Speech by Mr Tan Kok Yam, Smart Nation and Digital Government, and Strategy Group, Prime Minister’s Office at the TedxTiESG Countdown 2020
CHARTING SINGAPORE’S LOW-CARBON AND CLIMATE-RESILIENT FUTURE
Good morning. I am Kok Yam, and I am part of the National Climate Change Secretariat, in the Prime Minister’s Office. Here, we coordinate Singapore’s climate change policies and implementation efforts.
We are pleased to be part of the TEDxTiE Singapore’s “Countdown” initiative, to mobilise all stakeholders to join the global race towards a zero-carbon world.
Behind me is a floating solar PV system deployed in a lake at the Singapore Discovery Centre. This system has been powering a part of the centre’s electricity demand since last month. Since 2016, we have been deploying such floating solar PVs like these at our reservoirs.
Of course, we are not just interested in panels that can float. We have taken advantage of our public housing system to deploy solar in housing estates across the country; and in the coming years, we will be working on panels on vertical building facades. We also plan to deploy one of the world’s largest offshore solar panel system. These efforts will contribute to our solar deployment goal of at least 2 gigawatt-peak by 2030.
These are all methods and solutions that help us to contribute to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future as a small island state occupying 720 square kilometres.
We have high urban density, relatively flat terrain, low wind speeds, lack of geothermal resources and competing uses for land. In short, we are alternative energy constrained, and we need to work and think just that little bit harder to be carbon-efficient, resource-efficient, and sustainable.
What does that mean?
First, we have to push boundaries on all fronts, working on all our main sectors. In the power sector, we are decarbonising the grid. Besides solar, we want to diversify our gas sources and improve the efficiency of natural gas turbines for power generation.
In the industry sector, we work with our industries through various schemes to strive to be best-in-class in carbon and energy efficiency, by aiming to increase industry energy efficiency by 1 to 2% each year.
In the transport sector, we have capped our private vehicle growth rate to zero since 2018. We will phase out internal combustion engine vehicles and will have all vehicles running on cleaner energy by 2040. But the most sustainable mode of transport is still public transport. We aim for nine in 10 peak period journeys to be completed by public, active and shared transport by 2040. This is among the highest in the world.
To complement these efforts, we are also the first country in this region to implement a carbon tax. This sends an economy-wide price signal to encourage emissions reductions and adoption of low-carbon technologies. Second, we need to rely on science & tech, and innovations in the urban space, to give us the quantum leap in mitigation. Over the years, we have made steady, long term investments in R&D to tackle Singapore’s resource challenges, including carbon.
These efforts include increasing the efficiency of solar deployment in Singapore, as well as novel solutions to reduce the cost of emerging technologies. Such technologies include low carbon hydrogen as an alternative energy carrier. And Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage or CCUS. This is where we capture carbon dioxide for underground storage or convert it into useful products such as construction materials and fuels.
Hopefully, some of these efforts will come to fruition in the coming years to help us achieve deeper emissions reductions.
Third, we need to work hand-in-hand with the industry and the public; it has to be a whole-of-nation effort.
We are partnering industry to implement test-beds and boost local capabilities. We are also developing technical standards to safely deploy and bootstrap Energy Storage Solutions, or ESS, to help manage solar intermittency and maintain grid stability and reliability in the hot and humid climate we have here.
Our industry and academia are helping us co-develop the Super Low Energy Buildings Programme. This is to spur the deployment of energy-efficient and renewable energy solutions for buildings in the tropics, for example, by encouraging building designs that utilise passive cooling.
We are driving community outreach efforts to promote sustainable waste management and waste reduction. We have a “Say YES to Waste Less” Campaign. Our educators promote environmental stewardship values in students through the school curriculum.
Fourth, we work with other countries, as this is a shared problem, and we are not in this alone. This is across a wide range of issues.
Internationally, we are collaborating with others to shape robust rules and norms for trading of carbon credits that support environmental integrity.
Regionally, we have come together with fellow ASEAN countries to develop the ASEAN Green Bond Standards, to facilitate green financing in the region.
Bilaterally, we want to work towards importing electricity through bilateral power trading arrangements and regional power grids, which will allow us to tap on renewable energy options otherwise unavailable in Singapore.
I mentioned carbon capture. As we have no suitable geological formations for permanent underground storage of carbon dioxide, we will explore partnerships with companies and other countries, to leverage carbon dioxide storage opportunities overseas.
To conclude, there is no silver bullet solution for us. We have to strive on all fronts, push the boundaries of technology and innovation, and rely on all stakeholders – individuals, small business owners, and corporates, and like-minded international partners – to co-create solutions, open up possibilities to enable our transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.
Hopefully, part of what Singapore does for ourselves can contribute to the larger discussion on how cities and countries might overcome similar challenges.
And of course, we very much also want to learn from what others do, too. While each of us face unique circumstances, the problem we face is a common one.
The road to a zero-carbon future will be challenging.
But we believe that by working together and being open to each other’s ideas and innovations, we will not only overcome this challenge but also seize the opportunities, for green growth, and for innovation.