Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the Committee of Supply Debate on 8 March 2022 (Joint Segment)

Mar 8, 2022


1. I will first give an update on our work to make our city more sustainable and how this will support our transition to a low-carbon economy, and create opportunities for our firms and workers.

2. Second, I will report on our progress to transform Singapore into a City in Nature.

3. And, third, set out how we will strengthen our research and development (R&D), to find innovative ways to improve our urban sustainability.

Energy Reset – Towards a Greener and More Sustainable Built Environment

4. Let’s start with how we are making our built environment and our city more sustainable.

5. Our buildings contribute more than 20% of Singapore’s carbon emissions, so the work to green our buildings is very important. As we do this, we also want to create growth opportunities for our companies and our workers in our built environment sector.

6. Last year, we launched the latest edition of the Singapore Green Building Masterplan (SGBMP).

7. We set three targets, or “80-80-80 in 2030”, to push further in greening our buildings. We have moved decisively to meet these targets over the past year. Let me share some updates on our progress, and our plans to support the industry in this green transition, which Members like Ms Cheryl Chan, Mr Xie Yao Quan and Prof Koh Lian Pin have asked about.

8. Our first target is to green 80% of buildings by Gross Floor Area (GFA) by 2030. To date, we have greened more than 49% of our buildings. So, we are well on our way to meeting our target. But we need to do more, to sustain our momentum and push ahead.

9. Last December, we raised the minimum energy performance requirements that both new buildings, as well as existing buildings undergoing major retrofitting, must now meet.

10. We have also worked with our industry to revise the Green Mark scheme. We set higher energy efficiency standards, and increased our emphasis on other sustainability outcomes too, such as reducing carbon emissions across a building's lifecycle. This will help ensure that Singapore’s Green Mark remains one of the world's leading green building certifications, and the go-to standard in the tropics.

11. So we’ve raised both our minimum environmental sustainability requirements, as well as our standards at the higher end, for Green Mark.

12. In particular, we want to encourage owners of older buildings to retrofit them to be more energy efficient – because this tends to be less resource- and carbon-intensive, than demolishing them and constructing new ones. I will share more at MND COS.

13. Our second target is for 80% of new developments to be Super Low Energy (SLE) buildings from 2030. These are buildings that achieve energy savings of over 60% as compared to 2005 levels, when we started our journey to green our buildings. Over the past year, we have certified close to 7% of new buildings (by GFA) as SLE buildings. This is a modest but promising start, as we bring SLE developments into the mainstream.

14. The Government is taking the lead to make more buildings SLE buildings. Under GreenGov.SG, we have raised our energy performance requirements for public sector buildings. All new public sector buildings, and existing ones undergoing major retrofitting, must now meet Green Mark Platinum SLE standards.

15. We are encouraging developers to pursue SLE standards too. In November last year, we started an incentive scheme that will give developers of private projects bonus GFA, if they meet Green Mark Platinum SLE standards, and other requirements. We will also require higher environmental standards from developers, for the new Government Land Sales (GLS) sites that we launch from 2Q 2022.

16. If we want to achieve these ambitious targets, we must ensure that our firms and workers have the capability to design, build and maintain SLE buildings. We have been building up a core of talents to support our sustainability efforts, as Mr Cheng Hsing Yao has mentioned. As of September last year, we have worked with our partners to train more than 22,000 green professionals. We will work with training providers so that their courses cover the latest developments in sustainability. Through collaborative platforms like the Super Low Energy Building Smart Hub, we will also facilitate the sharing of new energy efficient technologies. We hope that our firms and our professionals will make good use of these resources to upgrade their skills. We will share more on our plans to attract and upskill talents at MND COS.

17. This brings me to our third target, which is to achieve 80% improvement in energy efficiency, compared to 2005 levels, for our best-in-class buildings by 2030. Currently, we have achieved 65-70% improvement, so we have some way to go.

