Singapore’s Environmental Efforts: Fighting Climate Change Locally & Internationally

Singapore’s Environmental Efforts: Fighting Climate Change Locally & Internationally

Every country and continent today is affected by climate change. From the melting of arctic glaciers to droughts, global warming is affecting nations across the globe and the negative impacts are accelerating even in Singapore.

By 2100, Singapore could very well experience a mean sea-level rise of up to 1 metre and a temperature increase of up to 4.6 degrees celsius – definitely not an ideal situation for our island nation!

As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong puts it “Climate change may seem abstract and distant for many of us, but it is one of the gravest challenges facing humankind”. 

From increasing temperatures to heavier rainstorms, we are already experiencing the consequences of climate change in our everyday lives and unless we take steps to mitigate it, the effects will get progressively worse.


The Effects Of Climate Change In Singapore Is Very Real & A Rising Concern

In late 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept across the southeastern United States causing untold devastation that resulted in over 1,800 lives lost and reportedly cost up to $125 billion worth of damage.

While tropical storms are nothing new, studies have shown that warmer seas caused by climate change are making hurricanes stronger and last longer after they hit land.

Singapore herself was hit by the tropical storm Vamei (or Typhoon Vamei) in 2001 that resulted in flooding and air traffic disruptions in Changi Airport.

While such occurrences are highly infrequent, climate change is already negatively impacting Singapore and the way we live.

1. Increased Rainfall & Flash Floods

From 1980 to 2016, it is estimated that the total annual rainfall increased at around 101 mm every decade. While this might seem insignificant, over time it can pose a serious issue to our draining system – resulting in localized flash floods across Singapore.

In fact, in April 2021, western Singapore clocked a rainfall amount of 161.4 mm where 90% of the month’s average rainfall fell over just three hours! This caused flash flooding across areas including Sime Darby Center and slowed traffic in Jurong and Bukit Timah just to name a few.


2. Threats To Our Biodiversity

Singapore’s natural biodiversity including 2,100 native vascular plants and 390 species of birds hangs on a delicate balance.

Climate change could affect Singapore’s ecosystem, with just a temperature increase of 1.5 degrees celsius placing our plants and animals at risk. In fact, up to half of our wildlife species could end by 2100 if the effects of global warming continue without change.

3. Impact On Our Food Security

In Singapore, over 90% of our food supply is imported, making us highly vulnerable to supply shocks, price increases and food safety incidents abroad.

While there has been a continuous push for local production and farming of food in Singapore, in reality, only 1% of land is available for food production

This puts Singapore at the mercy of climate change where prolonged droughts or sudden storms could adversely affect our homegrown crops and animal produce as well as cause a supply crunch from the countries that supply us – affecting us disproportionately from either front.


4. Rising Sea Levels

As an island nation, rising sea levels pose a significant threat to Singapore. This means low-lying areas like Katong and Toa Payoh might be unlivable due to the threat of flooding.

With island-states such as the Maldives losing entire islands due to rising global sea levels, Singapore’s position as a hot spot for sea-level rise is something that can’t be ignored.

In fact, if all of Greenland’s ice sheet were to completely melt, the global sea level would rise by about 7 metres – however, Singapore will be impacted more than the median. This is potentially disastrous for us as 30% of Singapore’s land area is less than 5 metres above sea level.

As Singapore sits near the equator, when sea levels rise, more water is pulled towards our location due to gravitational forces, causing Singapore to get about 30% more increased water compared to the rest of the world.

5. Higher Annual Temperatures

If you felt that Singapore is undeniably getting hotter and more humid every year, you aren’t mistaken.

From 1980 to 2020, the annual mean temperature has increased from 26.9 to 28.0 degrees celsius. This temperature rise is amplified by the way we live and work – mostly in urban areas or the ‘urban jungle’.

This creates a vicious cycle of utilizing more energy and electricity to power air-conditioning to keep ourselves cool, leading to even more greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide emissions – further increasing our carbon footprint.

