Speech by 2M Indranee Rajah at The Launch of Urban Lab Exhibition: 'Shaping a Heat Resilient City'

Nov 17, 2023

1.             Hello everyone, I have the great pleasure to join all of you to launch the Urban Lab exhibition on “Shaping A Heat Resilient City”. This exhibition is part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Draft Master Plan 2025 public engagement, and one of the themes is to strengthen Singapore’s urban resilience.

2.             As we all know, climate change is an existential threat for all of us. So it is very much in our in interest to see how we can tackle climate change. We feel and see it every day, and its effects are becoming more pronounced.

3.             We are experiencing more extreme weather conditions - warmer temperatures and heavier rainfall. These will have negative implications on our health, the environment, and therefore, our quality of life.

4.             There has been record heatwaves across the world – in India, Pakistan and Europe, as well as intense rainfall and floods, such as those in China, this year. These disasters have resulted in wildfires, landslides and the loss of lives and homes.

5.             Here in Singapore, the last 10 years have been our warmest decade on record. In May this year, we experienced our highest recorded temperature in the last 40 years, at 37 degrees Celsius. The return of El Niño will also result in Singapore being warmer than usual towards the end of this year and the next.

6.             While the effect of climate change is apparent today, the extent of its impact on future generations could be much more severe. It is therefore important to conduct research and develop effective measures so that we can combat the perils of climate change in the long term. The various sectors – public, private, people and academia – need to come together to drive this endeavour, because combating climate change is a collective responsibility.

7.             The Singapore Green Building Masterplan is also an important initiative that contributes to our sustainability efforts in combating climate change. The “80-80-80 in 2030” targets include, firstly greening 80% of our buildings by 2030; second having 80% of new developments to be Super Low Energy buildings from 2030; and third, achieving 80% improvement in energy efficiency for best-in-class green buildings from 2005 levels, by 2030. These targets aim to help us lower the overall carbon footprints and provide a healthy, liveable and sustainable built environment for all.

8.             It is timely that we have come together with the industry and academia in this Urban Lab exhibition to showcase innovations and solutions that will contribute towards a more climate-resilient Singapore, especially in softening the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect.

Building Heat Resilience Together

9.             There is no doubt that we need to better prepare ourselves to adapt to the rising temperatures. Stewardship of nature remains a key planning strategy to enhance liveability, even as Singapore needs to work harder to balance competing land use for the net zero transition.

10.          Shade is one of the most effective ways to keep cool. Guided by the vision of becoming a City in Nature, we are weaving nature intensively into our city, and targeting for every household to live within a 10-minute walk from a park by 2030.

11.          Besides improving access to greenery and nature, the OneMillionTrees movement gives an opportunity for every Singaporean to be directly involved in improving our heat resilience against climate change and managing the impact of global warming. The movement has thus far brought together over 78,000 members of the community, to plant over 600,000 trees in a concerted effort to make our island lusher and cooler.

12.          Our built environment plays a role as well. For example, in creating districts of different building heights, we can improve wind flow and channel air downward towards pedestrians. Increasing the porosity of buildings can also encourage airflow through and around buildings, to create a more thermally comfortable environment for building users.

13.          The National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) have also issued a Heat Stress Advisory in July this year. This advisory will help us make more informed decisions and provide precautions when taking part in outdoor activities, so as to minimise the risk of heat stress and heat-related illnesses.

Leveraging Research & Innovation

14.          We will continue to drive research and innovation efforts to develop new heat-mitigation solutions. At the city level, a Digital Urban Climate Twin (DUCT) model is currently being developed by a multi-institutional team led by the Singapore-ETH Centre, a Swiss and Singaporean research partnership. The team is working closely with government agencies to simulate the effectiveness of different heat-related strategies on an island-wide scale. When developed, the digital tool will help us make more informed decisions when implementing different mitigation strategies to improve outdoor thermal comfort at the nationwide level.

15.          At the district, town and estate levels, URA, HDB and JTC conduct detailed environmental modelling and scenario-based testing as part of their research and development efforts. These processes inform the implementation of cutting-edge urban design strategies aimed at effectively combating the UHI effect. For example, in the planning of Marina South, URA conducted sun shading and wind flow assessments. This help to ascertain the most optimal site layouts, ultimately enhancing the outdoor thermal comfort of key public spaces.

Stronger private-public-academia collaborations

16.          We have forged more collaborations with the private sector and the academia to co-develop solutions to build heat resilience. I am happy to share that URA and the Department of Architecture under the NUS College of Design and Engineering embarked on a strategic research collaboration last month.

17.          One of the projects they are working on is the use of Doppler LiDAR sensors to collect on-site wind data for input to environmental models. This would provide more robust modelling results to guide planning decisions for new developments, such as the Jurong Lake District.

18.          We are also working actively with the private sector to trial and scale up the application of new solutions and innovations. For example, Nippon Paint has developed a range of cool coatings called SolaReflect, which has shown to potentially reduce on-site temperature by up to 2 degrees Celsius. These cool coatings are currently being piloted across 32 HDB blocks under the HDB Green Towns Programme.

19.          What I have just shared are some of the many examples of innovative projects that are exhibited here today.

20.          Everyone can and must play a part to build a climate-resilient Singapore. At the individual level, simple actions such as switching off the lights when not in use can go a long way to help reduce carbon emissions and slow down the effects of climate change.

21.          As a society, we have to keep moving forward and push boundaries to find innovative solutions.

22.          I hope the exhibition today will give you more insights and spur conversations on how we can work together to mitigate the effects of climate change for a more sustainable and resilient Singapore. Thank you all very much.

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