COS SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT PARLIAMENT’S BUDGET 2020 COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY DEBATE FOR THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES
Sir, I beg to move that the sum to be allocated to Head L of the main estimates be reduced by $100.
Climate change is a significant problem. We have witnessed its far-reaching effects in many countries, from droughts and floods to bush fires. We are fortunate that thus far we have not had to grapple with direct effects of natural disasters caused by climate change. However, being a huge importer of food products, we are at the mercy of the global situation. The government established the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) last year to ensure and secure a supply of safe food and it has done good work to improve sustainability of our food sources.
Hygiene and food safety are essential to sustainability of food sources. In recent years, there have been several high-profile instances of food hygiene lapses. I would like to ask how has formation of SFA helped tackle food hygiene issues?
How does SFA balance strengthening the food hygiene regime without causing a rise in business cost? How does SFA ensure that the food industry continue to build a strong food safety culture even as globalisation and technological advancements transform the food landscape?
The battle to reduce plastic usage is essential for environmental sustainability. The Ministry is implementing the mandatory packaging reporting framework this year, with the aim to reduce packaging waste including plastics. This is something new to everyone, and certainly some companies will require more than a little guidance in the initial stages of implementation. Does the Ministry have plans to work with the industry to provide support for affected companies? Will the framework be tailored according to different industries? Will it apply to only local businesses, or also extended to imports, and how will that be implemented? Packaging is often used for branding and marketing purposes.
Some local businesses will likely proclaim the competition to be unfair if the imported goods may maintain their fancy and more aesthetically appealing packaging with little or no penalty.
I also note that with the COVID-19 outbreak, many sanitation products were frequently out of stock. Were F&B businesses and places where food is served or handled affected by the shortages, and how did they cope with it? How do we ensure enough supplies especially for hygiene in public toilets?
On the subject of food, food waste remains a significant problem. The Ministry had earlier announced that owners and occupiers of commercial and industrial premises which generate large amounts of food waste will be required to segregate their food waste for treatment from 2024. Can the Ministry share if the scope of affected premises and thresholds have been determined? Are there measures in place to help the industry comply with the requirements?
Do hawker centres, coffee shops, supermarkets fall under this regulation? Will this cause an increase in operation costs?
Strengthening Environment Sanitation Controls
In the last two years, many people were affected by food poisoning incidents as a result of improper hygiene and cleaning practices at places such as pre-schools and food establishments. How do we foster greater responsibility by businesses and society to raise cleanliness and hygiene standards in Singapore?
Each and every Singaporean must regard environment conservation as our duty. We may be a small dot on the globe, but we are heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world, as a result of the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. As an island city, it is inevitable for us to have many urban surfaces like buildings and roads.
Heat generated from our large, high-density population gives rise to UHI effect. We need to reduce the rate at which we are heating up.
The government has been working very hard to increase the amount of greenery on our island, which has offered some relief from the heat. I am grateful to NParks for the intensified greening in Singapore in general and Yishun in particular.
With the increase in number of trees and bushes, the area has become a much cooler and more pleasant environment for the residents.
We are starting to see some new innovative green architecture around the island, and I hope some of the existing buildings and infrastructure may soon get a make-over as well. My Nee Soon South CC is being upgraded to become a net zero-energy building. I’m very excited about it.
I hope the government will set bold national goals, to make it mandatory for high green coverage on new buildings, or even to make them net zero energy or energy positive buildings.
Doing so will stimulate even more innovation and creativity in the building industries. I believe our implementation of photovoltaic (PV) systems could be more extensive. I really like what Khoo Teck Puat Hospital has done with their roof tops, which is an energy-saving, green and sustainable combination of community gardens, farms and PV.
Moreover, PVs, with their large, flat surfaces, could be designed for multiple functions, such as providing shelters from sun and rain aside from collecting energy. They could be designed to complement the aesthetics of the buildings they serve.
Climate change is a crisis, but the Chinese term for crisis wei机is made up of two characters which means danger and opportunity.
There are plenty of opportunities if we set our minds to adopting bold changes and strategies. Climate change is now a major concern for many world leaders. If we can set an example and come up with viable solutions to address climate challenges, Singapore would stand among the world leaders in addressing this major crisis, thus securing our relevance on the globe.
There is clearly a lot of local talent in our country. Since the rise in popularity of green buildings, many of our architects, planners and engineering professionals have risen to the occasion. Their projects combining greenery and unique architecture have captured attention worldwide, and even appeal to travellers for their “Instagram-worthy” appearances.
There are also many ground-up initiatives, ranging from classes on making your own compost, to round-table discussions, Really Really Free markets to exchange and give away unwanted items and so on. Can we pool their expertise together so there is a more coordinated approach and sharing of resources? In Nee Soon South, I intend to turn our underutilised MSCP rooftop into high-tech community farm. I would like to ask Minister: Is there any funding available?
Singaporeans, especially the younger generation, are big on sustainable initiatives. There is also plenty of talent and expertise.
The government must take the lead and strike while the iron is hot. Together, let’s make this little red dot a shining example to the world. Thank you.
Watch the speech here
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