Global Sustainability Forum – Ms. Grace Fu

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister of Sustainability and Environment at the Global Sustainability Forum on 14 September 2023

Professor Tan Tai Yong, President, Singapore University of Social Sciences

Professor Robbie Goh, Dean of SUSS

Associate Professor (Practice) Yu Li Fao

Distinguished guests

1 It is a great honor to join you at the Global Sustainability Forum. I’d also like to say a big shout out to all the friends who are joining us virtually.

2 The Global Sustainability Forum will be held this year in Singapore for the first time, as well as in Basel and Toronto. This global focus is appropriate because the effects of climate change can be felt around the world and represent an existential threat to all of humanity.

3 In fact, Switzerland, Canada and Singapore have all experienced the effects of rising global temperatures. The Swiss weather balloon had to climb to an unprecedented altitude of 5,300 meters before temperatures dropped to 0 degrees Celsius. This exceeds the previous record of 5,184 metres, which was set just one year ago. Since the start of surveys, the zero degree line has risen between 200 and 700 metres, depending on the season. The zero degree line is considered a major meteorological marker. Its rise illustrates how the global water cycle has been affected by climate change. Canada has been affected by an ongoing series of wildfires that began in March. According to scientists, the probability of these fires occurring has at least doubled due to climate change. Singapore was also not spared. In fact, we witnessed the highest recorded temperature of 37°C in the past 40 years in May this year. This decade is the hottest decade we have ever seen.

4 What this shows is that climate change does not affect us in isolation. Rather, it affects us all, which underscores the importance of partnerships, both locally and internationally, to address climate change.

Support climate science

5 As a global community, we must continue to support the science of climate change, so that we can better understand its impacts, and how we can mitigate or adapt to them. We are delighted that Associate Professor Winston Zhao has been elected to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. This is just one way to show how influential Singaporeans are on a global level, as well as how connected they are to the rest of the global community. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares assessment reports on the latest state of scientific, technical, social and economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and risks, as well as options for mitigating the pace of climate change. As Co-Chair of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Professor Zhao will contribute to international efforts to assess impacts, adaptation and vulnerabilities related to climate change.

6 The work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change helps us accumulate knowledge and understand the regional and local impacts of climate change. In Singapore, this has been the focus of the Center for Climate Change Research Singapore (CCRS) since its establishment in 2013. Most recently, the CCRS is completing our third national climate change study (or V3), which incorporates the latest findings from the relevant intergovernmental panel report By climate change. Sixth assessment report.

7 These results will produce an updated set of local projections of key climate variables, such as temperature, precipitation, humidity, winds and sea level, for Singapore and the Southeast Asian region to 2100 and beyond. This will be used to guide Singapore in several important areas, such as understanding the local impact of climate change, as well as developing and reviewing our climate adaptation policies and plans. Internationally, Singapore will also gradually share V3 data through platforms such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Climate Impact Assessment Tools to enable users to make more detailed assessments of the impact of climate change on agriculture. Countries in the region can exchange information and better equip themselves to understand the impacts of climate change. We have presented this data through various ASEAN platforms, and many of our counterparts have expressed interest in understanding the impact of climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has reached the Southeast Asian region.

Developing climate strategies

8 Understanding the impacts of climate change informs our climate strategies in areas such as heat stress and coastal protection.

9 As temperatures rise, it is important for Singaporeans to be well-equipped to protect ourselves and our loved ones. My Department has launched a Heat Stress Advisory to help the general population make more informed decisions about undertaking long-term outdoor activities, so they can reduce the risks of heat stress and heat-related illnesses. For attendees from Singapore, I encourage you to check the myENV app for heat stress levels when planning outdoor activities. Please share these heat stress tips with your friends and family, and encourage them to download the myENV app! Sometimes in Singapore, we take the weather for granted because we are always in the tropics and the temperature range is constant. But new factors require us to be more sensitive to the weather, and we must have the humility to acknowledge what weather can do to our well-being. It is good to be more sensitive, read about weather forecasts, and have that sense of awareness that can help us navigate through different weather conditions. Make it a habit, as you do in other countries, to pay attention to the weather forecast before heading out in Singapore.

