Opening Remarks by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, at the Virtual Symposium: IPCC AR6 - What Does It Mean for Singapore, on 31 August 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon and a warm welcome.
2 This is a timely symposium on the latest findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). All over the globe, the signs are clear – climate change is already worsening many weather extremes.
3 Just in the last two months, unprecedented heat waves hit the US and Canada, reaching above a scorching 40 degrees Celsius, and widespread flooding occurred in Europe and China, caused by extreme rainfall. At home, we have also witnessed record rainfalls in January, April and August, leading to the flash floods in various parts of the island. For a low-lying island city like Singapore, these are sobering reminders of the existential threat of climate change.
4 United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the latest IPCC report as a ‘code red for humanity’. With every degree of warming, the world will experience more extreme weather patterns. Let me share my thoughts on what the IPCC report means for Singapore: First, we will need to press on with efforts in climate mitigation by curbing carbon emissions. Second, strengthening our national resilience will help us better adapt to climate change. This involves understanding the science, building flexibility in our plans to account for climate uncertainties, making significant long-term investments in infrastructure in a fiscally prudent manner, and bolstering a strong community response.
Singapore’s Mitigation Strategies
5 The IPCC findings emphasise the urgency to step up efforts to curb carbon emissions and rein in global warming. Every tonne of greenhouse gas reduced can and will lead to tangible improvements to our environment. Despite only contributing 0.1% of global carbon emissions, Singapore will play our full part.
6 We have taken decisive steps to mitigate emissions. Last year, we submitted our enhanced 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution and Long-Term Low-Emissions Development Strategy under the Paris Agreement. This year, we launched the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a living plan which charts concrete and ambitious targets, positioning Singapore to achieve net zero emissions as soon as viable.
7 We are pursuing three key strategies to decarbonise. First, we are transforming our industry, economy and society to be more energy and carbon efficient and adopt more renewable energy. To drive carbon emissions reduction across the economy, Singapore introduced a carbon tax in 2019, the first in Southeast Asia to do so. The Government is reviewing the tax trajectory and level, post-2023. We will quadruple our solar energy deployment from 2020 levels to at least 2 GWp by 2030.
8 Second, we will invest in, and draw on low-carbon technologies, such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage, and low-carbon hydrogen. The Low-Carbon Energy Research Programme supports projects to catalyse growth in low-carbon technologies and develop solutions for the region and beyond. These projects help us develop technical capabilities and regulatory requirements to prepare us for larger scale deployment of hydrogen. We are partnering countries like New Zealand, Chile and Australia on low-carbon hydrogen and low-emissions solutions.
9 This brings me to the third strategy – international collaboration. Climate action requires a concerted global effort. Singapore is a strong advocate for a multilateral, rules-based approach to address climate change. We work closely with other countries at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to sustain the global momentum on climate action. We will also foster international collaboration in areas like well-functioning carbon markets and regional electricity grids. Our plans are not static, and we will continue to raise our climate ambitions as more options for emissions reductions emerge.
Singapore’s Adaptation Efforts
10 The IPCC findings also highlight the need for us to press ahead with our climate adaptation efforts, as informed by the latest climate science. The report indicates that the 1.5 degree Celsius global warming level will be crossed by the early 2030s. The rate of global mean sea level rise has accelerated, and sea level will continue to rise, by up to 1 metre by the end of the century. Every region in the world, including ours, is projected to experience more frequent and severe droughts, more intense and frequent extreme rainfall events, and flooding. These changes will be more widespread at 2 degree Celsius as compared to 1.5 degree Celsius global warming levels.
11 First, we must seek to understand what the IPCC findings mean in terms of local weather patterns in Singapore. The Centre for Climate Research Singapore, or CCRS, has embarked on the Third National Climate Change Study to derive local climate projections based on global IPCC models. This study will be completed by the end of next year. CCRS also works closely with our local universities to perform research and build up climate science capabilities in Singapore. This ensures that our strategies are informed by the latest climate science and projections.
12 Second, we must press ahead with our climate adaptation plans and implement them progressively. Many of these plans are outlined under the ‘Resilient Future’ pillar of the Singapore Green Plan.
13 For instance, we will need to keep Singapore cool in a warming world. The Government has been developing a heat mitigation plan. This includes increasing urban greenery, green buildings and scaling up the use of cool materials. We are intensifying greenery in our urban environment. As part of our OneMillionTrees movement, 170,000 more trees will be planted in industrial estates over the next 10 years, nearly tripling current tree population. We are piloting cool paints at 130 HDB blocks in Tampines, aiming to reduce ambient temperature of the estate. These efforts can create a more conducive work and living environment for everyone.
14 Like other coastal, low-lying cities, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels and more intense rainfall. We are implementing coastal protection in phases, beginning with the more vulnerable coastlines. PUB, our national coastal protection agency, has commenced a site-specific study along City-East Coast to look at feasible solutions, and will commence studies for Jurong Island and the North-West coast later this year, and in 2022 respectively. We will plan flexibly to take into account the latest climate science and examine coastal protection holistically with our flood resilience measures. PUB has invested almost $2 billion on drainage works in the last decade, and will continue to invest another $1.4 billion over the next five years to enhance flood resilience. As a result of PUB’s efforts, Singapore’s flood prone areas, have been reduced from 3,200 hectares in the 1970s to 28 hectares today despite increasing urbanisation.
15 But, as climate change brings about more intense rainfall, it will not be possible to completely eliminate flash floods. That is why another important aspect of climate adaptation is our community resilience. We shall build preparedness for extreme weather events; have the population checking weather advisories and warnings; and adjust our daily lives in response to weather forecasts. To support people in doing so, the Government will continue to strengthen our forecasting and sensing capabilities, and improve education and outreach efforts. For example, ahead of heavy monsoon seasons, PUB will continue to work closely with building owners and residents in low-lying areas to deploy flood protection devices to safeguard lives and properties.
Together forward, as one Singapore
16 In conclusion, the Government cannot tackle climate change alone. We need our entire nation to collectively rise to this existential challenge.
a) We will need our scientists to do high quality research and improve our models and projections, so that our adaptation efforts are effective and relevant. In this regard, I look forward to the sharing by Professors Benjamin Horton, Winston Chow and Lynette Cheah, who had volunteered their time in the current Sixth Assessment cycle of the IPCC.
b) We will need our community, our youths and NGOs to walk the talk, and be our champions in our transition to a low-carbon economy and Zero Waste nation.
c) We will need our businesses to transform, and make sustainability not just a core pillar of their operations but a competitive advantage, being more energy and carbon efficient and pursuing sustainable production.
d) We will need every one of us to make climate friendlier choices such as purchasing energy and water-efficient appliances, reducing air conditioning, and opting for public transport where possible.
17 By working together on climate action, we can strengthen our climate resilience and with that, our national resilience. We can then realise our vision of Singapore as a City of Green Possibilities. Let us all play our part and commit to make the Singapore Green Plan 2030 a reality.
18 Thank you.