Five key takeaways from the SG Green Plan 2030: Towards a Sustainable Future conversation
Close to 200 youth participants from autonomous universities, polytechnics, and Institute of Technological Education took part in the session.
Close to 200 youth participants shared their thoughts on developing a sustainable Singapore at the SG Green Plan 2030: Towards a Sustainable Future conversation jointly organised by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and National Youth Council (NYC) on Jun 30.
The session saw participants discuss how Singapore can collectively work towards its Singapore Green Plan 2030 (Green Plan) pillars of Sustainable Living and Green Economy.
Some points brought up during the session were about the changes to the job landscape in the future that come with the nation’s transition to a green economy, as well as the importance of cultivating sustainable habits at a young age.
The conversation was joined by Minister of State for Education and Manpower Gan Siow Huang, President of the Student Energy National University of Singapore (NUS) student group Cassandra Yip, Director of Ministry of Trade and Industry’s (MTI) Energy Division Leow Lay May, and Deputy Chairman of Institute of Technological Education (ITE) College Central’s Student Council Project Committee Ondrea Wong.
Here are five key takeaways from the session:
1. Reduction of carbon emissions is one of Singapore’s top priorities
During the conversation, Ms Gan highlighted the importance of achieving the Sustainable Living pillar of the Green Plan, especially with the increasingly daunting consequences of climate change.
As a result, reducing carbon emissions has become one of Singapore’s top priorities for the coming decades, with one of the major changes being in the transport sector.
Ms Gan said: “By 2030, all newly registered vehicles will have to be low carbon, and by 2040, the conventional internal combustion engine type of vehicles which you see on the road now will also be fully phased out.”
Apart from private vehicles, the public transport system will also likely see a change in the future, as Ms Gan added that Singapore will expand its public transportation network “much more than where it is today.”
Ms Gan also stated that Singapore’s carbon tax will progressively increase from the current $5 per tonne of emissions to between $50 and $80 per tonne in 2030.
While Singapore may be the only Southeast Asian country to implement the carbon tax, Ms Gan believes that it is a necessary step in the nation’s transit to a low-carbon economy.
2. Environmentally sustainable habits must start from a young age
The panellists also shared the importance of developing green habits for future generations in Singapore.
Ms Gan believes that it is crucial that the “environmentally-sustainable mindset” is instilled from a young age as it ensures that Singapore’s sustainability efforts will continue for the decades to come.
She shared about the Eco Stewardship Programme (ESP), an initiative by the Ministry of Education (MOE) which aims to strengthen and deepen the current strands of environmental education in schools.
She said: “We believe that the mindset has to start from young. (This is because) as you grow older and you become a teenager or an adult, some of these beliefs will stick with you.”
Sharing the same sentiment is Cassandra, who has worked with various primary schools to teach over 10 sustainable development goals such as biodiversity and clean energy.
Apart from educating the students in classrooms, she also believes that it is important to let them have hands-on experiences.
She shared: “We also take the kids out to be in nature, such as to Sungei Buloh (and) to Changi, to kind of see the wildlife that we have there and also the issues that we’re having, such as plastic pollution.
“When they’re seeing all of this first hand, it kind of builds their connection to nature which inspires something in a young child to do more and perhaps become an environmentalist too.”
3. Green economy will change the job landscape in the future, but not completely
While it is evident that more jobs will begin to adopt greener practices in the future due to the green economy, it does not necessarily mean that the job landscape will change completely.
According to Ms Leow, many of the green jobs in the future will still require the various industry skills that are used today, with the only difference being that there will be an added green element to it. One of the examples she cited was green financing.
She explained: “A lot of it (financing) is about the issuance of bonds or loans and assessing which project attracts investors. There are already a lot of skills associated with the non-green part of the job today.
“When we are talking about green financing, we are talking about learning the green part of it, such as what constitutes a green project, and what attracts investors to invest in green projects. You just have to build on the green part of the job.”
Cassandra also stated that based on her experience, many employers are also looking for soft skills rather than technical skills in the green economy.
She shared: “I think one of the biggest skills that companies are actually looking for are soft skills such as systems thinking, or change management. It’s really about passion and curiosity, and understanding the global view and trends of that area.”
Ondrea, who serves as deputy chairman of ITE College Central’s student council project committee, was asked about how students could better prepare to seek out green jobs. She replied that while it is hard to perfectly define what a green job is, one should always adopt an environment mindset first before looking out for such opportunities.
“I think it mostly starts with yourself first before going on to other industries… there are wonderful opportunities out there for you to always seek out green jobs,” she explained.
“There are lots of things to learn out there, not always in the schools, but on your own and also on-the-job learning,” added Ms Gan.
4. Singapore to actively seek out sustainable energy sources
Renewable energy is defined as a form of energy that can not only be produced from a certain source, but can also be converted and reused for other purposes.
Singapore is rather “resource poor” when it comes to producing renewable energy, with one of the key reasons being the lack of land, said Ms Leow.
While new technologies may allow Singapore to tap on other avenues such as geothermal energy, it may still not be an optimal long-term option due to its limited yield.
However, Ms Leow stated that one of the ways the nation plans to overcome the challenge is by importing electricity from countries in the region.
She added that ammonia and hydrogen are also two of the energy resources that the nation is looking at, especially since both gases are renewable and can be transported around the world.
While cost remains a huge issue in the trade of ammonia and hydrogen, she believes that it can be overcome by “a lot of investments and collaborations” which will help lower the cost.
Ms Gan also cited Singapore’s water story as an example of how Singapore overcame its issue of limited resources, and how it reflects the nation’s current situation.
While Singapore was once heavily reliant on imports from Malaysia to obtain water, it now has its very own sustainable source in the form of NEWater.
She explained: “For survival reasons, we know that we have to find a feasible and viable recipe to sustain our needs. We are not stopping here, and we are still pouring a lot into our research and development to look for other methods of deriving drinkable water to harvest more water.
“I think energy is the next challenge for us, and I’m hopeful that if we put our mind and resources together, we will get there.”
5. Each individual has a part to play in Green Plan
The panellists were asked the question of how Singapore can see feasible changes if big corporations do not adopt green practices.
While it may be true that big corporations play a bigger part in contributing to the nation’s sustainability effort, all of the panellists agree that individual efforts can still make a positive impact.
Cassandra, who serves as President of Student Energy NUS, shared how her individual desire to create opportunities for others in the sustainability sector helped in the grand scheme of things towards achieving our Green Plan goals.
She said: “We (Student Energy NUS) have inspired many undergraduates to pursue a sustainability-related role, or look into that kind of sector for their future job career prospects. I don’t think that should be taken so lightly.”
For Ondrea, her belief is that students can also play a part to create a more sustainable future. This year, she is spearheading a campaign to reduce and upcycle single-use plastics into practical and artistic objects.
She hopes that this campaign will raise awareness among the student population of the impact that single-use plastics have in our lives.
To add on, Ms Leow also stated how individuals – be it consumers, employees, or leaders – can also play an important role in working towards Singapore’s sustainability goals.
While consumers have the power to shift the market’s demand towards greener products, employees also have the power to join sectors that are focused on being green.
As employees eventually move on to being leaders, Ms Leow believes that they can also make a “conscious choice to make a difference” in the sustainability area.
Ms Gan also believes that each individual can make a difference in achieving Singapore’s sustainability goals when they enter the workforce. Regardless of whether it is a green job or not, she believes that an individual can still “bring the environmental sustainability layer” to the company to make an impact.
She added: “We only have one Earth, so we have to save it!”