Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the Temasek Shophouse Conversations: Climate Action
Apr 9, 2021
A very good evening to one and all. I am glad to join you today at this Temasek Shophouse Conversation on Climate Action. This is a good platform for leaders from different spheres to come together, and encourage closer partnerships across the public, private and people sectors.
I am particularly encouraged that today’s conversation allows policymakers and stakeholders across sectors to exchange ideas on environmental issues, and in particular, on climate change. Tackling climate change is a complex and multi-faceted challenge. None of us can do it alone. Instead, all of us must work together, and bring to bear our different strengths and expertise.
We all have a part to play – from Government action, to the business practices of our industry partners, to the daily habits of individuals and families. And everyone’s contribution helps. The Temasek Foundation has been contributing actively to this effort. For example, Temasek Foundation Ecosperity supports the search for innovative technological solutions that are sustainable and improve liveability. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Temasek Foundation for your valuable work, and for organising today’s event.
I would also like to congratulate Pak Sarwono on the launch of the English translation of his book titled “Steering a Middle Course: From Activist to Secretary General of Golkar”. Pak Sarwono has contributed to the strong ties and mutually beneficial cooperation on environmental matters between Indonesia and Singapore throughout his career, including his time as a Cabinet Minister. He continues to be active in the fight against climate change, as Chairman of the Advisory Board for Climate Change Policies in Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
I believe that his book will be an inspiration to the next generation of young leaders. It is therefore very fitting that it should be launched at today’s Conversation, which aims to empower young people to take action to tackle climate change.
Now let me now share what Singapore is doing in support of climate action, and how we hope to bring our whole nation together to advance sustainable development and to combat climate change.
Singapore Green Plan 2030
We recently launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030 in February this year – this is our national movement to chart our course for sustainable development over the next decade. This is particularly important for Singapore, as an island city vulnerable to climate change.
Sustainable development has always been integral to the Singapore Story, even before climate change became a global emergency. Our founding fathers envisioned a city that was clean and green. We cleaned up Singapore’s waterways from the 1970s, and now we reuse every drop of water. We switched to cleaner fuels like Liquefied Natural Gas early on, and froze the growth of our vehicle population.
So the Green Plan’s push for sustainable development is not completely new. But we are not simply continuing existing efforts. We must change how we live, work, and play, and combine our resources across sectors to take action to be more sustainable. That is how we can be responsible stewards of our environment, for our future generations.
The Green Plan comprises five key pillars to achieve this: First, City in Nature – to create a green, liveable and sustainable home for all Singaporeans.
Second, Sustainable Living – to make reducing carbon emissions, keeping our environment clean, and saving resources and energy a way of life for all of us. We can all actively reduce, reuse, and recycle, and choose greener commuting options such as walking, cycling, and taking public transport.
Third, Energy Reset – to use cleaner energy and increase energy efficiency to lower our carbon footprint.
Fourth, Green Economy – to create new green jobs, and transform our industries to be more sustainable. This will not only support a sustainable Singapore, but can also facilitate Asia’s transition to a sustainable future.
And Fifth, Resilient Future – to build up Singapore’s climate resilience, safeguard our coasts against rising sea levels, mitigate urban heat, and enhance our food security.
I will focus today on some of our specific plans to make our urban environment more green and sustainable. These fall under two of the pillars, namely the City in Nature and Energy Reset pillars of the Green Plan.
City in Nature
Greening our city has always been a national priority. Today, we are a City in a Garden, and one of the greenest cities in the world.
Now, we want to take Singapore to the next level, by transforming Singapore into a City in Nature as one of the key pillars of the Green Plan. To achieve this aspiration, we are extending and enhancing our natural capital island-wide, city-wide. As you know, Singapore faces particular land constraints. As both a city and a country, we must fit in all the things that a country needs, within the confines of our city.
This means that we must find innovative ways to weave nature into our urban fabric – for example, by turning concrete canals into naturalised vegetated waterways and wetlands. We are adding another 1,000 ha of green spaces by 2035, on top of the 7,800 ha that we have safeguarded today. By 2030, every household will be within a 10-minute walk from a park – up from some 90% of households today.
