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Government Media Release, 8 Mar 05
Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at the Committee of Supply Debate 2005 8 Mar 2005
Full text of Part 1
Looking back over 40 years of nation building, our environmental achievements to date are no mean feat. Today, Singapore is 100% sewered, with all used water collected and treated. Proper waste management facilities and systems have been put in place. Singapore is recognised by the World Health Organisation as being free from malaria. We are indeed clean and green.
Having reached here, we must not rest on our laurels. Having reached the base camp of environmental performance, we must continue pushing towards environmental sustainability as our next peak. Going beyond just keeping Singapore clean when we are reminded to, we want every Singaporean to feel for and care for our environment.
Community Participation and Ownership Fostering Greater Community Involvement
We must continue to build on our existing partnerships. To this end, civic and community groups play an important part in helping to foster shared ownership of our environment. Indeed, I am happy to see that there have been more community-driven efforts that promote a greater sense of personal and shared responsibilities towards our environment.
Enjoying Our Environment and Water Resources
Besides collective community efforts, we want people to feel that they have a personal stake in keeping the environment clean and beautiful. To this end, we will create more opportunities for the community to enjoy and appreciate our environment and water resources.
We have taken a cautious but proactive approach in our efforts to open up the reservoirs for more recreational activities. As a start, we have encouraged mainly organized groups, like schools, the national sports associations and clubs to conduct their training and events in our reservoirs. Moving forward, and as these prove successful, we intend to progressively introduce more recreational activities in our reservoirs and encourage more groups of people to participate in these activities.
Members in the House may be pleased to note that there are plans to open up facilities for walk-in members of the public. For example, PUB is working with the Singapore Canoe Federation to start a kayaking centre in MacRitchie Reservoir. The centre, expected to be launched later this month, will not only cater to school and national training but will offer rental of kayaks for members of the public. As we anticipate a high level of interest from the public, there are plans to open up similar centres for kayaking and sailing at other reservoirs, such as Bedok Reservoir.
Prof Png mentioned that we should ensure that the opening of the reservoirs benefit the general public and not only exclusive groups. I agree with him and would like to reassure him that this has always been our intention.Let me cite the case of Seletar Country Club. PUB has imposed a condition that the sailing and kayaking facilities put in place and operated by the Club will be made available for organised groups of the public. Hence, there is no need to join the Club to enjoy the facilities. For example, in the recent Speed Crossing event, which was jointly organized by Seletar Country Club and the Boardsailing Association of Singapore, more than 100 local and regional windsurfers, most of them in their teens, took part in a race across Lower Seletar Reservoir.
In fact, we have been very encouraged by the interest and positive support shown by the public for our initiative to open up the reservoirs. In a public consultation last year, about 80% of the 2,000 plus public feedback supported PUB’s proposed plans to open up the Bedok and MacRitchie reservoirs for more recreational activities.
As we open up the reservoirs, we should be concerned that reservoirs have their own unique characteristics. PUB has formed the Water Network comprising members from the 3P sectors to serve as a sounding board to ensure that the activities introduced would keep to the unique character of the reservoir. So for some reservoirs like MacRitchie where residents and visitors prefer the serenity and quiet surroundings, activities would be more subdued, such as fishing and canoeing, in keeping with the character of the place. In contrast, more active recreational activities like wakeboarding and dragon boating would be introduced in the more urban reservoirs such as Bedok
Besides the reservoirs, we are also looking at opening up the Pulau Semakau landfill for selected recreational activities. Many people picture a landfill as a dirty and smelly place. This is not the case with Semakau Landfill. Semakau Landfill today has a pleasant environment as a result of environmental and conservation measures taken by the NEA. For example, the mangroves on Pulau Semakau were conserved while new mangroves were planted to replace those affected by the construction of the landfill. Biodiversity surveys conducted on the island also revealed a significant variety of flora and fauna. These include a species of seagrass found nowhere else in Singapore and rare birds such as the Great-billed Heron.
However, as there are ongoing landfill operations on the island, opening up the landfill for recreational activities must be done in a gradual manner. Currently, students have been visiting Semakau Landfill under MOE’s Learning Journey Programme. Grassroots organisations have also organised visits to the landfill for their residents during the Clean and Green Week campaign.