Thankfully, as a nation, we are taking steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change and tackling their root causes both locally and on the world stage.


How Singapore Is Tackling Climate Change Locally

For decades, Singapore has been fighting climate change, but in the 2021 Budget Statement, this commitment has been crystallised with the unveiling of Singapore’s Green Plan to help secure a more green and sustainable future. 

A) Securing A Greener Future With The Singapore Green Plan 2030

The Singapore Green Plan 2030 (or the Green Plan) is a national agenda that will chart Singapore towards sustainable development.

To accomplish this, the Green Plan has ambitious targets that will help focus our efforts on initiatives that will move the needle towards fighting climate change while being more self-sufficient on a local level.

These 2030 goals include:

  • Planting 1 million more trees
  • Using 15% less energy in HDB towns
  • 80% improvement in energy efficiency for best-in-class green buildings
  • All new car registrations to be of cleaner-energy models & variants from 2030 onwards
  • Reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million tonnes annually by 2030

This is executed through 5 core pillars – City in Nature, Energy Reset, Sustainable Living, Green Economy, Resilient Future. Each of which caters towards advancing Singapore towards a more sustainable future that in turns mitigates climate change.


B) Adoption of Solar Power & Green Financing

As a land-scarce country, Singapore is limited in our options of green alternative energy sources. Thankfully, in sunny Singapore, our efforts in solar energy are shining examples of success and will only get brighter.

With 95% of our electricity generated from natural gas, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) has developed the ‘4 Switches’ concept to transform Singapore’s energy supply – one of which is the adoption of solar power.

The Green Plan sets an ambitious target of establishing at least 2 gigawatt-peak of solar energy deployment, that’s enough electricity to power 350,000 households a year

With near-zero pollution during its operation with the ability for solar panels to be fitted effectively on top of residential and commercial buildings, solar energy is ideal for Singapore as the perfect energy source to reduce emissions and fight climate change.

Additionally, to help encourage residential homeowners to adopt solar power, electricity retailers like iSwitch are providing solar energy installation solutions while banks such as DBS provide green financing options to help consumers fund & save more on their solar installation costs.


C) Revolutionizing Transportation With Electric Vehicles

Emissions from fossil fuel vehicles have been an ongoing challenge for countries globally, including Singapore.

The Green Plan has established targets for Singapore’s transportation to progressively move away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs).

These include ceasing new registration of diesel cars and taxis from 2025 as well providing EV rebates such as the EV Early Adopter Incentive (EEVI) that provides up to $20,000 for car buyers purchasing a fully electric car from 1st January 2021 to 31st December 2023.

Additionally, the government has almost pledged $30 million on EV-related initiatives such as the deployment of over 60,000 charging points across public car parks and private premises by 2030 – helping to increase the adoption of EVs even further with a goal to have all vehicles run on cleaner energy by 2040.

EV charger

D) Embracing Carbon-Neutral Electricity

Ever since the inception of the Open Electricity Market in 2018, households in Singapore now have the option to select their own electricity retailer with the ability to enjoy carbon-neutral electricity.

Carbon neutral electricity is essentially electricity that is generated from clean energy sources (such as solar) or whose carbon emissions have been offset by UN certified carbon credits.

This allows consumers to account for their household’s carbon footprint with the money used to fuel green activities such as reforestation and bioremediation.

Carbon-neutral electricity is an important element in helping Singapore’s Green Plan reach its Eco Stewardship goal of at least 20% of schools becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

green electricity

E) Growing Singapore’s Agri-Food Sector Through Tech Adoptions

Transporting food from overseas contributes significantly to our carbon footprint as a nation and as much as possible, growing locally is ideal.

To help secure our local food reliance while reducing our carbon footprint from food imports, around $60 million will be set aside to help farmers harness technology in their efforts to grow.

This Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund seeks to help Singapore reach a goal of meeting its nutritional needs through locally farmed food by the year 2030.

By growing its food self-sufficiency as a nation, Singapore will be able to spend less money importing food, thereby utilizing less fuel transporting them to help lower carbon emissions from previously shipped and air-flown produce.

