Tackling climate change requires a practical approach, and Singapore must recognise that part of the petrochemical sector will remain even as the country continues to push the boundaries on cutting emissions, said Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli.
Pointing to how fossil fuels are still required for transport and in the manufacture of items such as mobile phones, he said: "So for everyone who complains so much about the petrochemical industry, don't use your handphone, don't go around transported with all these fuels that you complain about."
Mr Masagos, speaking in an interview with The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao that was broadcast yesterday, was commenting on some climate activists' concerns about the presence of representatives from carbon-intensive industries on a task force that aims to chart the way forward for the country in the post-pandemic era.
The 17-member Emerging Stronger task force has representatives from the technology, banking, property, agri-business, aviation and petrochemical sectors.
Said Mr Masagos: "So my point is, we have to be pragmatic, but we also have to be concerned and keep pushing the boundary so that we use less of (fossil fuels) and find better alternatives for the long term."
To this end, Singapore is investing in new technology to help it meet its climate goals.
This includes doing research into green hydrogen - a low-carbon energy source - as well as carbon capture, utilisation and storage technologies, which can help to suck carbon out of the air.
Moreover, there are already encouraging signs, Mr Masagos said, citing the Budget debates earlier this year, during which various ministries outlined their plans going forward. "I was really happy that almost all ministries, when they presented their vision, their view, of what they're going to do for that year, climate change mitigation, adaptation was part of what they do," he said.
The Ministry of Defence, for instance, highlighted plans to install solar panels on buildings in its military camps and to replace 400 administrative vehicles with cleaner options. The Ministry of Transport declared that it aimed to phase out internal combustion engines by 2040.
"Sustainability became core to what they want to implement - even Mindef. So I was quite elated (because) in the past, only (my ministry) talked about it, but this time around, everyone was in it. So all these things are already there," Mr Masagos said.
"Whatever the new task force will implement will take reference from what we have planned, because they know that this is something that may be out of our radar for the moment (due to Covid-19) but is something we have to take very seriously, going forward."