Monday, 10 November 2014

Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015

Towards a 'car-lite', zero-waste Singapore
Govt commits $1.5 billion to plans covering power, waste management, transport and more
By Feng Zengkun Environment Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 9 Nov 2014

Singapore will commit $1.5 billion over the next five years to lead the country towards a greener and more sustainable future.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced this yesterday as he outlined wide-ranging plans to turn Singapore into a "car-lite" and zero-waste nation.

These include an electric car-sharing pilot scheme, using Ang Mo Kio and Tampines to test-bed ideas to encourage cycling, and underground pipes to whisk away rubbish in new Housing Board estates, reducing the need for garbage trucks.

Neighbourhoods will also become "eco-smart", through the use of solar panels to power common facilities for instance.

Pointing to Singapore's 50th birthday next year, PM Lee said "it's a good time to celebrate our clean and green efforts for the (last) 50 years, and to chart a vision for the future", as he launched a year-long Clean and Green Singapore 2015 campaign at an event in Choa Chu Kang.

He also revealed an ambitious Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015. The 112-page document updates the original 2009 blueprint which sets out Singapore's targets and strategies for sustainable development until 2030, to ensure the country remains an oasis for everyone.

The latest blueprint, which more than 6,000 people contributed to and took into account local and global developments in technology, sets wide-ranging targets over 15 years, from increasing how much Singapore recycles, to its air quality, even to the amount of skyrise greenery.

For the first time, separate recycling goals for households and industry have been included, in a bid to get more residents to do their share. Last year's non-domestic recycling, which includes the work done by industries, was 77 per cent.

But for households, it was just 20 per cent, pulling down Singapore's overall recycling rate to 61 per cent. The aim is to bring the overall rate up to 70 per cent by 2030, but that means getting households to do much more.

Ms Melissa Tan, chairman of the Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore, believes this is possible if "more is done to raise awareness".

This means getting the message through to the elderly, for instance.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng also lauded the new car-sharing scheme - which he said kills two birds with one stone.

It would not just reduce the number of cars on the road, but also solve the problem of people not wanting to buy eco-friendly electric cars due to their prohibitive costs. As of September, there was just one pure electric car on the roads here.

"We can't keep building more roads for more cars," said PM Lee, hoping that Singapore can learn from other cities, such as Copenhagen, where cycling is a way of life.

He recalled a 2009 visit to the Danish capital, where he saw people cycling in the freeze of winter.

"They made their city cycling-friendly, with lanes, ramps, and other infrastructure... there, cars have regard to bicycles and give way. We have to learn from these examples... and... pilot ideas to see how we can get them to work in Singapore."

PM Lee also made it clear yesterday that it would take all Singaporeans working together to hit the new sustainability targets.

He recalled how the first Keep Singapore Clean campaign in 1968 took a similar "massive effort".

Police and health inspectors advised people against littering while patrolling, fliers were displayed in coffee shops, bus shelters and offices, and the campaign slogan was even printed on cinema tickets.

"We have built a home... we can be proud of. But we must do more as our environmental challenges grow," he said, highlighting how climate change led to prolonged dry weather between January and March.

"Fortunately our lives were not disrupted as we ran our desalination plants at 100 per cent and increased our Newater output to meet our needs," he said.

"But we cannot become complacent as the climate is changing and we must expect more such extreme episodes."

PM Lee, who also presented Heritage Tree Dedication Awards to Singapore Press Holdings, City Developments and Sembcorp Industries for their contributions to the Garden City Fund, was encouraged that many Singaporeans are already organising themselves to do more for the environment.

"Look around and ask yourself: what can I do to make our environment better?"

Sustainable Singapore Blueprint launched
Second edition of blueprint sets out national vision for a sustainable future
By Laura Elizabeth Philomin, TODAY, 8 Nov 2014

Maintaining green spaces and reducing reliance on private car transportation for a liveable home, creating a “green economy” and increasing domestic recycling for a sustainable city, and greater community engagement.

Unveiled at the launch of the year-long Clean & Green 2015 Campaign today (Nov 8) by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the blueprint mapped out the government’s vision to commit S$1.5 billion over the next five years to create a more liveable and sustainable future.

Environmental challenges stemming from climate change - like the Singapore’s longest drought in recorded history in February this year - are expected to grow, said Mr Lee. “We cannot become complacent, because climate is changing and I think we must expect more of such extreme episodes - more droughts, more heavy rains at different times - and we must be able to cope with it."