18. To help us with this important effort, we have a programme under what we call the Green Buildings Innovation Cluster (GBIC). This supports the research, prototyping, and demonstration of our green building technologies, and encourages companies to adopt these solutions. Let me give you an example. The SMU Connexion building uses a Passive Displacement Cooling system, which makes use of convectional currents to circulate cool air throughout most of the building. This new technology can achieve energy savings of up to 40% over conventional air-conditioning systems. It is one of several technologies that enable the building to achieve Zero Energy standards, which means that its entire energy consumption is offset by renewable energy generated on-site.

19. To further push the boundaries of energy efficiency, we will enhance funding for GBIC by a further $45mil. Under GBIC 2.0, we want to target key demand drivers, such as building owners and developers, as well as their value chains, to jointly develop innovative solutions. These include energy-efficient cooling technologies, smart building systems and enhanced building ventilation. We will accelerate the commercialisation of these solutions through industry partnerships and help grow the local ecosystem of firms with green building expertise.

20. This way, our companies can compete better in serving the growing global demand for sustainable urban solutions and take the lead to drive sustainable development across the Asia-Pacific, home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world.

21. Beyond individual buildings, Members have asked how we will make our HDB towns more sustainable. We will do this by tapping on new technologies and smart infrastructure solutions, under our HDB Green Towns Programme. This will complement the various initiatives that MSE is piloting in their Eco Towns. For example, for new HDB flats, we are using green technologies such as smart lighting for common areas, as well as rainwater harvesting systems, to reduce energy consumption and the use of potable water.

22. Ms Hany Soh asked whether we use green construction methods for our HDB Home Improvement Programme (HIP) upgrading work. We require all builders for our HIP projects to come under the Green & Gracious Builders Scheme, which sets standards to mitigate the environmental impact of construction works.HDB also adopts other green construction practices, such as re-using metal hoardings for future projects.

23. We have also been installing solar panels on top of our existing HDB blocks, to power common services such as lifts and lighting. Mr Abdul Samad asked how we are progressing with these plans. We have done this for more than 2,700 blocks already, more than a quarter of the over 10,000 HDB blocks we have in Singapore today. And we will strive to install solar panels on as many HDB blocks as possible. By 2030, we target to have a solar capacity of 540 MWp, equivalent to powering 135,000 4-room flats.

24. Beyond this, we are also exploring how to make good use of our limited space, to enhance Singapore’s food security. Ms Poh Li San and Mr Don Wee asked how we can support more urban farms on the rooftops of multi-storey carparks, or MSCPs. Since 2020, HDB and SFA have launched tenders for 16 sites on MSCPs for food production. Although the expected production volume is not very large, it will contribute to our “30 by 30” food production goal. We will be evaluating the outcomes of this programme first, before we decide on future plans.

25. Next, we are piloting some new initiatives in our HDB estates to encourage residents to live more sustainably. For instance, we will introduce e-waste recycling bins in our HDB estates, to make recycling more convenient. This will also support our Green Plan efforts to help Singaporeans recycle more, and recycle right – as Minister Grace Fu had shared with us earlier.

26. We are also exploring the use of Light Emitting Surfaces (LES) for signages in our housing estates. LES is a new technology that can potentially reduce about 80% of energy consumption compared to standard fluorescent block signages.

27. We hope that these initiatives will enable our residents to lead more sustainable lifestyles and leave a lower carbon footprint.

28. To finance the building of green and sustainable homes, HDB has also developed a Green Finance Framework. New HDB projects that seek to achieve BCA’s Green Mark GoldPlus certification or above, can now be financed or re-financed with green bonds or loans under this framework. This will support HDB, as it seeks to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption in our projects. HDB’s Green Finance Framework will also contribute to our Whole-of-Government effort to further develop the green bond market in Singapore.

City in Nature – Enhancing and Extending our Natural Capital

29. Let me now update Members on our work to transform Singapore into a City in Nature.

30. Ms Nadia Samdin asked how we balance conservation and development. I will give a fuller update on our approach at MND COS later. But let me briefly share some of the progress we have made.

