Innovation and climate-smart solutions: showcasing Singapore
Singapore is at the forefront of climate-smart solutions in a region with significant climate-related vulnerabilities. The City-State has introduced bold action in technology, policy and business models to both mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and adapt the city to increased risks, such as rising sea level and stronger storms. Despite contributing only 0.1% of global emissions, Singapore is committed to both adaptation and mitigation efforts through multilateral rules-based solutions as well as ratifying both the Kyoto Protocol and then Paris Agreement, being one of the first countries to do so.
The physical and economic threat of climate change is rising rapidly, coinciding with increasing global temperatures and sea levels, stressing the need for global action policy, including for Singapore, a low-lying city-state.
Singapore isn’t isolated from the impacts of climate change, with regional mean average temperatures already rising 1.1°C in the past 40 years and the mean sea level in the Straight rising 1.2-1.7mm a year from 1975-2009. With 30% of land being less than 5 metres above the height datum, adaptation infrastructure is necessary.
Singapore is also focusing efforts on domestic sustainable development programmes. The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a nationwide effort to advance the national agenda on sustainable development. The plan charts concrete targets for the next decade, aligning with the UN’s 2030 SustainableDevelopment Agenda and Paris Agreement, positioning long-term net zero achievements. The plan targets planting one million new trees, reduce landfill waste by 30% and increasing solar deployment to 2 GWp by 2030.
Singapore, ranked number one global tech innovation hub, is deploying its innovation capabilities to finance and implement climate change adaptation and mitigation activities. During the Virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed the importance of meeting emissions targets through innovation and technology. In 2020, Sustaintech Xcelerator, a climate-innovation accelerator through the Development Bank of Singapore (DBS), the National University of Singapore, Google, and the World Bank, launched. The accelerator fund innovators are developing solutions that increase investor and buyer confidence in Nature Based Solutions (NbS), each with a S$50,000 grant as well as access to leading research expertise. The cohort presents tangible solutions on carbon sequestration, monitoring of NbS assets and improving financial transparency of NbS projects.
Singapore is also home to the newly established Climate Impact X (CIX), a joint venture through DBS, Singapore Exchange, Standard Chartered and the sovereign wealth fund Temasek, aimed at capitalising on the city-states financial influence to promote a high-quality global carbon credits exchange and marketplace. CIX will use satellite monitoring combined with machine learning to enhance the transparency, integrity and quality of carbon credits that deliver tangible and lasting environmental impact. The exchange aims to bridge the gap of renewable technologies to meet emission targets from the Paris Agreement through a carbon market of the highest international standards.
Urban Mitigation and Adaptation
Known as the Garden City, Singapore plans nature into urban development, embedding sustainability into construction and landscapes. First envisioned by the then prime minister in 1967, Lee Kuan Yew transformed the city-state into a metropolis of lush greenery, initiating one of the fastest tree-planting initiatives in the world, with over 1.4 million new trees planted in 2014. The Urban Heat Island Effect is also pushing Singapore to develop sustainable urban planning, incorporating green spaces into developments as mitigation, cooling the city whilst reducing emissions from air-conditioning usage.
Since 2008, Green Building has become mandate, with new developments adhering to benchmarks in energy efficiency, eco-friendly construction materials and rooftop plantings; replacing all greenery lost on the ground in a vertical context. The Singapore Green Plan furthers sustainable development within urban planning, with the 80-80-80 target by 2030: Green 80% of buildings by Gross Floor Area by 2030, 80% of new developments to be Super Low Energy (SLE) buildings from 2030 and 80% improvement in energy efficiency over 2005 base line for best-in-class green buildings by 2030 (80%improvement in energy efficiency over 2005 baseline for best-in-class green buildings by 2030).
Mitigation efforts within waste and water also aim to reduce Singapore’s emissions, reducing landfill and the release of methane. The 3R’s initiative (reduce, reuse and recycle) has steered the recycling rate to 59%, however the government aims to reach 70% through reducing the number of plastics incinerated by 2050. The leftover refuse that is incinerated is done so in waste-to-energy plants, initiated by the Zero Waste Masterplan launched in 2019, which targets reducing the amount of waste sent to Semakau Landfill per capita per day by 30 per cent by 2030. Singapore also incinerates waste-water sludge to mitigate the release of methane through the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and ECO-Special Waste Management plant, which estimates an annual average reduction of 129,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e).
Lacking the space to fully tap into alternative energy resources at scale, Singapore has always been a net importer of fossil fuels. However over the past two decades, the city-state has diversified its energy mix to include less carbon intensive sources. Singapore is harnessing its ability to utilise solar photovoltaic technology in a restricted space, becoming a leader in Asia in doing so. Singapore’s government launched the SolarNova programme to accelerate deployment of photovoltaic solutions in buildings. Since 2015, four leasing tenders generating 236 MWp of solar energy have been awarded, with a fifth tender of 60 MWp awarded in 2020.
Singapore is also home to one of the world’s largest floating solar installations, spanning the area of 45ha. A total (and potentially growing) 122,000 panels on the Tengeh Reservoir boast a 60 MWp capacity, offsetting 4,258 tonnes of carbon annually, equivalent to removing 7,000 cars from the roads. The installation will be able to provide electricity for the islands five water treatment plants, operated by the city's Public Utilities Board (PUB).
Globalfields has contributed to the efforts of Singapore's financial institutions with dedicated trainings in green finance, to the creation of innovation funds and to enhance the awareness and business case of investing in Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) and nature-based Solutions (NbS).