It is the second blueprint on sustainable development after the first one was released in 2009. Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) showed that Singapore was mostly on track to meeting the original 2030 targets set in the 2009 blueprint. The SSB 2015 will see these 2030 targets stretched further, especially for indicators where Singapore had already exceeded the original target. 

One such area is the amount of skyrise greenery or rooftop gardens. Originally set at 50 hectares by 2030 in the 2009 blueprint, Singapore had 61 hectares in 2013 and will see a new target of 200 hectares in the latest blueprint. 

Other initiatives to enhance green spaces include maintaining public cleanliness and planning parks such that nine in ten households will be within a 10-minute walk from a park. While the length of park connectors has grown steadily from 113km in 2009 to 216km in 2013, it will be further expanded to 400km by 2030.

Continuing the 2009 blueprint’s focus of encouraging greater use greener modes of transport, the SSB 2015 has included introducing features in existing towns to create a more conducive environment for walking and cycling.

Because building more roads for more cars is not a viable option, Mr Lee said: "We want a solution in Singapore where the roads are clear, where there are many alternative for people to travel and to travel in a green and sustainable, and efficient and convenient way."

Under the National Cycling Plan announced last month, the length of cycling paths will be expanded from the current 213km to 700km by 2030, along with intra-town cycling networks that will be piloted in Ang Mo Kio and Tampines. 

In addition, new and upcoming MRT lines will increase the length of rail network from 178km to 360km so that 80 per cent of households – compared to the 58.5 per cent in 2013 – will be within a 10-minute walk from a train station.

Other plans to reduce the usage of cars also include introducing driverless vehicles, piloting an electric car-sharing scheme and creating more car-free zones in the city through roads closures for public activities like at Haji Lane and Ann Siang Road. 

With domestic recycling rates much lower than industrial recycling, improving household recycling was also addressed by introducing more facilities such as centralised chutes for recyclables in all new HDB flats and Pneumatic Waste Conveyance Systems in more towns. 

Initiatives to raise adoption of solar power and other sustainability practices in Singapore-based companies were also outlined to create a “green economy”. The number of “green jobs” is also expected to grow with more demand for expertise and research in areas like improving energy and water efficiency, and pollution and waste reduction. 

Underpinning the initiatives in the SSB 2015 was the focus on greater community engagement commitment to environmental awareness. As part of the review of the SSB 2009, MEWR had conducted public consultations and surveys with about 6,000 participants. Findings from the survey showed that 78 per cent of respondents were concerned about environmental issues and almost nine in ten believed caring for environment is the community or individual’s responsibility. 

To that end, the SSB 2015 intends to support community projects to enliven community spaces and foster stronger community stewardship over caring for the environment and sustainable living practices. For a start, the blueprint aims to grow the number of active green volunteers from over 1,000 to 5,000 by 2030, as well the number of Community in Bloom Gardens from over 700 to 2,000.

Stressing the importance of more people stepping forward to do their part for the environment, Mr Lee said the government provide the infrastructure but individuals also have a responsibility.

"We can build a better transport network, but we have to adjust our commuting lifestyles and habits. HDB can build more convenient chutes for recycling, but households have to use them and practice the 3R’s - reduce, reuse and recycle,” he added. "So together, we have to develop new norms if we’re really going to succeed in being clean and green."

Pick up after yourself, create more bright spots
By Lim Yan Liang, The Sunday Times, 9 Nov 2014

It will take some time to persuade "spoilt" Singaporeans to clean up after themselves, according to the man helming a movement to do just that.

"We can't change Singapore as a society overnight," said Mr Liak Teng Lit, chairman of the Public Hygiene Council, which leads the Keep Singapore Clean Movement.

Citing countries like Japan, where citizens take the initiative to keep common areas clean, Mr Liak lamented that Singaporeans are "so spoilt", being used to town council and hawker centre cleaners picking up after them.

"But hopefully we can change things bit by bit," he said yesterday at the opening ceremony of the year-long Clean and Green Singapore 2015 campaign.

Mr Liak is hoping two community initiatives that were launched alongside the campaign will teach Singaporeans to be more responsible for their own waste.

The first is an expanded Bright Spots Challenge, which aims to increase the number of litter-free "bright spots" in Singapore from 300 now to 500 by the end of next year.

First launched in 2012, the initiative invites people and organisations to adopt communal spaces and keep them clean, turning them into "bright spots" to be emulated.

