Like many countries around the world, Singapore is experiencing the effects of climate change.
In recent years, Singapore has seen bouts of high temperatures, intense thunderstorms leading to flash floods, dry spells, and the threat of rising sea levels. These can cause significant damage to homes, businesses and livelihoods globally.
As a low-lying, densely-populated tropical island city-state, we are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and variability.
Here are some examples of how Singapore is experiencing the effects of climate change.
Our commitment towards a green environment started in the 1960s, even before the spectre of climate change reared its head. Indeed, this commitment is driven by the immutable fact that we are resource-limited. We have little land, energy or water, and we only have this little place to make a living and to call home. We need to make the most of what we have, and minimise what we need to rely on others for.
– Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean
Singapore’s National Circumstances
Singapore is an island city-state of only 719km in size.
Our small size, urban density, low wind speeds, relatively flat land, and lack of geothermal resources present serious difficulties in pursuing alternative energy options such as nuclear, hydro-electric, wind, or geothermal power.
Our limited land resources also make it challenging to deploy solar power on a large scale.
In Singapore, the most significant greenhouse gas emitted is carbon dioxide, primarily produced by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and gas to meet our energy needs in the industry, buildings, household, and transport sectors.
Further, our energy demand is expected to grow in the future due to an expanding economy and a growing population. Much of this growing energy demand can be avoided if we use energy more efficiently, instead of increasing energy production.
Transforming our economy towards a low carbon future
By reducing our CO2 emissions and making use of innovative low-carbon solutions, Singapore can contribute to international efforts to address climate change.
We made early policy choices that reduced our GHG emissions, for example by switching from fuel oil to natural gas – the cleanest form of fossil fuel – for power generation.
Today, about 95 per cent of our electricity is generated from natural gas. We also price energy at market cost, without any subsidy, so that households and businesses will use energy judiciously.
Climate Action through Mitigation
Here are the other actions that Singapore has taken to contribute to efforts to mitigate our GHG emissions:
Singapore is the first in Southeast Asia to introduce an economy-wide carbon tax at S$5/tonne CO2e (approximately US$3.70), with no exemptions. This rate will be reviewed by 2023, with the intention to increase it to between S$10 and S$15/tonne CO2e by 2030.
Pricing will encourage companies to evaluate opportunities to switch to more energy efficient technologies and more sustainable processes.
The carbon tax will apply to larger direct emitters – companies emitting 25 kilo-tonnes or more of GHG emissions a year. Around 40 companies which account for about 80% of Singapore’s GHG emissions will be affected.
The industry sector accounts for more than half of Singapore’s greenhouse gas emissions. The implementation of energy efficiency projects and good energy management practices not only saves energy, it can also reduce costs for companies.
The Energy Conservation Act has put in place enhanced requirements for large industrial energy users to measure and evaluate their energy performance.
We are targeting for the industry to achieve an energy efficiency improvement rate of 1 to 2% per annum – a rate achieved by leading countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands over the past 10 years.
To assist companies transit to a low-carbon economy, we will use revenue from our carbon tax to provide grants and incentives to help businesses reduce their emissions and become more energy and carbon efficient.
In Singapore, solar energy is the most promising renewable energy option.
We are exploring innovative modes of tapping on solar power such as floating solar farms. PUB and EDB are supporting innovative floating solar PV projects at Tengeh Reservoir and offshore off Woodlands respectively. These projects will be one of the world’s largest floating inland and offshore solar PV systems when completed.
We aim to reach 350 megawatt-peak (MWp) by 2020 and 1 gigawatt-peak (GWp) beyond 2020, which is approximately 5% of our peak electricity demand today.
Greening our transport
Promoting sustainable transport and managing vehicular emissions will also help reduce C02. We promote cleaner vehicles through emissions standards and encourage the early replacement of older and more pollutive vehicles, such as through the Early Turnover Scheme. More than 40,000 commercial diesel vehicles have switched to cleaner vehicles under this scheme.
We are working towards 9 in 10 of all peak period journeys to be made on “walk, cycle and ride” transport modes, where “ride” refers to public and shared transport, by 2040. We are also developing the infrastructure for more electric cars, buses and taxis.
We are committed to having 100% cleaner energy public bus fleets (e.g. electric or hybrid) by 2040. Our taxi companies have also committed to 100% cleaner energy vehicles by 2040.
Since Feb 2018, Singapore has also frozen the growth of our car population as we steer Singapore towards becoming a car-lite society.
We are on track to having at least 80% of our buildings (by floor area) achieve Green buildings standards by 2030. We will develop new standards to promote super-low energy, zero-energy, and positive energy buildings to push the boundaries for energy efficiency for buildings in Singapore.
We are striving to harness resource synergies and reduce the carbon footprint in our public infrastructure. We are building a used water and waste treatment plant called Tuas Nexus by 2025, which can integrate water reclamation and waste-to-energy incineration in a single facility, and reduce the amount of energy required in the used water treatment process. This can help us cut down carbon emissions by more than 200,000 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking more than 42,500 cars off the road.
We are working with partners in the public, private and people sectors to move Singapore towards more sustainable production and consumption. This will include the adoption of a circular economy approach to reuse our resources for as long as possible. This will reduce our environmental footprint and strength our resource resilience.
