Transcript of speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Launch Of Clean & Green Singapore 2018 on 3 November 2018 at Wisma Geylang Serai.
ESM Goh Chok Tong, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Very good morning to all of you, here at Wisma Geylang Serai. I am very happy to be in this beautiful place for the launch of Clean & Green Singapore 2018.
This year is the 50th anniversary of our “Keep Singapore Clean” campaign. It was one of the first national campaigns that we launched after we became independent. We did this even while the country was dealing with critical issues of survival, like creating jobs and building the Singapore Armed Forces. Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his team looked beyond these immediate concerns, and they envisioned Singapore as a country that would be one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the world – an oasis in the region.
We embarked on an extensive, sustained national project. It involved cleaning our rivers, licensing and relocating our hawkers off the streets into hawker centres, providing proper sewerage systems to every house, implementing public health and anti-littering laws, and of course, planting ample greenery and trees. Because of these efforts, now Singaporeans enjoy many green spaces and waterways in our beautiful “City in a Garden”.
But the “Clean & Green” journey is not done. Today, a “Clean & Green Singapore” means more than just clean waters and lush greenery. We need to do much more than that to protect our environment. One reason for this is climate change. Mayor Maliki Osman spoke about climate change just now and some of the things we are doing. I would like to talk about another aspect of climate change. This is a threat, to Singapore and to the world, which has become increasingly obvious. Recently the United Nations published an updated report on climate change. It called on countries to take urgent action, because it is happening sooner and more rapidly than people had expected. If we do not do anything about it, world temperatures could rise by 1.5 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels in the next 12 years. We may get into a runaway, hothouse, greenhouse Earth, reaction.
In Singapore, we are already feeling the effects of more extreme weather. Over the past few years, we recorded our hottest year and second driest year ever. You will remember the long dry spell which turned green grass fields to brown, parched spots a couple of years ago. You may also remember, separately, a cold spell we had. When for a while, Singaporeans were outdoors in sweaters and coats! Just for a few days. The weather has become more extreme. There will be highs, and on average, will be higher. That could spread tropical diseases like dengue fever, or worst, affect agricultural output, crops, and hurt our economy. Many Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore, are also vulnerable to rising sea levels because of our long coastlines and low-lying areas.
Steps Against Climate Change
Therefore, like our founding fathers who looked beyond immediate worries, we too need to watch out for long term threats. We must consider the far reaching implications of climate change for our city, our economy and our people. We must do our part to contribute to global efforts such as the Paris Agreement to slow down climate change. At the same time, we also must take timely and concrete steps to protect ourselves against the adverse effects of climate change.
We have implemented such long-term plans successfully, for example in managing our water supply. We invested heavily in infrastructure by building the Marina Barrage and many other things. We introduced new technology like desalination and NEWater to expand and diversify our water supply. We priced water correctly, to make Singaporeans conscious of how precious water is, and therefore value every drop of it. We launched a national education and public campaign, to make saving water part of our lifestyle and consciousness.
We have to do the same for climate change. The Climate Action Plan which we launched in 2016 outlines some of our mitigation and adaptation measures. The carbon tax will come into effect next year. It is an important signal to companies and households to reduce carbon emissions and adopt energy efficient practices. We have also stepped up research. We test-bedded new technologies and solutions in ten living labs across the island such as the CleanTech Park. Successful projects we will then scale up and apply nationwide.
We are making significant infrastructure investments too. We have raised some low lying roads near coastal areas – East Coast, Katong, Geylang, Bedok – are all low lying areas. We will build the new Changi Airport Terminal 5 on a higher platform, higher than the existing terminals, to allow for rising sea levels. We have just completed the Stamford Detention Tank and the Stamford Diversion Canal. The tank can store up to 15 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of stormwater. So that when it rains heavily, it stores the water, does not allow it to go out and flood downstream Orchard Road. After this storm, it will divert the water into the Stamford Diversion Canal and into the Singapore River. This should prevent Orchard Road from flooding, except perhaps in the most extreme rainstorms.
Beyond these localised schemes, we also have to consider the broader implications of rising sea levels on our city. The Government agencies are studying this carefully. In due course, we will come up with long-term proposals to adequately prepare and protect ourselves
This year is the Year of Climate Action, so it is a good time to remind ourselves of what we can do to tackle climate change. Besides infrastructure and policies, we also need to change our mind-sets and lifestyles. We make adjustments like taking public transport or using energy-saving electrical appliances. These may not seem significant individually. But just like our “Save Water” campaign where every drop counts, every climate action counts.
I am heartened by the public response so far. More than 300,000 people, schools, non-government organisations and corporate organisations have pledged their commitment and organised a series of community programmes, which we can see in the Climate Action Showcase. In the public sector, all the ministries have taken the climate action pledge, and they will reduce their plastic, water and electricity consumption. That is why today we do not have any plastic drinking water bottles with us for the guests.
We have done well to make Singapore a clean, green and liveable place. All of us have a part to play in building a liveable and endearing home – from the simple act of binning our rubbish, to not wasting electricity and recycling right, especially e-waste which Maliki spoke about just now. It is all about being gracious and considerate to those who share our living spaces and environment, and paying attention to protecting this planet earth that we all live on.
We still have a lot to do to tackle climate change. We must start now to protect the environment, ourselves and our future against climate change. Every one of us can be a steward of our environment. Every one of us must do our part to keep Singapore a clean, green and sustainable home for many more years to come.
Thank you very much.
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