Keynote Address by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Second Minister for Finance and National Development Indranee Rajah at the World Cities Summit 2022 Closing Plenary
Ladies and Gentlemen
A big thank you to all the panellists and everyone here for joining us today at the World Cities Summit (WCS) plenary session on “Combating the Climate Crisis”.
Cities at the Heart of Climate Change
Addressing the climate crisis has become a critical priority for cities worldwide. Cities are at the heart of the climate crisis. With their density and concentrated activities, they generate over 70% of the global greenhouse gas emissions and are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Cities the Key to Climate Solutions
On the flipside, however, cities also hold the keys to a sustainable future. Cities have the resources and capabilities to bring about a positive change to the environment. Cities already have the mandate and opportunity to protect and restore communities and ecosystems that will be impacted by climate change. Urban development need not come at the cost of environmental sustainability, if it is thoughtfully and deliberately planned. Coordination across city and national leaders, as well as between the public and private sectors, can result in the implementation of impactful strategies and products to fight climate change. COP-26 highlighted the need for these multi-sectoral partnerships, not just locally, but globally as well.
Over the past few days we have held many different dialogues and discussions at the World Cities Summit, and I am very heartened to hear of all the concrete steps that cities and companies are taking in this fight. It is essential that we all do our part, demonstrate climate leadership and set good examples for other cities to follow.
World Cities Summit Knowledge Councils
In this spirit, I am pleased to announce the formation of our inaugural “World Cities Summit Knowledge Councils”, whose members will meet later this afternoon. The two Councils, focusing on the Science of Cities and Urban Resilience respectively, bring together some of the world’s foremost thought leaders on these topics to identify innovative and actionable ideas to shape liveable, sustainable and resilient cities. The Knowledge Councils will guide and support the Centre for Liveable Cities’ (CLC’s) research and the future agendas for the World Cities Summit.
Cooperation between Cities Crucial
Many cities around the world have set ambitious sustainability goals and have made net zero commitments. These are often accompanied with detailed plans consisting of clear targets and timelines set by the cities.
It is certainly encouraging to see so many cities tackle climate change head on. Even though the circumstances behind these cities may be different, each demonstrate an admirable commitment to sustainability and net zero emissions.
For example: in the Glasgow Climate Plan announced last year, Glasgow set a target of net zero emissions by 2030. The plan laid out Glasgow’s commitment to action within five main themes, covering not just sustainability but also social equity concerns. This includes adopting a Community Wealth building approach to support local businesses and communities to create a fairer local economy.
Hong Kong also declared a target of net zero emissions by 2050 in the Hong Kong Climate Action Plan, which was also announced in 2021. With carbon emissions already peaked in 2014, the Hong Kong Climate Action Plan focuses more on developing renewable energy, managing energy demand in the built environment, decarbonising their transport sector, and transforming their waste management systems.
Singapore too has set our own sustainability goals. Last year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 to catalyse a nationwide sustainability movement. The comprehensive plan charts ambitious and tangible targets over the next 10 years. We want to strengthen Singapore’s economic, climate and resource resilience, improve the living environment of Singaporeans, and generate new business and job opportunities as part of green growth.
It will require a multi-stakeholder whole-of-nation effort for Singapore to achieve our sustainability goals. This will be enabled by a Green Government, with the public sector leading in environmental sustainability; and Green Citizenry, where individuals, communities and businesses play their part.
Every city faces its own set of challenges in the quest to achieve net zero emissions. Singapore is no exception. However, unlike most cities, we are in a unique situation of being both a city and a country. We do not have the luxury of a hinterland or surrounding areas over which to expand. We have to provide for everything – defence, industries, homes and critical infrastructure – all within our 728 square kilometres of land. Relative to others, it’s rather like having to fit everything onto the head of a pin. We also do not have the natural resources, land area or the climatic conditions for the large-scale deployment of renewable energy sources. All these make it difficult for Singapore to achieve net zero emissions in the same way that cities in larger countries do.
The constraints we face make it clear that it is crucial for cities to work together to collectively achieve net zero emissions. By collaborating, cities can achieve much greater environmental and economic benefits together than they can do alone.
