Grace Fu visits Europe to gain insights for S'pore on coastal protection & waste management

Despite contracting Covid-19, she attended a meeting that followed up on the commitments made at COP26.

Ashley Tan | May 17, 2022, 09:40 PM

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Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu was away in Europe to seek ideas for Singapore's sustainability journey and to represent Singapore at climate meetings.

She was accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Singapore Food Agency, and the National Environment Agency.

Gave her take on green tech at St. Gallen Symposium

Her first stop was the St. Gallen Symposium in Switzerland from May 4 to May 6.

The symposium brings together leaders from business, politics, science and civil society for cross-generational dialogue and collaboration.

You may remember the memorable exchanges between Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and BBC presenter Stephen Sackur at this event back in 2015. Several 4G leaders had spoken at the St. Gallen Symposium before, including deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat and finance minister Lawrence Wong.

There, Fu shared about the Singapore Green Plan and spoke about the need for a multi-stakeholder approach for climate action, as well as an inclusive transition to a low-carbon future.

According to The Straits Times, Fu spoke about how countries should keep an open mind on green technologies such as nuclear energy and take a science-based and pragmatic approach in finding solutions to cope with climate change.

Fu added that it was important for Singapore to "look at a transition rather than an absolute position".

"The invasion of Ukraine has made it really clear how interconnected we are and how the disruption in energy supply can change the livelihoods of [people in] many countries in a very fundamental way," she said.

Fu also warned about being complacent in the fight against climate change, The Star reported.

"Very often people say that yes, we need to do the right thing for the climate, but why should I pay more? We need to change the narrative and cause a behavioural change."

Observed industry practices in Netherlands

Fu also headed to the Netherlands, where she observed some of their practices in coastal protection and waste management.

The Netherlands is known for using polders and dykes to protect itself against sea level rise.

About one-third of the country now lies below sea level. The lowest point is around 6.7m below sea level.

As a small island nation, sea level rise is a pertinent problem for Singapore, one that the government has been taking seriously.

Singapore has previously looked to the Netherlands for inspiration to pilot its own polders at Pulau Tekong.

Fu also visited various recycling facilities, which separate plastics from general waste and chemically recycle plastics, at the Netherlands.

One of them is the National Test Centre Circular Plastics (NTCP), a not-for-profit association which investigates the industrial sorting of different plastic streams.

Fu shared that she saw first-hand the testing of new sorting technologies and processes for sorting different types of plastics from waste.

Meanwhile at the Omrin Ecopark Di Wierde facility, waste is separated into different streams such as plastics and metal cans. The plastics stream is further sorted into five different types, which are sent to a downstream recycler as feedstock to manufacture new plastic products.

These visits provided useful learning points for Singapore's plans for a circular economy and to recycle more plastic waste, Fu shared.

Took part in climate-related meeting despite testing positive for Covid-19

While Fu has tested positive for Covid-19 in Copenhagen, Denmark, she still managed to attend the May Ministerial Meeting on Implementation via Zoom on May 12 and May 13.

The meeting saw over 40 countries coming together to discuss the practical actions to implement commitments made at the Paris Agreement and last year's climate conference COP26, before global leaders meet again at COP27 in Egypt this November.

Fu said that she had mild symptoms but her return to Singapore will be delayed due to her infection.

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Top photo from Grace Fu / FB