31. First, we have restored and enhanced several core habitats throughout our island. These comprise over 12ha of forest, marine and coastal habitats in Singapore, which are key ecosystems and important homes for native biodiversity. Last year, we expanded the Species Recovery Programme, from 94 to 120 species. By 2030, we will increase this to 160 species. We have seen some early successes. Our latest studies have shown that many of our native flora and fauna species have become less threatened over time – such as the Smooth-coated Otter and the Lesser Mousedeer.

32. Second, beyond our core habitats, we have greened other parts of our city more intensively. We have established more nature parks, especially at the fringe of our core biodiversity areas, as ecological buffers. Over the past two years, we announced new nature parks such as the Khatib Bongsu Nature Park – a rich mangrove and mudflat habitat – and the Rifle Range Nature Park, a key buffer for our Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Last year, we also added new parks at Bukit Gombak and Pasir Panjang, and enhanced existing ones, such as the Coastal Playgrove at East Coast Park, with more lush vegetation and natural landscapes. We have even expanded the greenery on the rooftops and facades of buildings, and in our sky gardens, to over 140 ha. We are well underway to meeting our target of 200 ha of skyrise greenery by 2030.

33. Third, we have continued to enhance connectivity between our green spaces to help our native flora disperse and our fauna to traverse our island. We have completed more than half of the 300km of Nature Ways that we aim to implement by 2030. And, we are on track to meeting our target of 500km of park connectors by 2030, with around 370km of park connectors completed so far.

34. Ms Rachel Ong asked how we will make our green spaces accessible to all Singaporeans. The moves we’ve made as part of City in Nature not only help nature to thrive in our city-state, but also bring all Singaporeans closer to our green spaces, for all of its benefits. Over 9 in 10 households are now within a 10-minute walk from a park, and we aim to reach 100% by 2030.

35. Our City in Nature efforts can also help us build up our climate resilience, through nature-based solutions.

36. For example, we have already begun to weave natural designs and plantings into our parks and streetscapes. By planting different shrubs and trees to mimic the multi-tiered structure of a natural forest, we can better connect our green spaces for animals like birds and butterflies, and also beautify our city, provide shade, cool our surroundings, and improve our air quality.

37. We can also use nature-based solutions to help protect our coastlines from rising sea levels.

Tapping on Research and Development to develop urban sustainability solutions

38. Looking ahead, as Minister Grace Fu shared earlier, research and innovation will enable us to achieve a low carbon future. We will continue to invest in science and technology for our city and our natural spaces. Let me share some of our plans, which Members like Dr Shahira Abdullah and Mr Cheng Hsing Yao have asked about.

39. To support our City in Nature ambitions, we have invested in research and development (R&D) under the Cities of Tomorrow (CoT) and the Marine Climate Change Science (MCCS) programmes, to explore solutions that tap on nature to help strengthen our ecological, climate and social resilience. In one project, researchers created “green seawalls” that enhance our marine ecosystems. These specially designed tiles can host a range of native species, such as crabs and sea snails, more abundantly than conventional seawalls. They will be piloted at Pulau Tekong, and have the potential to be applied to other parts of Singapore.

40. The Cities of Tomorrow R&D programme will also improve our urban sustainability, such as by designing greener buildings for our tropical climate.

41. For instance, air conditioning uses a lot of energy. BCA and NUS are exploring the use of weather sensors and smart watches that track how building occupants respond to indoor conditions, to optimise cooling and ventilation systems. This technology aims to reduce energy use, while still providing comfort for the occupants.

42. I am glad to share that we will invest an additional $64 million into R&D under the City in Nature and Greater Sustainability pillars of the Cities of Tomorrow programme. This will support us in developing innovative solutions for a more sustainable, liveable, and resilient city.


43. Let me conclude.

44. Whether it’s making our built environment and city more sustainable, or transforming Singapore into a City in Nature, we all need to work together – Government agencies, industry partners, academics and researchers, nature groups, and the wider community.

45. While we have made good progress so far, there is much more to do, and we must press on in close partnership.

46. Along the way, we can help local firms and workers build expertise in sustainability solutions, and create good jobs and good opportunities for Singaporeans.

47. And we can grow a greener and more sustainable home for all of us – one where we live in harmony with nature, as good stewards of our environment, for generations to come.

48. Thank you.