10. Last week, I attended the launch of the Coastal Protection and Flood Resilience Institute, or CFI. We previously announced the Singapore Water Agency’s $125 million Coastal Protection and Flood Management Research Program and the establishment of a Center of Excellence for Coastal Science Research. CFI Singapore will facilitate the development of knowledge to support the various action streams PUB has embarked on to protect our coastlines, harnessing expertise from our higher education institutes.

Driving sustainable solutions through partnerships

11 You might ask, does SUSS have a role? You certainly have a role, because when you look at adaptation, societal and societal responses are very important. Engineering solutions will not be effective unless societies adopt them, and unless societies can coexist with new, adapted environments. In this process of changing and preparing ourselves, it is important for us to look at issues such as behavioral change to heat stress. We want this adaptation to be comprehensive, and the social aspect of it – to study the impact of all these adaptations on society, on humans, on societies, will be an important part of our research programme.

12 Now that you have engaged on the topic of “smart” climate science, we need to move to the “core” of the issue – how can we mobilize the community to work together to drive sustainable solutions?

Community mobilization

13 In Singapore, we recognize the need for a whole-of-nation approach to mobilize society and promote sustainability. To this end, my Ministry launched the Go Green SG initiative in July this year to strengthen partnerships and stimulate collective action for environmental sustainability. More than 160 partners organized more than 300 activities, programs and experiences for more than 70,000 participants.

14 It is not just the government that decides how Singapore deals with climate change. Our people also have a say, and we need all hands on deck. As part of our Forward SG movement, we have engaged more than 2,200 Singaporeans from businesses, NGOs, schools and the community. The main topic of the talks was the challenges and trade-offs that Singapore must balance when it comes to environmental sustainability.

Partnerships to drive sustainable solutions

15 Beyond community mobilization, partnerships are key to driving sustainable solutions that will have a social and societal impact – which is what our forum is focusing on today. For example, we have partnered with researchers to develop science-based solutions to issues such as urban heat in Singapore, more closely. The Cooling Singapore 2.0 project led by the Singapore-ETH Center is developing a digital model to simulate our urban climate and evaluate the effectiveness of different heat mitigation strategies. This allows us to better understand urban heat in Singapore and identify cost-effective heat mitigation strategies.

16 Our SG Eco Fund supports comprehensive solutions to make Singapore greener and more sustainable. For the latest grant call, about 80 sustainability projects were awarded $2.4 million.

17 The wide range of projects will help us move towards our climate and green goals. Caroline Parr, who will speak next, is the founder of susGain, and a holder of the SG Eco Fund. The SG Eco Fund supported susGain to develop a 6-week game-based app challenge to support schools to act on their commitment to reduce, recycle, reuse and reuse. I heard that school communities learned a lot and had a lot of fun through activities, both at school and through the app. It is encouraging to see many others like susGain moving forward with going green in their own ways. If you have an idea for a project that supports environmental sustainability and engages the community, I encourage you to apply for the SG Eco Fund, and be part of the growing sustainability movement in Singapore. This is really a good space for SUSS, where science should meet people. We need a very radical change in mindset when it comes to protecting the environment. SUSS, through its faculty and students, has the ability to influence making the ground ready for this movement, to change mindset and change behavior.


18 In conclusion, we can all make important contributions to achieving sustainability. As individuals, we can encourage our friends and families to make simple changes to our daily habits, such as setting the air conditioner temperature to 25°C. Researchers can think about how to communicate your findings to the public more effectively, and pay greater attention to community engagement. The susGain example is really about communication and through play, causing behavior change. Businesses can lead the way by adopting more sustainable practices, tracking your carbon footprint and even setting a net-zero target year.

19 By embracing sustainability as a core tenet of our collective vision, we can catalyze profound social and societal impacts. Just as the challenge posed by climate change is multifaceted, we need everyone to tackle it together. Forums like this one today can pave the way forward by offering solutions for tomorrow.

20 I wish you all a very fruitful conference. Thank you.

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