Monday, 15 February 2021

Singapore Green Plan 2030 to change the way people live, work, study and play

Singapore poised to take green leap forward
New sustainability initiatives launched to change how people work, study and play
By Audrey Tan, Science and Environment Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 Feb 2021

Singaporeans look set to lead much greener lives by 2030, with new sustainability initiatives launched to change the way they work, study and play.

The Singapore Green Plan 2030, released by five ministries yesterday, will chart the country's way towards a more sustainable future, "building back better" as it recovers from the fallout of Covid-19.

The plan seeks to inform all aspects of development here - from infrastructure, to research and innovation, to training programmes.

"The comprehensive plan will strengthen Singapore's economic, climate and resource resilience, improve the living environment of Singaporeans, and bring new business and job opportunities," said the ministries in a joint statement. The Ministries of Education, National Development, Sustainability and the Environment, Trade and Industry and Transport are driving the initiative.

Under the Green Plan, at least 20 per cent of schools here will be carbon-neutral by 2030.

Adults, too, will work in greener buildings, since there are plans to raise the sustainability standards of buildings. People will be encouraged to commute in a less carbon-intensive way - cycling paths will triple in length by then, and the rail network will be expanded to 360km, up from the 230km today.

This infrastructure will be built within a city cloaked in green, with more initiatives to help nature seep into the heartland.

For instance, more nature parks will sprout up over the years. By 2030, there will be a more than 50 per cent increase in nature park land where people can go hiking or birdwatching.

Even the fossil fuel haven of Jurong Island will be transformed into a "sustainable energy and chemicals park".

Behind the scenes, research and innovation in low carbon alternatives will continue, even as programmes such as the new Enterprise Sustainability Programme are rolled out to help firms develop capabilities in this area.

More details on these initiatives will be given during the Budget next week, and in the subsequent Budget debates.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post that the Green Plan will build upon Singapore's past sustainability efforts.

"We need to ensure a Singapore for our future generations. All of us have to work together, and make Singapore a bright green spark for the world," said PM Lee.

The Green Plan follows a robust debate in the House earlier this month on the need for Singapore to speed up efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Co-founder of the Singapore Youth for Climate Action Nor Lastrina Hamid said that while many initiatives in the plan have been announced before, she was heartened that multiple ministries were involved in the Green Plan.

Ms Lastrina added that she hopes to see more regular engagement between the Government and civil society and the general public, to help the plans materialise.

Green Plan offers new jobs, areas for economic growth
Singapore aims to be carbon services hub, centre for green finance and sustainable tourism destination
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 11 Feb 2021

Jurong Island will be a sustainable energy and chemicals park by 2030 as part of Singapore's push to make industrial production processes and energy usage greener and improve energy efficiency.

The Republic also aims to develop itself into a sustainable tourism destination as well as a carbon services hub and a centre for green finance to facilitate sustainability efforts in Asia.

In a statement announcing an inter-ministerial Green Plan yesterday, the Government said Singapore's sustainability efforts will bring new business opportunities.

The Green Economy, one of five key pillars of the new Green Plan, aims to seek green growth opportunities to create new jobs, transform Singapore's industries and harness sustainability as a competitive advantage, the statement said.

This also entails ensuring that new carbon-intensive investments brought into Singapore are among the best-in-class in terms of carbon and energy efficiency.

Other initiatives include strengthening Singapore as a location for both global and local companies to develop new sustainability solutions for Asia through research and development in areas such as sustainable packaging, decarbonisation, waste upcycling, urban farming and water treatment.

New technologies for carbon capture, utilisation and storage will be developed and trialled, and the potential of low-carbon hydrogen and other emerging technological approaches to decarbonisation will be studied.

The Government will also support local enterprises to adopt sustainability practices, solutions and standards, enhance their resource efficiency and tap new business opportunities in sustainability, the statement added.

The Green Plan is spearheaded by the ministries of Education, National Development, Sustainability and the Environment, Trade and Industry, and Transport.

The Government has also reiterated its plan to review the carbon tax by 2023, a move that MPs on both sides of the aisle in Parliament have strongly supported.

During a Feb 1 debate on a motion calling on the Government to bolster its climate efforts, many MPs called for the carbon tax to be raised significantly and for the review to be brought forward.

Kebun Baru MP Henry Kwek, who spoke during the debate about how Singapore can help other countries reduce their carbon emissions, said the initiatives announced in the Green Plan are bold and will be impactful.

"I look forward to a sharp debate on the Green Plan in the upcoming Budget season," he said, adding that he was encouraged by the announcement of the Green Plan Conversations with members of the public that will "bring everyone into the fold", build trust and rally Singaporeans to change the way they live.

On the plan to make Jurong Island more sustainable, Mr Kwek said it would be "overly simplistic" to see Singapore's petrochemical sector solely as a carbon emitter.

"We must also consider that if our petrochemical companies exit Singapore to minimise cost, it is quite possible they will move to a different location with even less robust carbon emission standards," said Mr Kwek.

