The dialogue session allowed youths to voice out their concerns regarding the Green Plan.
The SG Green Plan 2030 outlines the country’s sustainable development efforts over the next decade. The Green Plan will influence all aspects of our lives, from the way we live to how we work and play.
To better understand youth sentiments on the Green Plan, the National Youth Council (NYC) engaged students from various universities in Singapore to attend a dialogue session: Is the Green Plan bold enough? What more can we do? on Oct 26.
These are some takeaways from the hour long session:
As the nature of work has obviously changed, the nature of us convening has also changed.
In response to a question asking if the government can allow more workplaces to go green by introducing more flexible work arrangements or Work From Home (WFH) regulations and legislations, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industries Mr Alvin Tan explained that we lose something by not interacting face to face.
Instead of implementing WFH measures, we should think of ways we can make working face-to-face less carbon intensive such as by opening more green lanes and encouraging the people to take public transport.
Mr Tan added: “There are some people in some jobs who cannot work from home so we have to be mindful of these people.”
Mr Tan emphasised that the SG Green Plan is meant to incorporate everyone.
A common belief is that large corporations hold a bigger responsibility when it comes to helping Singapore build a more sustainable future. However, Mr Tan enforced that youths play an equally vital role in realising this plan.
As consumers, we are the ones who drive the demand. This drive will determine what the industry produces. If consumers were to change their buying habits, it would send a very strong signal to the industry to produce items which are more sustainable.
Of course, there’s a price to pay but at least it’ll be a worthy price of sustainability.
Ms Tricia Seow, senior lecturer from the National Institute of Education added that another way youths can help is through making use of opportunities to acquire knowledge and practical experience. With this newfound knowledge, they can step up and work with advocacy groups to convince the government to make changes.
A common assumption is that Singapore is not setting realistic goals.
“[The Green Plan 2030] has been described as a stretched target,” shared Ms Melissa Low, a council member from NYC.
However, she clarified that Singapore is actually one of the few countries in the world to have a more realistic goal.
“I dare say that we probably have a more realistic [target] than some countries who have aimed for net zero, not knowing and not having the plans on the table yet to actually get to net zero. Whereas I think for us, we try to be a bit more cautious with the way we set targets. My colleagues at the Energy Studies Institute have done a number of simulations and economic modelling to make sure that what we say will stick and what we do will actually get us to those targets,” she elaborated.
While Singapore is currently still seeing an increase trajectory in carbon emissions, we need to understand that we are coming out of a global pandemic and economic recovery is the government’s priority for now.
Ms Lastrina Hamid, co-founder of Singapore Youth for Climate Action said that one thing we need to learn to do is to empathise and connect with the people who are making these changes.
“Try to understand their work and the struggles they’re facing,” urged Ms Hamid.
While the government has designated certain green spaces to be preserved, a significant amount of forested areas still need to be cleared. Attendees voiced their concerns regarding this issue, asking why can’t authorities make do with whatever spaces we currently have.
In response, Mr Tan pointed out that as nuclear families in Singapore are now smaller, the demand for housing has increased.
“We are always trying to see what we can reasonably hit within our constraints,” shared Mr Tan.
However, the need for homes is not something that can be compromised. Ultimately, we need to find a balance between achieving our basic needs and being sustainable.
One way the government has done to accomplish this is through the carbon tax scheme which was implemented in early 2019.
“We are the first Southeast Asian nation to introduce the carbon tax. It is currently $5 per tonne per GHG (Greenhouse Gas Emissions). It helps to give our companies some time to adjust and we’re going to review this overtime to take into account a variety of factors,” said Mr Tan.
Another impending problem that Singapore will soon face is how we will proceed once the Semakau landfill is filled by 2035.
Deputy Director of Environmental Policy at the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, Ms Danielle Zheng said that the government’s current goal is to extend the landfill beyond its lifespan as not only will it be expensive but also difficult to identify another space.
The government has taken a big paradigm shift in their approach. They plan on imposing regulations on the producers of waste streams like electronic waste and packaging waste. Called the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system, it forces producers to bear the responsibility for the collection and treatment of their products when they reach end-of-life.
This is exemplary of what it means to address the problem at its source.
Before ending the session, Ms Low agreed that an area the government can improve on is by having greater transparency across all pillars of the SG Green Plan by providing more data.
Mr Tan wrapped up by saying, “If we want to achieve our 2030 sustainability targets in our Green Plan, we need everybody to work together. All of your suggestions, which are absolutely spot on, can help us to sharpen the goals and maybe even make it bolder as we continue to improve our plans and strategies.”
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