"I'm hoping that with all these bright spots, good behaviour will grow and spread outwards, and also convince the sceptics," he said.

One such bright spot is Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where Mr Liak was chief executive officer before becoming group chief executive of Alexandra Health in 2012.

Nine in 10 people who eat at the hospital's food court return their trays, whether they are staff, patients or residents, Mr Liak noted.

"Where there is some peer pressure and social norms for you to do things in a certain way, it works."

The other initiative is the No Waste Days Challenge, which encourages Singaporeans to make a pledge not to waste food and to use fewer disposable items.

Members of the public can make pledges at Clean and Green Singapore carnivals that will be held islandwide this month. They can also upload photos of themselves being eco-friendly on social media.

The National Environment Agency said it aims to collect 50,000 photo submissions and pledges by June next year, and is urging companies to make donations to charitable causes when certain milestones are met.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday called on individual Singaporeans to do their part in helping to make Singapore cleaner and greener, noting that each Singaporean now generates nearly 1.5 tonnes of waste a year.

While the Government can build better public transport and more chutes for convenient recycling at home, it is up to each person to adjust their commuting and recycling habits, he said.

"We will have the infrastructure, but please, don't generate so much waste," he added.

Culture of high-rise gardens takes root
Singapore sets new 200ha greening target for buildings by 2030
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 11 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE has hit its greening targets two decades before its deadline of 2030 - and the Government has decided to raise the bar significantly.

Last year, plants covering building exteriors totalled more than 61ha, an area the size of 195 school fields.

This far exceeded the target of 50ha the government had hoped to hit by 2030.

The new target is now 200ha of building greenery by the same deadline.

A spokesman from the National Parks Board (NParks) attributed the rapid increment of skyrise greenery to several programmes.

This includes the Urban Redevelopment Authority's enhanced Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (LUSH) programme, and NParks' Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme, which offers incentives and subsidies to encourage the installation of skyrise greenery.

The greenery targets were spelt out in the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint - first in 2009 and again in the latest document released last Saturday.

This blueprint sets out the Republic's targets and strategies for sustainable development until 2030, in areas such as recycling and air quality.

Green roofs, vertical greenery and gardens in the sky can reduce urban heat gain, which could translate into energy savings, said Mr Tan Seng Chai, group chief corporate officer of CapitaLand and chairman of the CapitaLand Sustainability Steering Committee.

For instance, green roofs and walls can cool surface temperatures by up to 18 deg C and 12 deg C, respectively.

Skyrise greenery also has the potential to improve air quality and create habitats to enhance biodiversity in urban areas.

The new target is not too ambitious, the NParks spokesman said, adding: "We are confident that with the whole of government approach coupled with partnership with private developers, this target is achievable."

For NParks, this would include working with other agencies, such as the Education Ministry, as well as developers of public and community infrastructure, to green their buildings.

The Housing Board is also looking to incorporate skyrise greenery into their buildings so that it becomes "a signature of their developments".

The private sector also welcomed the new target.

"In land-scarce Singapore... more skyrise greenery can maximise the use of space to bring about many benefits," said Mr Allen Ang, head of innovation and green building at property developer City Developments.

Mr Stephen Pimbley, founder and director of architecture firm Spark Architects, said much of Singapore's skyrise greenery is "fairly divorced" from the everyday experience of architecture.

He said: "Imagine if our City in a Garden were able to grow its own food - Singapore could boast a network of productive urban gardens and reduce the need for food importation."

Extra spark for electric car project
Sustainable Singapore blueprint includes car-sharing project involving such vehicles
By Feng Zengkun Environment Correspondent, The Straits Times, 14 Nov 2014

SOMEDAY in the near future, you might be able to find an electric car in your neighbourhood car park, drive it to your destination and then park it for someone else to use.

Last weekend, the authorities said in a new sustainable Singapore blueprint that they are planning to lead an electric car project to make car-sharing more convenient and environmentally-friendly.

When asked, the Economic Development Board and Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a joint reply that they are still at the planning stage and could not provide more details.

But The Straits Times understands that the Government had, as recently as about two years ago, considered introducing 900 to 1,000 electric cars under such a scheme.

Industry players and transportation experts said that a project of this nature was long overdue, and that implementing it would help Singapore meet its goal of being a "car-lite" nation, as set out in the blueprint.

The LTA has said "car sharing can help those who need to use a car for a few hours or over a weekend, and allow convenient access to it without having to own or maintain one".