For example, Singapore’s main option for tapping renewable energy is solar energy, but it has its limitations, due to intermittency issues and need for space to deploy. One way to incorporate more renewable energy is through partnership with our neighbours and developing regional grids, that will allow us to tap on clean energy from other countries. Our Energy Market Authority has initiated cross-border hydropower trade of up to 100 Megawatts (MW) under the Lao PDR-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project.
Singapore, in turn, has become a living lab to test bed such collaborative efforts, from which other cities around the world facing similar challenges, can glean ideas. After several years of R&D and test-bedding the use of solar energy, we have built large floating solar farms at Tengeh reservoir and the Straits of Johor. Building floating solar farms has helped us capitalise on the large surface areas of water bodies and allow for solar deployment to be scaled up.
Last year, energy firm Sunseap Group announced that they will build the world’s largest floating solar farm and power storage system on the Indonesian island of Batam. It will help to reduce the carbon footprint of Batam’s industries, as well as create jobs and transfer skills to Batam’s clean energy sector.
COP-26 has advanced the multi-lateral approach in addressing climate change. I hope the World Cities Summit will continue to be a key platform for leaders and experts from all around the world to explore such collaboration in the future.
Net Zero need not be Zero Sum
While it can be challenging to meet the needs of citizens, and at the same time minimise harm to the environment, achieving net zero need not be a zero sum game. As far as possible, we should try to find systems-wide solutions that maximise synergies between both needs.
For example, there is growing interest by cities to use Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to address a host of urban challenges. These are solutions at the ecosystemlevel that bring about benefits to both human well-being and biodiversity.
Chulalongkorn Centenary Park in Bangkok is the first critical piece of green infrastructure for the city, designed to mitigate detrimental ecological issues. Its green roof is the largest in the country, and the park’s filtration system treats water from neighbouring areas. It has become a showcase for ecological and social impacts of landscape architecture in dense urban areas.
At Sanya Mangrove Park in Hainan, China, previously damaged by tourism development, designers have shaped the land to form “interlocking fingers” that channel sea tides into the park while reducing the impact of strong storm currents that can be damaging to the mangrove.
Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC) and National Parks Board (NParks) have put together a book on the important principles and enablers for Naturebased Solutions. These insights were distilled from best practices shared by experts and stakeholders from here and around the world. This book will be launched today. We hope you find this book helpful when planning for your respective Nature-based Solutions projects.
Some cities have also planned and developed integrated projects. These projects typically allow for improved efficiencies in terms of space and energy use.
CopenHill is a Waste-to-Energy plant located on an industrial waterfront in Copenhagen, Denmark that is capable of converting 440,000 tons of waste into clean energy annually. It is built together with an artificial ski slope that visitors can use allyear round.
In Singapore, Tuas Nexus integrates the Tuas Water Reclamation Plant (Tuas WRP) and the Integrated Waste Management Facility (IWMF), and is planned to meet Singapore’s long-term solid waste management and used water treatment needs. Integrating both facilities will result in carbon savings of more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, and land savings of up to 2.6 hectares.
We also want to encourage our citizens to adopt a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and ease them into this green transition.
So, Singapore is continuing to invest heavily in public transportation. Our MRT network will grow from 230 km today to 360 km by the early 2030s, and we aim to raise the share of public transport trips up to 75% by 2030.
Likewise, we will expand our cycling network to around 1,320km by 2030 to promote more walking, cycling and active mobility.
To support a switch to electric vehicles (EVs), Singapore will retrofit and develop 8 public housing towns to be EV-ready with electric chargers at all public housing carparks in these towns by 2025. From about 2,000 charging points today, we will have 60,000 charging points nationwide by 2030.
There are many challenges ahead. But we must not only not give up the good fight; we must also win it. In this, I am heartened by the attendance at this WCS which shows the depth and commitment to addressing these existential issues.
I look forward to hearing from the panel and hope that the discussions at this WCS will bear fruit and catalyse many collaborations and solutions that will help to achieve the sustainable and resilient cities that are the key to our survival.