Prof Lye Lin-Heng: Why Attend the Sustainable Development Goals Conference 2016 in Singapore?

In an exclusive interview with Gaia Discovery, Assoc. Prof Lye Lin-Heng, Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL) and chairperson of the organising committee highlights the significance of the first-of-its-kind conference on "Attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals - Environmental Law, Policy and Management" in Singapore. By Mallika Naguran.

There will be a full three-day conference that includes an EIA Workshop and the Asia Environment Lecture. What is the significance of organising an environmental conference at this scale in Singapore? 

Prof.Lye Lin-Heng, Director of APCEL

Prof.Lye Lin-Heng, Director of APCEL

This conference entitled "Attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2016 - Environmental Law, Policy and Management" is to highlight the environmental challenges that confront us today, and showcase the efforts that NUS has undertaken through the past 20 years, to help build capacity in environmental education across the different disciplines. We are focusing on four out of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), namely: Goal 12 – Sustainable Production and Consumption; Goal 13 - Climate Action Goal; Goal 14 - Life below Water (Sustainable Oceans); and Goal 15 - Life on Land (Biodiversity Conservation). 

This SDGs conference celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Law School’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL), and the respective 15thand 5th anniversaries of two innovative and holistic environmental programs that involve the collaboration of nine faculties/schools at NUS - the Master of Science in Environmental Management (MEM) hosted by the School of Design & Environment (SDE) and the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES), co-hosted by the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS) and the Faculty of Science.

We have selected these four SDGs to be examined from the perspectives of environmental science, law, and management. The speakers come from across the world – among them are eminent scientists, a world-renowned oceanographer, lawyers and judges, as well as environmental economists, engineers and managers.

The three day conference culminates in the 4th Asia Environment Lecture – the speaker is Dr Andrew Steer, President & CEO, World Resources Institute, a global think tank & research organisation based in Washington DC that spans more than 50 countries.

We hope this conference will emphasize the importance of good governance and management, which requires an understanding of the many dimensions of the environment.

Who should attend the EIA Workshop and what can they expect to learn from the expert speakers? Is an EIA law necessary in all countries?

The EIA workshop is of particular interest to Singapore, as Singapore does not have an EIA law. Faced with severe land constraints, Singapore as well as all cities face the dilemma of how best to develop without destroying its natural environment as well as its built heritage.

The sharing of experiences by experts in different countries (USA, Hong Kong, Australia, Pakistan &  Japan) will be helpful in our consideration of whether we should pass an EIA law and if so, how best should it be crafted. Some of the issues include transparency, accountability and public participation.  The Singapore experience will also be discussed, by Dr Shawn Lum, President of Nature Society, Singapore. 

In the session SDG 13 on Climate Action, Justice Brian Preston (Chief Judge, Land and Environment Court of NSW) will deliver a keynote address on "The Role of Courts in Climate Change." With the unprecedented changes in climate experienced and governments becoming signatories of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, how important is the role of the judiciary in ensuring climate justice?

Citizens in other jurisdictions have commenced action against their governments for failing to take timely action in the face of climate change.  There is also now a movement to bring the issue of climate change before the International Courtof Justice to seek an advisory opinion on the obligations of states to prevent the harmful consequences of anthropogenic climate change; a call for “Climate Justice”. This is particularly important for small island states (this includes Singapore) and for future generations. 

Who are the speakers who have come a long way for this conference, and why can't they be missed?

Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle

Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle

On the first day, we have Dr Sylvia Earle, world renowned oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence.  At the EIA workshop and on 10th November, we have some of the world’s most prominent environmental lawyers speaking. They include Prof Nicholas Robinson and Dr. Parvez Hassan, both former Chairs of the IUCN Commission of Environmental Law. Prof Robinson founded the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law and he will speak on three different topics including the governance of peat-lands. 

Chief Justice Brian Preston

Chief Justice Brian Preston

Other prominent speakers include Chief Justice Brian Preston, Land & Environment Court, New South Wales; Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of Pakistan, Dr. Mas Achmad Santosa, founder of the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law who will speak on the enhancement of governance for forest and peat-lands in Indonesia; leading expert on environmental economics, Prof Matthias Ruth on "The Future of Environmental Policies & Economics”; and Prof Kenneth Richards on “The Future of Business and the Environment” former Musim Mas Chair in Sustainability, NUS Business School.

From NUS we have Prof Chou Loke Ming, a world renowned expert on coral reefs and an engineer, Assoc. Prof Sekhar Kondepudi, Director of the MEM programme who will speak on “The Future of Cities - Smart and Sustainable Cities”.

Registration to the Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals 2016 conference in Singapore is still open, so do sign up today at.  

Conference Details

Conference on Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals – Environmental Law, Policy & Management

9-11 November 2016, 8:30am to 6:00pm

Website: Registration and payment details:

Speaker details:

Program schedule:

Venue:Shaw Foundation Alumni House Auditorium, National University of Singapore, 11 Kent Ridge Drive, Singapore 119244

About UN SDGs

In an effort to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, world leaders adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN Summit in September 2015. Although not legally binding, within the action period of fifteen years, governments are expected to take ownership and establish frameworks for implementation of SDGs. Know more about UN SDGs at