Unlike conventional cars fuelled by petrol, electric cars do not have tailpipes that emit pollution.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said: "By having an electric car-sharing scheme we can kill two birds with one stone.

"People do not need to buy cars and they can use an even more environmentally-friendly way of sharing cars."

Mr Tom Lokenvitz, founder of hybrid car-sharing outfit Smove, said the Republic's relatively short driving distances and stable power supply make electric cars a good option.

But experts noted that Singapore still does not have enough charging stations for the cars, or parking spaces set aside for them.

As of early July, there were just 68 charging stations and three quick charge stations for the whole island.

Most are on semi-public premises, which means access may be restricted.

When asked, the Housing Board (HDB) said it has about 300 car-sharing parking spaces at 105 HDB car parks.

It said the car parks are primarily for HDB residents, so their needs have to be met first before car-sharing spaces can be set aside. "(But) we will set aside car-sharing spaces in every town, so that residents in all towns can have this option," it said.

It is working with LTA and car-sharing operators to identify suitable locations.

Last year, the LTA and Energy Market Authority concluded the first phase of the Government's electric car test-bed, which started in 2011, and involved 89 cars.

Only cars registered by companies, institutes of higher learning and government agencies took part in the test-bed, but the new car-sharing scheme will be more widely available to the public, according to the blueprint.

Smove's Mr Lokenvitz said the authorities could encourage the use and sharing of electric cars through other means, such as by excluding electric vehicles' batteries - which are costly - from tax computations.

"That would make electric cars more cost-competitive, and the market would adapt. People who are early adopters can buy the cars, and companies can also get more of them to roll out their own electric car-sharing plans," he said.

A car-lite Singapore: How to get there?
The new Sustainable Singapore Blueprint has made it a priority for Singapore to have fewer cars on the road for a more liveable environment. Better transport alternatives and increased car-sharing are proposed. But will they work?
By Feng Zengkun, Environment Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2014

A NEW sustainable blueprint to guide Singapore's development over the next 15 years was launched earlier this month, to create a better home, a better environment and a better future. That better future, however, includes curtailing the dream of many Singaporeans - owning a car.

One priority of the ambitious $1.5 billion Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 is reducing the number of private cars on the roads. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong explained: "We have to rely less on cars on the road, because we can't keep building roads; more roads for more cars."

Roads already make up 12 per cent of land use, compared to housing at 14 per cent.

Fewer vehicles would also reduce land needed for carparks, and improve the quality of life. Air quality, for example, would be better, with fewer polluting emissions from the tailpipes of private cars.

PM Lee said the Government would aim for a "car-lite" Singapore by providing more transport options, such as an expanded MRT network, buses and bicycle paths.

But experts said infrastructure gaps need to be plugged, and, in a country where the car is king, laws and attitudes towards them changed. More is also needed to help people move seamlessly from one form of transport to another more easily.

Beefing up alternatives

LAST year, about 63 per cent of trips during peak hours were by public transport such as buses and trains.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan recently said that cycling makes up 1 to 2 per cent of transport.

The Government wants public transport to make up 75 per cent of peak-hour trips by 2030, and has outlined plans to achieve this.

From the year 2012 to 2016, it will have added 800 buses to the fleet - a 20 per cent increase - and from last year to 2030 it will have expanded the rail network from 178km to 360km.

It will build an island-wide cycling path network of more than 700km by 2030, including both park connectors and cycling paths in Housing Board towns.

It is also conducting a year-long study to shed light on why and how Singaporeans walk, and what would encourage them to do so more often.

The Economic Development Board and Land Transport Authority (LTA) plan to co-lead a project involving the pooled sharing of electric cars.

While the agencies would say only that the project is in the planning stages, The Straits Times understands the Government had considered rolling out up to 1,000 electric cars under such a scheme as recently as two years ago.

The LTA has said "car sharing can help those who need to use a car for a few hours or over a weekend, and allow convenient access to it without people having to own or maintain one".

The authority will pilot a bicycle-sharing scheme next year, possibly in the city centre and Jurong Lake District.

But transport experts said the devil is in the details.

When three Straits Times reporters rode 180km over three days last October to test cycling paths for commuting, they found snags that could dissuade users.

An 11km stretch that people who live in Ang Mo Kio and Bishan can use to go to work at the Upper Paya Lebar Road factories, for example, had six overhead bridges, three of which did not have ramps. People have to haul their bikes up and down the stairs.

