Towards a Sustainable Singapore with MP Louis Ng
By Lang Si Jie, Editor
Video: "10 Questions with MP Louis Ng". A separate video interview with Member of Parliament Mr Louis Ng, conducted by NUSPA's Green and Sustainable Taskforce (GSST). Mr Ng shares about his journey as an activist in Parliament and how he found his passion for the environment.
NUSPA’s “Towards a Green and Sustainable Singapore” Discussion took place on 31 March 2021. Together with Member of Parliament Mr Louis Ng, and Dr Natalie Pang, Senior Lecturer at the NUS Communications and New Media (CNM) Department and staff advisor to NUSPA, NUSPA’s Green and Sustainable Taskforce (GSST) explored what a sustainable Singapore might look like at present and in the future.
The GSST was launched by NUSPA to gather youth opinions and views on Singapore’s green plan, and how the nation should tackle environmental challenges as one people.
To facilitate conversations around national green and sustainability goals and policies, the Taskforce will be rolling out initiatives including forums, dialogues, interviews and surveys. The discussion session with Mr Louis Ng - hosted on audio-based social networking app Clubhouse - as well as a separate interview with him, were the first in a series of such initiatives.
During the discussion session, various questions were brought up in relation to Singapore’s Green Plan, the country’s shift towards electric vehicles (EVs), and the role of social media in expediting change, amongst other topics.
Achieving key targets set by the Singapore Green Plan 2030
Balancing demands such as housing, infrastructure and the preservation of green spaces has been increasingly pertinent in land-scarce Singapore in recent years, given the pace of urban development in the country.
With the unveiling of the Singapore Green Plan in February this year, a whole-of-nation movement to advance Singapore’s agenda on sustainable development, one participant questioned how the government can ensure that urban (re)development will not cause significant detriments to our natural environment.
As Chairperson of the Governmental Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Sustainability and the Environment, Mr Ng mentioned that he firmly believes that environmental protection can go “hand in hand” with our economic progress, and that it is important that we strike a careful balance between development and conservation.
A few participants also raised questions regarding the effectiveness of the Green Plan and its prospects of reducing carbon expenditure. Mr Ng posited that increasing carbon tax remains the strongest policy move in changing the mindset of corporate firms to factor in the costs of their greenhouse gas emissions in their business decisions, and encourage them to improve their energy efficiency.
In light of Singapore’s goals of achieving a low carbon system and facilitating the switch to EVs, a few participants also raised questions about how the government is preparing the country’s infrastructure and facilities to achieve these targets.
Mr Ng noted that several works were underway, such as partnering with the private sector to develop EV charging points, increasing the width of public paths to create a separate lane for pedestrians and cyclists, installing solar panels on the roof of public buses and building a bicycle lane on our North-South highway for people to cycle to work.
One participant also raised a salient point regarding the significant costs involved in maintaining a sustainable lifestyle and how such relatively ‘high maintenance’ lifestyles might inadvertently affect lower-income families, as efforts like switching to energy-efficient household appliances can be quite costly.
In response to this concern, Mr Ng posited that it is indeed important to factor in such points of view when crafting policies to tackle climate change, and that the government will continue to offer help to “level the playing field” for them to gradually shift to adopting sustainable practices in their daily lives.
Besides focusing such efforts on our shores, one participant further asked if climate change could be incorporated into Singapore’s foreign policies.
Mr Ng then expressed that Singapore should “punch above our weight” and lead regional efforts in climate change, such as through the upcoming 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), which would see many countries make strong commitments to mitigate climate change on the international stage.
Engaging youths to come up with environmental sustainability solutions
In schools, the Green Plan will be supported by the Eco-Stewardship Programme, a project that seeks to inculcate a deeper sense of environmental consciousness amongst all pre-tertiary students.
“The programme is about action. The last thing we should do is to make sustainability an examinable subject”, quipped Mr Ng.
With the launch of the programme, there would be more focus on encouraging students to be more hands-on with regards to sustainability, rather than learning it passively as a subject.
Apart from this programme, Mr Ng also proposed that schools could form a uniformed group where students can earn badges from completing different eco-friendly activities, and name this group the “National Climate Change Cadet Corp”.
To this point, the discussion brought up the fact that multiple kayaking clean-up sessions with students have been organised at Khatib Bongsu Park by Mr Ng’s constituency (Nee Soon GRC), where they had the opportunity to learn about mangrove protection outside of their classrooms.
By integrating such agendas and activities, discussion participants recognised that they give students a greater sense of ownership over the green spaces around them. Participating in these activities is also a way in which Singaporean youths can be more engaged in environmental protection, and the activities raise greater awareness on national green goals and policies.
The discussion then finally shifted to the use of social media as a platform to expedite change, where Mr Ng noted that social media has been a “game changer” in propagating environmental activism.
Dr Pang further stated that the increased levels of civic participation is a direct result of the proliferation of social media, where different forms of activism have arisen. As younger people have become more savvy with various digital platforms and tools, she said that activism is no longer about merely “volunteering” or a “retweet”.
Instead, it is also about developing methods for “peer-to-peer learning” to take place. This includes producing relevant content to educate and spark awareness among peers in understanding issues and finding solutions to address these issues together.
Mr Ng then ended off the discussion with a quote: “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do”, expressing that each one of us plays an important role in attaining a sustainable future for Singapore.
This NUSPA session was moderated by members of the NUSPA Executive Committee - Saishwar, Vice President of Engagement, Erica, Publicity Director and Christabelle, Director of Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum.
Si Jie is a Year 3 Communications and New Media major who is currently an Editor for The Convergence. She believes in the importance of staying relevant through engaging with current affairs and is passionate about understanding and writing others' narratives. At other times, you can either find her perusing the New York Times’ Modern Love column or out on the water dragon boating at ungodly hours.