As a small low-lying island-state, we need to take the impact of climate change very seriously, and invest in resilient infrastructure to safeguard ourselves, our future.
Protecting our coasts from sea level rise
As an island-state and a major port city, Singapore is defined by our coasts. To protect these areas, we have strengthened our defences against coastal erosion and flooding. Today, over 70 per cent of Singapore’s coastline is protected with hard structures such as seawalls and rock slopes.
We are also making plans for coastal defences to better protect our coastal areas, starting with the more critical segments, in particular, City-East Coast and also Jurong Island.
PUB has planned to build a second pump house on the opposite end of the Marina Barrage to pump water out of Marina Reservoir into the sea. When rain falls in the city area, the water can then drain into Marina Reservoir.
Pump room at Marina Barrage
Photo Credit: Ministry of Communications and Information
For the eastern coastline, some of the options we are considering include the building of polders (which is land reclaimed from the sea) or reclaiming a series of islands offshore, from Marina East all the way to Changi.
These are major investments that we intend to make, to safeguard our future as the effects of sea level rise are felt in the coming decades.
Safeguarding Key Infrastructure
Since 2011, we have raised minimum reclamation levels for newly reclaimed lands to at least four metres above the mean sea level, up from three metres previously. Roads near coastal areas, including a stretch of Changi Coast Road and Nicoll Drive, have also been raised to protect them from rising sea levels.
We have also raised the minimum platform levels for new developments and are building critical future developments such as the Changi Airport Terminal 5 and Tuas Terminal mega port at higher platform levels – at least five metres above mean sea level.
Climate change could also affect our underground MRT stations as they will be susceptible to flooding during intense rainfalls. To protect our commuters and rail infrastructure, we have built MRT stations with elevated entrances or installed flood barriers.
Enhancing flood resilience
Since 2011, Singapore has spent $1.8 billion on drainage improvement works to boost our flood resilience. This includes the Stamford Diversion Canal and Stamford Detention Tank completed last year, which significantly enhance the flood protection of the Orchard Road areas. In the next two years, another $400 million will go towards upgrading and maintaining our drains.
Strengthening our resource resilience and security
We have invested in research and development, water infrastructures, and diversified Singapore’s water supply to include weather-resilient sources such as NEWater and desalinated water.
To make our food supply more resilient, we are pursuing three strategies, also known as our three “food baskets”:
Diversify import sources;
Grow local; and
By 2030, we plan to meet 30% of our nutritional needs with food produced in Singapore.
Investing in research to guide adaptation planning
The Centre for Climate Research Singapore will launch a S$10 million National Sea Level Research Programme over the next five years to develop more robust projections of sea level rise. A new Climate Science Research Programme Office will also be set up to formulate, lead and drive efforts to build up climate science capabilities in Singapore.
Protecting Biodiversity and Greenery
Our trees are an essential part of Singapore’s landscape. But some trees are especially tall and certain species are fragile. This makes them likely to fall or be uprooted in strong gales or periods of heavy rain.
To ensure that our trees are in good health and resilient to climate change, the National Parks Board (NParks) inspects trees along major roads and areas with high human activity at least once a year. If needed, trees are pruned to reduce the size and weight of their crowns so they can better withstand strong winds. Storm-vulnerable trees have also been replaced with hardier species. NParks also studies tree uprooting to better diagnose its causes.
To protect Singapore’s marine biodiversity, NParks established Singapore’s first marine park at the Sisters’ Islands in 2014. The marine park is an ecosystem inhabited by rare and endangered marine animals. Other measures to protect Singapore’s biodiversity include restoring mangrove areas in Singapore.
Protecting Public Health
Climate change also poses threats to our health. For example, changes in the weather pattern, such as temperature increase, could create prime conditions for mosquitoes to breed and viruses to replicate faster, leading to an increase in the infective vector population and transmission of dengue. We have already seen similar trends in late 2015, when there was a spike in dengue cases partly due to weather changes caused by the El Niño.
Currently, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has in place a nation-wide programme to fight dengue – but we will need to do more as we prepare for harsher conditions in the future. While innovative solutions such as Wolbachia technology could help to suppress the mosquito population, sustained efforts by the community to eradicate mosquito breeding habitats remain key to preventing dengue.
Enhancing our Built Environment
It is essential for the buildings we live and work in to be protected from the effects of climate change. Analyses so far have indicated that the structural integrity of buildings in Singapore will not be affected by the projected changes in temperature, rainfall, and wind speeds as long as the buildings adhere to building codes and are properly maintained. As many buildings in Singapore are constructed and maintained by private developers and owners, the private sector plays an indispensable role in helping us keep our buildings safe. BCA and the Housing & Development Board (HDB) are conducting additional studies to further understand the potential effects of higher temperatures, rainfall, and wind speeds on buildings and building attachments, to recommend adaptation measures to enhance the resilience of our buildings.
The Green Mark Scheme is the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) green building rating system, tailored for the tropics and sub-tropics. It evaluates and sets benchmarks for environmental sustainability in buildings. To enhance current efforts to green existing buildings, BCA and Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) have collaborated to develop the Zero Capital Partnership scheme, which provides a “zero capital” solution for building owners to carry out energy efficiency retrofits for buildings. These efforts will contribute to Singapore’s aim of making 80 per cent of all buildings green by 2030.