While our local efforts help play a significant part in the fight to mitigate climate change, despite our size, Singapore is also a global player contributing to the international community’s race to slow down global warming.

Singapore’s Contributions To Global Efforts To Fight Climate Change

For decades Singapore has been an active player in helping fight against climate change on both the negotiation fronts with other nations and a supporter of global green initiatives.

From ratifying the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997 to sponsoring international climate change exhibitions, Singapore is a firm believer in helping to chart a more sustainable future beyond our shores.

climate change

1. Signing & Updating Our Climate Pledges

Singapore ratified the Paris Agreement in September 2016 and pledged to reduce our amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted for each dollar of GDP by 36% as compared to our 2005 levels by 2030.

As the Paris Agreement works on a nationally determined contribution level by the participating countries, Singapore has reaffirmed its commitment to the agreement by updating its pledge.

This will mean Singapore will be looking to further lower our carbon emissions with an aspirational target of halving our emissions from its peak to just 33 Mt of CO2 equivalent by 2050.

These targets help to align the efforts of all national agencies, businesses and individuals across Singapore to accelerate our efforts to push towards more sustainable energy development.

2. Introducing Carbon Tax To Carbon Emissions

In 2018, Singapore ranked 27th out of 142 countries in terms of emissions per capita, making us one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, highlighting the responsibility we need to take to reduce our carbon footprint.

With The Carbon Pricing Act (CPA) that came into effect on 1st Jan 2019, Singapore introduced a carbon tax that affected not just businesses and industries but also everyday consumers that buy electricity for their daily use.

Under this new act, all industrial facilities in Singapore that emit 25,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gases in a year will have to pay $5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions (tonnes of CO2 equivalent) from 2019 to 2023.

This means that power generators that produce the electricity consumers buy are imposed the carbon tax, this tax is then passed on to the consumers.

This is done firstly to encourage consumers to reduce their usage of electricity (or at least encourage more energy-saving habits) as well as motivating companies to innovate ahead and pivot towards cleaner forms of energy such as solar.

carbon emissions

3. Reducing HFC Emissions

Commonly utilized as refrigerants, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are stated to be almost 5,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period.

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) has taken measures to control HFC emissions. 

These include HFCs licensing controls, the restriction on the supply of Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning (RAC) recruitment that use high Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants as well as introducing climate-friendly labels for household refrigerators and air conditioners to better educate consumers.

climate friendly[Image Credit to NEA]

4. Joining The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

Participating as an observer city in the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Singapore’s presence here marks the recognition of its achievements as a city that has achieved environmental sustainability amidst fostering economic growth.

The C40 consists of 58 cities that include Berlin, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and New York. The group collaborates on climate change initiatives with international organizations such as the OECD and World Bank.

By being part of the C40, not only can Singapore learn from the strategies and best sustainability practices in major global cities but also share its experience on Singapore’s journey and plans for a greener future.

5. Sponsoring Climate Change Exhibitions To Spread Awareness

As one of the world’s greatest metropolitan cities and arguably Asia’s top trading hub, Singapore has the platform on the world stage to help drive awareness about climate change.

One such international event was the Changing Course 2019 exhibition that took visitors through an exploration of the world’s climate crisis.

Held at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, the exhibition included a documentary and a 360° video experience that immersed visitors into a world affected by climate change.

With strategic and knowledge partners that included Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources as well as UN Environment and iSwitch, the exhibition saw a gathering of climate change experts sharing with the general public about climate change.


Doing Our Part To Further Singapore’s Sustainability Story

At iSwitch, we are committed to helping Singapore and the world fight against climate change. We do this through various green energy initiatives and solutions.

From offering residential battery storage systems and solar panels installation to electric vehicle charging stations, learn more about our range of green energy solutions here.

Additionally, you can also learn how we provide green-certified electricity to our customers at no additional cost.

Looking to save on your monthly electric bills while still doing your part for the environment?

Be sure to check out our residential price plans here!


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