Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, at the “Shell Powering Progress Together” Forum on 4 July 2019.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. I am happy to be here today to explore how we can work together as Singapore continues on our journey to become a sustainable city and deal with the effects of climate change.
Let me start by congratulating Shell on setting up its first City Solutions Living Lab here in Singapore. We are delighted about that. This is a timely initiative. It reflects the new reality which requires all of us to re-examine our traditional ways of doing things, and seek new solutions to deal with the impact of climate change. I hope to see many fruitful collaborations between the Living Lab and other local and global players to create new sustainable infrastructure solutions and business models.
Today, I would like to speak on three key areas. First, how is Singapore going low-carbon? Second, what are we doing to develop greater climate resilience? And third, how are we strengthening collaboration to harness the collective efforts of all key stake-holders to create a more sustainable future?
First, how is Singapore going low carbon? Our commitment towards a green environment started in the 1960s, even before the spectre of climate change reared its head. Indeed, this commitment is driven by the immutable fact that we are resource limited. We have little land, energy or water, and we only have this little place to make a living and to call home. We need to make the most of what we have, and minimise what we need to rely on others for.
One key way to do so is to have policies that send the right signals to steer our citizens towards a more sustainable lifestyle, and businesses towards more sustainable business models. For example, for long-term sustainability, we price scarce resources properly so that our consumers and businesses take into account the real economic cost of using these resources and avoid waste or excessive consumption. This includes, for example, recognising the scarcity value of water, and the full cost of electricity and transport fuel – we do not subsidise any of these. Since the beginning of this year, we have introduced a carbon tax to internalise the negative externalities of carbon emissions. Although priced quite modestly at S$5 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) of greenhouse gas emissions, it is applied uniformly across the board with no exemptions. We will review the tax rate by 2023, and look to increasing it to between S$10 to S$15 per tonne of emissions by 2030.
We are already among the 20 best countries out of 142 in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of GDP, or emissions intensity. But we are continuing to improve our emissions intensity through a range of measures. For example, despite having geographical limitations in deploying alternative or renewable energy, we are intensifying the use of solar power through innovative modes such as floating solar farms to make up for our lack of land space. We aim to reach 350 megawatt-peak (MWp) by 2020 and 1 gigawatt-peak (GWp) beyond 2020. To put this into context, this compares to our peak electricity demand of about 7.4GW today.
We are creating an enabling environment for greater electrification to reduce our carbon footprint, as well as to improve the quality of air in our city. This includes the infrastructure for more electric cars, buses and taxis; and the development of smart meters that can help consumers and businesses to monitor and optimise their energy usage. JTC Corporation and SP Group are working together to develop and operate the first smart grid for business parks in Singapore. This will be launched in the Punggol Digital District from 2023 onwards. We are already beginning to develop the Punggol Digital District.
We are investing in research and development for longer-term solutions to de-carbonise our grid and industries. We have already closed the water loop, by recycling used water in the form of NEWater. So we are using water that nature blesses us with - every drop of water - more than once. We are now actively working on closing the energy and waste cycles. We are also studying the potential of “clean fuels” such as hydrogen, and also carbon capture and storage/utilisation to reduce our emissions in the longer term. But we also have to prepare for a climate change future.
Developing Greater Climate Resilience
Second, how are we developing greater climate resilience? As a small low-lying island-state, we need to take the impact of climate change very seriously, and invest in resilient infrastructure to safeguard ourselves, our future.
Singapore’s adaptation plans take reference from the Second National Climate Change Study conducted by the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (or CCRS), which applied the projections from the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or IPCC), the Fifth Assessment Report (or AR5) published in 2014. We have taken that and applied it to Singapore’s context. If no action is taken, and the world maintains the current emission trajectory, we could face an increase in mean daily temperature of around 4.6°C by 2100 compared to 1980-2009 levels. This is a serious situation. This scenario is referred to as the Representative Concentration Pathway (or RCP) 8.5. This will mean a global sea level rise of up to about 1 metre by 2100 compared to 1986-2005 sea levels for Singapore. However, RCP 8.5 has not taken into account impacts from the possible collapse of the Antarctica ice shelves. The IPCC will issue its Sixth Assessment Report in 2022, and Singapore will revise our planning parameters to take the new projections into account.
In the meantime, what do we do? We are taking early action. In 2011, we raised the minimum reclamation levels for newly reclaimed land in Singapore by 1 metre, from 3 metres to 4 metres above the Singapore Height Datum (or SHD). Again, to put this in context, the highest tides that we get in Singapore are around 2 metres above the Singapore Height Datum. So we raised the minimum reclamation levels in 2011, from 3 metres to 4 metres. We are currently studying what further measures we need to take, such as reclamation, sea walls or pumping stations, to better protect our coastal areas. These are major investments that we will need to make, to safeguard our future as the effects of sea level rise are felt in the coming decades. We will study the cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit of each of these measures carefully and apply them across the different water sheds, river systems and coastal areas in Singapore. By planning early, we can phase in the necessary measures so that the cost can be spread out over many years, and does not come as one lump sum when we begin to face a crisis. We want to prepare ahead for any crisis. We can also optimise the expenditure by implementing some of these measures as we carry out coastal developments. For example, our future developments are being built at higher platform levels so that they are climate resilient beyond our life-times: Changi Airport Terminal 5, which we are beginning to construct, will be 5.5 metres above SHD, and our new mega-port at Tuas Terminal will be 5 metres above SHD. This is an additional 1 to 1.5m higher than even the new level we had set in 2011.
We are also working to develop greater resource resilience by diversifying our sources and increasing self-sufficiency, particularly for food and water. As we build resilience, we will also seek to turn challenges into opportunities for our companies - green buildings and energy saving technologies; land-, water- and energy-efficient urban farming. And for a country on the equator, even opportunities in the polar regions as new maritime routes open up in the Arctic. There are many new opportunities and areas that we need to work on together. Keppel Offshore and Marine is working with our research institutes to design rigs and other offshore structures that can withstand Arctic sea and ice conditions. ST Engineering was recently awarded a contract to design and build new heavy icebreakers for the US Coast Guard that can cut through ice in the polar regions. This is not bad for a country that sits on the equator.
Third, we are strengthening collaboration with key stakeholders – the community, businesses and our international partners.
We are working with our citizen groups to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyles. For example, to close the waste loop, we are working with our community to bring about a paradigm shift in how we view waste – not as unwanted materials, but as resources that need to be recycled and reused.
On the international front, Singapore has been a strong advocate of multilateral cooperation to strengthen climate action, through platforms such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and ASEAN. We have also been working closely with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and eleven other international port authorities and maritime administrations to build a network of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) bunker-ready ports to facilitate the greater adoption of LNG to reduce emissions from ships; and we are working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association on initiatives for sustainable aviation fuels.
As we have just heard from Executive Vice President of New Energies Mr Mark Gainsborough, Shell has committed to several significant measures to reduce its carbon footprint. Singapore is happy to work with responsible businesses like Shell, through new initiatives like the City Solutions Living Lab, to strengthen our longstanding partnership and create positive impact together.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no doubt that climate change is one of the most pressing global challenges that we are facing today. We need to take action today to reduce our carbon emissions, and to build resilience to protect ourselves out to the end of this century and beyond.
Businesses also need to transform their business models for a world that demands corporate climate responsibility, and take advantage of the opportunities that this offers. So let us join our hands to go low carbon, develop greater climate resilience and create new solutions, to forge a more sustainable and resource-efficient future together.
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