Welcome Address by the National Environment Agency (NEA) Chief Executive Officer Andrew Tan at the Memorandum of Understanding Between UK Office and NEA and Regional Climate Workshop on Modelling Climate and Variability in Southeast Asia
Mr Desmond Kuek,
Permanent Secretary (MEWR)
Ms Amanda Brooks,
Acting British High Commissioner
Mr John Hirst,
Chief Executive UK Met Office
Distinguished Guests and Participants
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the UK Met Office and the National Environment Agency (NEA). The Memorandum of Understanding sets the framework for collaboration between the UK Met Office Hadley Centre and NEA’s Meteorological Services to promote climate science and related research in Singapore and the region.
Impacts of Climate Change
A strong capability in climate science is essential to produce robust projections of future climate. These projections are fundamental in the formulation of a nation’s climate resilience strategy. Climate experts have generally concurred that the rising trend of extreme weather events observed in many regions of the world, including Southeast Asia, can be partly attributed to climate change effects.
Indeed, a recent study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with the support of the UK Government titled ‘The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia’ observed that climate change is already affecting Southeast Asia, with rising temperatures, decreasing rainfall, rising sea levels and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather patterns. This has led to torrential rains and associated flooding, droughts and high waves.
Just two months ago, unseasonal heavy rains swept the southern parts of Thailand and north eastern coastal areas of Peninsular Malaysia. Several studies have identified Southeast Asia as one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change. The impacts of climate change are particularly significant for most countries in this region, as these are the places where mega-cities reside and where coastal areas are densely populated, some of which rely heavily on agriculture.
In Singapore, the trends for our local temperature records are consistent with the global observations of climate change. Other factors such as urbanisation may also have played a part in influencing our temperature trends. Since the 1970s, Singapore has experienced an average warming rate of 0.25 deg Celsius per decade. In the Singapore Straits, the tide gauge data shows that the mean sea level has increased by about 3 mm per year over the last 15 to 17 years. Although our long-term historical rainfall has not shown any discernable trend, we have observed a slight uptrend in the frequency of heavy rain in recent decades.
Singapore Climate Vulnerability Study
An understanding of how Singapore might be affected by climate change in the future is important to guide our public agencies in their planning to safeguard Singapore against the impacts of climate change. For example, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) uses the climate information to review the parameters for drainage design and land reclamation levels, while the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) uses this information to develop measures to protect our coastal areas at risk of inundation. The information is also used by agencies such as MOH and NEA to establish the correlation between climate variables and disease incidence such as dengue, heat disorder and respiratory disease.
To this end, NEA initiated the first nationwide climate vulnerability study in 2007 to look into the long-term effects and impacts of climate change on Singapore’s coastal areas, urban climate and water resources. Given the many uncertainties, the study will be continually updated in tandem with better understanding of climate science and future improvements of global and regional climate models, taking into account not only the response of the earth system to changes in radiative forcings, but also how mankind responds through changes in technology, economies, lifestyle and policy.
Partnering a Leading Climate Centre
To build up our long term capability in understanding climate change, we are collaborating with the UK Met Office Hadley Centre to enhance MSD’s climate science capability to produce reliable long-term climate projections for Singapore, as well as the region. The Hadley Centre is internationally recognised as one of the leading centres for climate prediction and related research as well as a chief contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports. We are pleased to secure the expertise of the Hadley Centre to augment the development of our climate science capability.
The MOU provides for a three-year collaboration involving the joint development and implementation of climate models, research on the tropical climate and weather systems affecting Singapore and the region, and the exchange of scientists from both organisations to transfer knowledge and skills. Singapore will benefit from using the new PRECIS (Providing Regional Climates for Impact Studies) model, which supports an improved resolution of about 12 km. I understand we are among the first in region to use the improved model, aside from Europe and Korea.
The signing of this MOU also signifies the commitment of NEA and the UK Met Office to advance the scientific understanding of the climate of Southeast Asia, including better prediction of the El Nino and La Nina phenomena, the monsoons and tropical convective systems, all of which have an important bearing on the weather and climate of Singapore and the region, as well as the global climate system.
Centre for Climate Science
The collaboration with the UK Met Office is a significant step forward for NEA as it builds up its climate change research capability by partnering other leading centres in the world. As part of this move, NEA’s Meteorological Services will be expanding its current programme on climate change and establishing a centre for climate science to spearhead the research into the local and regional effects of climate change. More details will be announced when ready. To reflect its wider mandate, the Meteorological Services of NEA will also be renamed the Singapore Meteorological Service (SMS) in line with its enhanced role as the national weather and climate authority.
The Singapore Meteorological Service will also be strengthening its local partnerships with our universities and research institutes. As a first step, we will create a Climate Science Experts Network to catalyse climate research activity. This will go a long way in developing a strong and sustainable climate science capability in Singapore. The Experts Network, to be launched in the next few months, will create opportunities for collaboration among local academia, the public agencies, and other climate centres.
Regional Climate Workshop
Climate change knows no boundaries. On the regional front, the complexity of our climate systems and the challenges in predicting future climate highlight the importance for countries in our region to work together through sharing of data and modelling expertise. For this reason, we will kick-start the MOU with a three-day Regional Climate Workshop on Modelling Climate Change and Variability in Southeast Asia, which will be held right after this ceremony. NEA is pleased to sponsor this workshop, which we have organised with the Hadley Centre. At this juncture, let me extend a warm welcome to the workshop participants from the national meteorological agencies of all the ASEAN member countries who are present here.
The objective of the workshop is to help enhance the capability of the ASEAN countries to conduct modelling studies on the effects of climate change. We also hope that the workshop will act as a catalyst for the meteorological agencies in the region to work towards a joint study to predict the effects of climate change in Southeast Asia. Such a study can potentially benefit many users. For example, the region’s environmental and forestry agencies can use the results of the study to assess the likelihood of more frequent severe droughts which may lead to serious outbreaks of fires and smoke haze in the region. The study would also underscore the spirit of ASEAN cooperation. On this note, I wish the participants a fruitful workshop and an enjoyable stay here in Singapore.
I would also like to express my appreciation to Mr John Hirst for coming to Singapore for the MOU signing despite his busy schedule. We look forward to a robust partnership between our two organisations, building on our extensive and longstanding scientific and research ties with the British Government. I am confident our collaboration with the UK Met Office will be a fruitful one.
Source: National Environment Agency