We must also strive to protect our most ecologically important areas, even as we continue to develop to meet our people’s needs. We take a science-based approach to nature conservation, for instance by studying the ecological value of green and blue spaces. In some cases, where we found that vegetated sites slated for development had high ecological value, we changed our plans and conserved the sites instead for nature.
Together, these efforts can mitigate the effects of climate change and soften the harshness of urbanisation. Natural designs and greenery in our city can serve as nature-based solutions to help provide shade, cool the environment, improve air quality, enhance flood resilience, and beautify our city. Singaporeans can enjoy a high-quality living environment, and have even greater access to nature’s benefits on health and well-being.
We are pursuing our City in Nature vision through four key moves in the next decade. First, we are better protecting our nature reserves by adding new nature parks around them as protective buffers.
Second, we are intensifying nature in our gardens and parks. We are adding new parks and enhancing existing ones to feature more lush vegetation and natural landscapes. We are conserving our rich biodiversity, by conducting species recovery projects within our city, and enhancing and restoring natural habitats to allow our native species to thrive in our urban setting.
Third, we are integrating nature into the urban environment. Our industrial estates for example, are some of the hottest areas of our island today, and by adding many more trees in these estates, we can mitigate the Urban Heat Island effect. And we are adding more skyrise greenery on our buildings.
Fourth, we are strengthening connectivity between important green spaces. Habitats that are ecologically connected increase the chances of survival for flora and fauna. So, we are creating natural corridors that allow flora and fauna to move easily between our green spaces, for example by conducting more intensive planting along our roads, and by expanding our network of park connectors joining up our parks. And we are developing a more comprehensive picture of our island-wide ecosystem and connectivity of green and blue spaces, to help guide our nature conservation and long-term land-use planning efforts.
These efforts cannot be carried out alone. One major way in which we are working with partners in the private sector, civil society, and the community is through our OneMillionTrees movement, where we will plant an additional one million trees across our city between 2020 and 2030. This is not just a quantitative target. We are planting carefully selected species of trees tailored to specific sites, to underpin our qualitative transformation into a City in Nature. This will make a tangible difference in enhancing our climate resilience.
If you are interested in being a part of this effort, I invite you to sign up through our OneMillionTrees website. Planting a tree, especially with your family and friends, is not just memorable. You are literally making a lasting contribution to our City in Nature.
Now let me talk a bit about Energy Reset. We are actively working with our partners to accelerate our transition to a sustainable, low-carbon Built Environment. This is an important part of the Green Plan’s Energy Reset pillar.
Today, buildings account for over 20% of our emissions. We need to make a stronger push towards sustainability by using cleaner energy to power our city and improving the energy efficiency of our buildings. We are implementing programmes to make both new as well as existing towns more sustainable through technology and urban design, and developing eco-friendly districts as demonstration projects for higher sustainability targets.
We are also pursuing more ambitious building sustainability standards through the 4th edition of the Singapore Green Building Masterplan, which we launched in March this year. We have three targets, which we call “80-80-80 in 2030”. First, we will green 80% of our buildings by 2030. Second, we aim for 80% of new buildings to be Super Low Energy buildings from 2030. Third, we will ramp up research and innovation, so that our best-in-class green buildings will see an 80% improvement in energy efficiency over the 2005 baseline by 2030.
For an island city these are ambitious targets, and we look forward to working closely with our industry partners and the community in this next leg of our green buildings journey. For those of us here who are in the business of developing or managing building operations, I encourage you to do your part, and bring your building to the forefront of our energy efficiency standards. This is not only good for the environment, but will also bring you substantial cost savings over time. We will be more than happy to help you with this.
More broadly, I invite everyone to share your ideas for the Green Plan – whether for our green spaces and urban environment, or for other aspects of our sustainability movement. The Green Plan is a living document, and we will continue to update our targets and strategies as new technologies and practicable solutions are developed.
We invite you to partner us in action. Because together, we can make our climate action vision a reality. I wish you all a very good conference ahead. Thank you and I wish you all a good evening.