Earth Day Special: Koh Poh Koon on how the PAP Govt’s green transition leaves no S’porean behind


As Singapore transitions to a greener and more sustainable future, it is crucial to ensure that no one gets left behind. Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Koh Poh Koon made this important point in a special interview by Petir to mark Earth Day today (April 22). 

“The green transition will not be easy. There will be challenges. We must make sure that we do not marginalise any segments of the population, especially when there may be costs imposed on consumers.” 

Dr Koh explained why the PAP Government enhanced the Climate Friendly Households Programme (CFHP) in this year’s budget. Under the scheme, the government gave $300 climate voucher each to 1.1 million HDB households. Dr Koh said this ensures “households wanting to transition to more sustainable, energy-efficient appliances can afford them”. 

Consumers can use the $300 e-vouchers to buy 10 types of energy- and water-efficient appliances, including direct current fans, washing machines, and water closets. 

Dr Koh pointed out that the government provides energy efficiency grants to businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. This, he said, will ensure “they are not left behind in the transition and helps them move toward a greener future”.  

Recognising the natural constraints Singapore faces, Dr Koh said the government is doing its best by tapping solar energy – a renewable energy source wherever possible. All buildings are installed with solar panels while floating solar panels are deployed in reservoirs and offshore. 

“What is important is to continue to invest in research and development, to look at new and emerging sources of energy that we can import and utilise. Collectively, we hope to then move towards a greener and more sustainable future.” 

PAP has always been a green advocate: Koh Poh Koon 

Climate change has become increasingly important in recent years. However, the People’s Action Party’s efforts on climate change and the environment goes as far back as the early years when the party first formed the government, Dr Koh said.  

He noted that founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was a strong green advocate who pushed for annual tree planting to ensure Singaporeans kept the environment green. He also ensured Singapore’s water resilience by cleaning up waterways and closing sewage systems. 

“In some ways, we have always advocated a green agenda even though we are the men who wear white,” Dr Koh quipped. 

PAP’s sustainability efforts in recent years 

Nov 2020: The Young PAP released a position paper with recommendations to make Singapore a green hub.  
Jan 2021: Members of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Sustainability and Environment tabled the first-ever motion in Parliament to address climate change and its impact on Singapore. 

Feb 2021: The government released the Singapore Green Plan 2030 in the following month. The plan sets forth Singapore’s action towards a greener and more sustainable future” over the next decade. 

May 2021: in line with SG Green Plan 2030, all 15 PAP Town Councils launched the Action for Green Towns initiative, working towards making every PAP-managed town zero waste, energy efficient and greener by 2025.  

Jan 2022: GPC for Sustainability and Environment tabled a second motion asking the government to explore ways to help Singaporeans transition to a green future. 

Dr Koh said some of the MPs’ recommendations were incorporated into this year’s budget, for example the $300 climate vouchers for households. 

Active citizenry plays a key role in realising the Green Plan 2030: Dr Koh  

Dr Koh said a green government and an active citizenry play a part in realising the Green Plan 2030. 

The government, he noted, will aim to achieve net zero emissions by 2045, five years ahead of Singapore’s 2050 pledge, “sending a signal” to encourage companies and individuals to do likewise.  

“Despite contributing only 0.1 per cent of global carbon emissions, we must do our part as global citizens. And that translates to every Singaporean doing our part through everyday actions and influencing companies to adopt a green culture.”  

“All of us can encourage our neighbours to use the blue recycling boxes to keep recyclable waste,” he added.  

Dr Koh said: “Just as a PAP government will commit to keeping Singapore green and sustainable, I hope everyone will do our part to make Singapore sustainable and move towards a greener future. Happy Earth Day, everyone!” 

Doing more to close the waste loop at Tampines:  Koh Poh Koon   

Citing the sustainability efforts by Our Tampines Hub as an example, Dr Koh, said Tampines GRC is “doing a lot more, especially to close the waste loop”. Dr Koh is a Member of Parliament for the Tampines GRC and oversees Tampines Central constituency. 

Our Tampines Hub has several recycling facilities to recycle waste. An Eco Digester allows residents to recycle food waste into compost for landscaping or home use. There is also a drop-off point that collects single-use mail packaging like bubble wrap or padded envelopes and redistributes them to retailers. “In this way we save about 25,000 package items from being incinerated,” Dr Koh said. 

Tampines continue sustainability efforts to become an eco-town 

Tampines aims to become an eco-town by next year. Dr Koh said that the town council also encourages residents to donate food waste to the black soldier fly facility at Tampines Park. Sustainability @ Tampines Park is Singapore’s first and largest community-based circular ecosystem for sustainable food waste management and production.  

He explained that the fly larvae feed on the waste and are used to feed the tilapia in a pond. The larvae break down the waste into fertiliser which can be used in farms. 

“We thought this pilot is worth doing, if scaled up, we can close the waste loop and grow more fish while utilising more food waste,” said Dr Koh.   

Separately, Tampines Goes Farming initiative has helped to engage the community and encourage residents to adopt a sustainable farm-to-table lifestyle. In November 2023, Singapore opened its first container fish farm in HDB flats there. In 2021, a multi-storey car park at Block 723A Tampines Street 72 was converted into a commercial vegetable farm.  
Regarding upcoming sustainability plans, Dr Koh said Tampines Town Council is currently running a trial for corridor hydroponic farming systems in multiple housing blocks. The council is also working with the Housing and Development Board on a project involving painting several blocks with a special heat-reflective coating. 

“This paint is intended to reflect heat from the sun and keep indoor temperatures somewhat cooler. This would reduce the need for air conditioning and hopefully help save utility costs for residents. The trial is ongoing. We hope it shows positive results. If successful, we will roll out the paint to more blocks in Tampines.”