Some park connectors were actually existing pavements, which meant cyclists and pedestrians had to jostle for space.

Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy transport researcher Paul Barter said the cycling network needs to be not just comprehensive but also enjoyable and seamless so people can ride almost anywhere efficiently.

"You want people to be able to travel at speeds that let them cover 7km to 8km in half an hour. But it also has to be safe enough for your 10-year-old child," said the adjunct associate professor.

More car-sharing spaces needed

INDUSTRY players added that major infrastructure gaps need to be plugged.

Take the car-sharing scheme. There are three private car-sharing providers, which offer a fleet of vehicles that can be rented for just an hour or longer. Together, they have more than 10,000 members, but only around 300 cars and 100 locations - mostly at HDB carparks - for pick-ups and drop-offs.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said in March that every car added to a well-organised car-sharing scheme could take the place of 15 private vehicles.

But Car-sharing Association of Singapore president Lai Meng said a critical mass of cars and car-sharing parking spaces is needed to make it viable.

Industry players said 3,000 parking spaces would be a good start, since that would mean about 30 to 40 spaces per constituency.

Currently, the Housing Board has set aside only a tenth of that - about 300 car-sharing parking spaces - in 105 HDB carparks island-wide.

It is working with LTA and car-sharing firms to identify more locations and has promised that every town will have some spaces.

Infrastructure, such as power sockets at the parking spaces and charging stations across the island, will also be needed if electric cars are to be used.

Mr Lai noted another problem: The existing spaces are typically on the HDB multi-storey carparks' higher levels, where people may not know they exist.

He said there should be signs alerting residents to shared cars at the street level and also designated parking spaces at lower levels.

LKY School's Dr Barter said parking spaces should also be set aside on streets, so that people in areas such as River Valley, the Bukit Timah corridor and Marina South - which are not near HDB estates - can car-share.

He added that the authorities could encourage more peer-to-peer car-sharing - where individuals rent out cars to each other - by relaxing renting rules. Currently, private cars can be rented out only on weekends and public holidays.

But most people need their cars on weekends for, say, family outings, whereas many vehicles are idling in carparks during the week when the owners are at work, he said.

Currently, there is one company that offers such peer-to-peer sharing. It has more than 11,000 registered users and nearly 1,600 car-owners prepared to share their vehicles.

Some experts, however, questioned whether any car-sharing scheme would take cars off roads here, as only people without cars would use such a scheme.

They said car-sharing would at most forestall some people from buying cars, and it could even backfire if it gives people a taste of driving and the desire to own a car.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said that to actually take cars off the roads, the Government could curtail the number of certificates of entitlement given out, but it would have to be certain that alternative transport modes are convenient and reliable.

Carpooling, where people going to the same destination share a car, is another option.

Towards a more seamless journey

EVEN as infrastructure issues are worked out, more can also be done to help commuters mix and match transport options to achieve the ideal journey.

Dr Barter advocates a "supermobility" mobile app that would allow commuters to set parameters such as location and destination, and how much time they have to travel.

The app would give options using different transport modes, including taxis, bike and car-sharing, public transport and even walking. People could pay for the various options using just the app.

"If commuters can see how easy it is to get around with all of the options, and they are confident there are good options, then fewer will feel the need to buy a car," he said.

Germany, for example, has an app called Mo that allows subscribers to rent bicycles, cargo-bicycles, electric bicycles and cars, and use public transport.

The system even rewards those who choose more eco-friendly transport modes: Using mostly bicycles and renting a car become cheaper.

But one challenge is to change Singaporeans' view of cars as status symbols.

In an article for The Straits Times in February, on how to make Singapore more "car-less", dean of the LKY School Kishore Mahbubani noted that in Tokyo and New York, company managing directors, senior bankers and lawyers take public transport.

In Singapore, however, even middle-level executives working in Raffles Place drive to work.

Mrs Teo also noted in March that 38 per cent of households owned a car a decade ago, but this is now 45 per cent. If it hits 60 per cent, the Government will have to find parking space for another 150,000 cars.

"There is a limit to how many more cars we can have," she said.

For Singapore to truly become a car-lite nation, a high quality, reliable public transport system has to be supplemented by access to taxis, car-sharing and bicycles. But Singaporeans themselves will also have to take the first step - sometimes literally - to achieving that vision.

Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015
PM Lee Unveils Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 to Renew Strategies For A Liveable And Sustainable Singapore

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