Singapore Endorses the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use: Endorsement Reaffirms Our Commitment to Sustainable Development

Nov 12, 2021

Minister for National Development Desmond Lee announces that Singapore has endorsed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use at the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Glasgow, UK.

Singapore is committed to national and global climate action. Forests and terrestrial ecosystems play an important role in reducing the effects of climate change, and it is crucial to ensure sustainable land use and the conservation of forests.

Through the endorsement of the Declaration, Singapore reaffirms our commitment to developing our city sustainably and protecting nature that thrives in our midst. Singapore has already been taking active steps to achieve these goals. Earlier this year, Singapore launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, our national movement for sustainable development. One of the key pillars under the Green Plan is to transform Singapore into a City in Nature.

Minister Desmond Lee said, “Sustainability and stewardship are core principles in our approach to land use planning. As a small city-state with many competing demands for our limited land, we will continue to develop our city sustainably while conserving nature within our urban environment. That is why Singapore has decided to endorse the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use.  I would like to take this opportunity to recognise and celebrate the work by nature groups and NGOs, private enterprise, our researchers and the wider community, who have partnered us in  transforming Singapore into a City in Nature and making Singapore greener and more liveable and sustainable.”

As part of our City in Nature vision, core biodiversity areas will be conserved and protected, natural habitats will be enhanced and restored, and Singapore’s ecological resilience will be strengthened. For example, we are adding new nature parks which buffer our nature reserves, restoring tropical rainforest and wetland habitats in national parks and gardens, integrating greenery more intensively into our urban environment, and strengthening ecological connectivity between biodiverse green spaces. We will also plant one million more trees island-wide between 2020 and 2030. These will contribute to restoring and strengthening our core forests, provide more habitats for our native biodiversity, and create green corridors that enhance connectivity between our green spaces for flora and fauna.

Together, these strategies will not only provide Singaporeans with greater access to nature and its benefits on health and well-being, but will also conserve our rich native biodiversity for future generations to enjoy. They will also help strengthen Singapore’s resilience to the effects of climate change, through the application of nature-based solutions to help protect our coastlines from erosion, cool the urban environment, and reduce the risk of flash floods.

At the same time, given our tight physical constraints and many competing demands for land, there will be some vegetated sites that have to be developed to meet our people’s needs. Some of these sites had formerly been used for human habitation, agriculture, and industry. They were then cleared while awaiting redevelopment and have become vegetated over time. As a city-state, the needs of our country have to be catered for within the limits of our city, unlike most other cities which have large hinterlands. Space is needed to continue meeting our people’s evolving needs, ranging from public housing and industry, to food security. Therefore, we carefully balance development and conservation in our land use planning.

To help us achieve this, a science-based approach is adopted. As part of the planning process, the ecological value of sites is assessed, and this is taken into account when selecting sites for development. For example, in assessing whether to develop vacant sites that were previously cleared for human use but have since become vegetated, factors such as whether they provide critical refugia for native biodiversity, and whether they play an important role for ecological connectivity are taken into account. For sites identified for development, the potential environmental impacts are carefully studied and mitigated. Natural elements will be conserved and integrated within developments where possible, to facilitate ecological function.

These tensions notwithstanding, Singapore’s commitment to conserve and restore core forests and other terrestrial ecosystems is a key component of our approach to long-term planning.

In this regard, Singapore stands together with the international community in taking global climate action for sustainable urban development and the protection of our biodiversity and carbon sinks.