NEA has approached various interest groups while exploring the possibility of opening up Semakau Landfill for more recreational activities. So far, Wild Singapore has expressed interest in conducting biodiversity surveys on Semakau, Nature Society, for bird-watching and the Sport Fishing Association of Singapore in sport fishing. NEA will be putting in place the necessary amenities to support these activities. We can expect the first groups to commence their activities on the island in the 2nd quarter of 2005.
Engaging the Youth
Our young are naturally passionate about the environment. I found during a recent dialogue I had with some young people (who include tertiary students, environment volunteers and young working professionals), that several of them were enthusiastic about having more opportunities in engagement on environment issues.
If we can foster a sustained interest in environmental volunteerism in our young, we would have laid a good foundation for a generation of Singaporeans who are more conscious and engaged towards our environment. My Ministry have put in place a variety of programmes and activities to involve students on environmental issues.
Raising awareness and consultation on environmental issues
We will also be consulting the public this year on the review of the Singapore Green Plan 2012 targets and programmes. The review will commence in the 2nd quarter and the revised targets and programmes will be launched in the later part of this year. This is in line with the earlier announced plan of a three-yearly review of the SGP2012 targets since its launch in 2002.
We will involve representatives from the People, Private and Public sectors in the review of propose new or revised targets and programmes. We will set up three focus groups in March; an online channel to solicit the public’s views; and there will also be a public exhibition to highlight the achievements so far and new directions and priorities going forward.
Full text of Part 2
Improving Energy Efficiency and Carbon Intensity
Let me just give some background information. Singapore has since 1997 ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and is committed to becoming more carbon efficient. We welcome the Kyoto Protocol initiative, which translates the Convention into concrete actions. The Kyoto Protocol came into effect on 16 Feb 2005, following the ratification by Russia. We are currently studying the timing of our accession to the Kyoto Protocol.
Prof Low can be assured that we believe in promoting energy efficiency as they benefit industries and Singaporeans. Being energy efficient not only lowers our carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution levels, it also lowers energy consumption and energy costs for both businesses and consumers. In the long run, this will help strengthen the competitiveness of our economy.
It is for these reasons that Singapore developed a strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change, with energy efficiency being a key component. As a sign of our commitment, we have set a national target to improve our carbon intensity, or the amount of carbon dioxide for each GDP dollar generated, by 25% from 1990 levels by the year 2012. Singapore’s carbon intensity has already improved by 17% between 1990 and 2003; we target to improve it by a further 8% point by 2012 by focusing both on the energy-supply and energy-demand sides.
On the energy-supply side, electricity generation companies (or gencos) have adopted advanced technologies such as combined cycle and co-generation technologies, which harness both electricity and heat in the generation process. This will achieve greater efficiency compared to conventional oil-fired power plants. Gencos are also burning cleaner and less carbon-intensive fuels such as natural gas.
On the energy-demand side, we have introduced several energy efficiency improvement schemes to reduce energy use by industries, buildings and consumers. For the industry, companies that have put in place energy audits and energy conservation measures have already reaped benefits: for example, ST Microelectronics, as a result of its investment in energy saving equipment, has reduced electricity used to make a wafer by 40% while its production output has gone up almost three times! We will be introducing a new Energy Efficiency Assistance Improvement Scheme with a $10 million fund, which companies can tap to conduct energy audits.
In the case of buildings and housing estates, we have worked with Town Councils and HDB to conduct energy audits for the common areas in HDB estates to cut down electricity wastage. We will be introducing a scheme later this year to give recognition to energy efficient buildings. I am pleased to inform the House that several public agencies will also take the lead by participating in a pilot project to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings through energy audits and performance contracting.
For consumers, we have introduced energy labels for air conditioners and refrigerators to help buyers identify more efficient models. For example, using an air-conditioner with four ticks on the energy label can save a household about $300 a year on electricity bills compared to one with two-ticks. If consumers find such information useful, we may even consider making labeling compulsory in the future.
For transportation, I agree with Dr Geh Min that green vehicles generate many positive externalities for the environment. Not only are they more energy efficient and emit less carbon dioxide, they also emit less air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter. To encourage the switch to green vehicles, the Government introduced a Green Vehicle Rebate (GVR) scheme in January 2001 equivalent to 20% of the Open Market Value (or OMV).
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