle charging points.
Mr. Gerald Giam asked to extend subsidies and support for petrochemical workers as the industry shrinks its global workforce.
Mr. Leon Pereira proposed growing our green industry, particularly those dealing in professional services like environmental impact consulting and carbon trading verification.
Ms. Poh Li San suggested a circular financing system to help the construction industry adapt to tougher Green Mark standards.
Ms. Cheryl Chan asked for increased support and a more generous timeline for SMEs to file ESG reports.
Mr. Louis Chua asked for greater reliance on solar energy and cited statistics to show how the clean energy sector can create good jobs for Singapore
Mr. Henry Kwek pitched solutions like investments in geothermal solutions and carbon offsets to help the economy adjusts to decarbonization.
Together, these balanced recommendations show that members want Singapore to be both green and prosperous, and not just one or the other.
Sir, Mr. Leong Mun Wai expressed broad support for our ten topics. I thank him for that. He also raised some general concerns about trade-offs. As I mentioned, many members have been proactive in raising these trade-offs in their speeches, and I have proposed specific ideas on how to overcome them. There is no disagreement that a healthy economy and a healthy environment need to go hand in hand, and I encourage Mr Leong to continue sharing his ideas on how to manage these trade-offs.
Mr Leong said that forest protection and climate adaptation were not included in the motion’s ten topics. I think Mr Leong will find that several members today have raised proposals on both topics, myself included. The ten topics are not an exhaustive list.
Mr Leong also asked, whether EVs will reduce emissions in Singapore’s context. The answer to this is a yes. The e-mobility Technology Roadmap published by the Energy Research Institute at NTU looked at the data and found that by 2050, EVs are expected to reduce emission by up to 64% in Singapore.
Sir, I thank Mr. Dennis Tan and Ms. Cheryl Chan for their proposed amendments. I agree with Mr. Tan on the importance of civil society. I spent more two decades of my life as a civil society activist.
We have not just recognised the role of civil society but we have actively engaged them throughout the year long consultation. They have play a crucial role in this motion. And as I mentioned in my opening speech, this motion responds to their call.
The original motion focused on the 3 Ps that we are all familiar with – the Public, Private and People sector. Having said that, I support the inclusion of the word, civil society, into the motion statement.
Sir, the motion statement today is also about actions, rather than what climate change is. We already know what it is, there is no debate about that.
As I have shared in my opening speech, PM Lee has already stressed that climate change is: “One of the greatest challenges facing humankind.” This Government already recognises the existential threat of climate change is an issue that nations cannot ignore. I believe all of us in this House are on the same page.
But Sir, we drafted a motion statement that reflects actions. That’s important. We have drafted it that way to focus on actions and how we can deepen and accelerate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. That was my preference. But I recognised the merits of the proposed amendments and I agree with the rationale.
I thank Ms. Chan for the proposed amendment of acknowledging that climate change is a global emergency and a threat to mankind. I believe this will reflect the climate change issue more holistically and focus again on action – on how we all need to work together in this global community. I hope that all of us in this House will support the proposed amendment.
Singapore Green Plan
Sir, I would also like to thank Minister Grace Fu for responding positively to our proposals and concerns and for her strong and continued commitment in ensuring that sustainability is at the heart of everything we do.
Indeed, sustainability has and always will be a part of Singapore’s DNA.
I thank Minister for sharing about our strong Climate Action Plan today and most importantly the good news that we have a new Singapore Green Plan 2030.
This whole-of-nation movement to advance the sustainability agenda in Singapore is an important one and I’m glad the plan is a multi- Ministry effort, and that it will be a major policy priority for this Government. That really is good news.
To conclude, I would like to refer to a point Mr. Seah Kian Peng made.
As part of his ask to include Climate Defence as a pillar of Total Defence, he argued that Singapore needs to take bold, unprecedented steps.
There must be a new willingness, a new resolution by the government to do things differently.
I could not agree more with him. Sustainability must become a core part of our nation’s development. It will take time, but every corner of policymaking – and indeed way of live – must transform to match our aspiration towards sustainability.
Sir, I thank all the members who spoke up on this important issue. My heartfelt thanks also to the GPC for Sustainability and the Environment, the Young PAPs, Climate Change policy team, my climate change team, business leaders, researchers, activists and fellow Singaporeans who all contributed to this motion and the recommendations.
Sir, the government does plays an important role to co-lead, to nurture, to protect our environment and to set policies and enforce legislation in this battle against climate change.
Each one of us in this global community plays an important role and by working together, this battle is strengthened and this fight for our planet becomes stronger.
Sir, I often push for changes in this house but there is finally one change I’m not pushing for and that is climate change.
Let us make sure that climate change becomes a thing of the past, something our children learn about in their history lessons.
Sir, the power is indeed ours. Let us change our mindset, our behaviours and our policies to move the needle on climate change.
Let us focus on action, and deepen and accelerate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to embrace sustainability in the development of Singapore.
Watch the speech here.