"A balanced approach will be to acknowledge that Singapore provides essential manufacturing services, including petrochemicals, to the rest of the world, and the way we discharge our duty is to ensure that our petrochemicals companies achieve world-class energy and carbon efficiency."

Mr Anders Nordheim, senior vice-president of Asia sustainable finance at the World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore, said Singapore is well positioned to be a hub for green finance and the issuance of sustainability-themed securities given its robust banking sector and large asset management sector.

But Mr Nordheim said the Republic will face fierce competition in its bid to become an Asian green finance hub from Hong Kong, which launched a strategic plan on green finance in December last year. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has also been issuing green bonds since 2019.

Keen on green, but at what cost? Poll maps out Singaporean attitudes to eco-friendliness
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is the nation's blueprint for a more sustainable future, but people here have differing views on green living and accepting the trade-offs that they face in the sustainability journey
By Audrey Tan‍ Environment Correspondent and Ng Keng Gene, The Straits Times, 27 Mar 2021

Stanley Lim is all for living the eco-friendly life mapped out under the Singapore Green Plan 2030 - as long as it costs him nothing and does not inconvenience him.

The world is not going to end during his lifetime, says the 45-year-old teacher over the phone.

On the other hand, Jay Ang, a 38-year-old engineer, recently shelled out an extra $8,000 for a hybrid car instead of one that runs only on petrol.

All his appliances at home - from the television to the refrigerator to the washing machine - are water-and energy-efficient models that cost him more money. But that is a small sacrifice for the greater good, he acknowledges.

The responses of the two men fall on opposite sides of the spectrum and highlight the different views people here have about green living and the price they are willing to pay for sustainability.

This is according to a poll of 1,000 people by The Straits Times and online market research firm Milieu Insight. The online survey follows last month's release of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, which charts a more sustainable path forward for the country.

The plan sets out sustainability targets, like having more energy-efficient buildings and improving Singapore's resilience to the impact of climate change, such as by boosting local food production.

The trade-offs at the national level were discussed during the parliamentary debate on Singapore's sustainability efforts earlier this month. Ministers cited Singapore's lack of land for large solar farms and access to renewable energy sources as impeding its efforts to decarbonise its energy sector more rapidly.

The experiences of Mr Lim and Mr Ang also highlight the trade-offs that individuals face in the sustainability journey, which the Government says must be a whole-of-nation endeavour.

Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Professor Shirley Ho, who studies public opinion dynamics related to science, technology and the environment, says every effort matters, even if the carbon footprint of the individual is small compared with industry's environmental impact. This is because the green transition will affect people's personal lives, as the job losses in the oil industry have shown, she says. But beyond that, using the technology and infrastructure outlined in the Green Plan also needs buy-in from the people.

Consider food security: Will people be willing to consume novel foods, such as plant-based and cultivated meat? As far as energy is concerned, will the public be willing to accept clean but controversial sources, such as nuclear energy?

"All these sustainability efforts require public support and acceptance," adds Prof Ho.


There are five themes to the Green Plan - among them "energy reset" and "sustainable living". The poll asked respondents for their views on actions that individuals can undertake under each one.

For instance, under "city in nature", 97 per cent said they were supportive of the nation's greening efforts. A handful expressed concern over encounters with wildlife or falling tree incidents, but only about 10 of the 1,000 men and women polled indicated that having nature in the city - the upside being the ability of greenery to lower urban temperatures - was not worth the potential risks.

Respondents were also asked about their willingness to consider sustainable choices, such as green electricity plans, energy-or water-efficient appliances, or electric or hybrid vehicles. Responses varied.

Cost and inconvenience topped the list of reasons why many said they were hesitant about doing so.

Almost 90 per cent said there were benefits to eating locally produced food. The produce is fresher, some said, while others felt that local food production will increase the country's resilience against global food supply shocks.

But almost half of this group were undecided about or disagreed that these benefits were worth the potentially higher prices.

Separately, almost four in five of the 500 respondents who drive but do not currently own a hybrid or electric car said they were willing to switch, mainly because of environmental reasons.

Those who were less willing cited the higher costs of cleaner vehicles and the inconvenience in looking for charging points or waiting for the vehicle to charge up.

Prof Ho, who is also NTU's research director for arts, humanities, education and social sciences, says communication material for the Green Plan - such as the website and the video featuring five ministers - helped establish sustainability as a national priority by conveying the slate of government initiatives to meet the targets.

But the next step would be to highlight how the plan will affect or benefit individuals or families in Singapore - especially since climate change is an impersonal issue for many here, Prof Ho adds.

Moreover, there is a gap between what will be done nationally and what individuals can do, she says.


The teething pains of a green transition are unavoidable, say climate and sustainability experts.

But the trade-offs at the individual and national levels must be viewed with consideration of the longer-term harmful effects of unabated climate change, they say.

They add that while Singapore's Green Plan sends a positive signal, some of the country's targets were not ambitious enough and that it could do more despite the constraints it faces.

Ms Norly Mercado, regional director for climate group 350 Asia, says this could include setting policies for national financial institutions to rule out coal or fossil fuel finance, and ensuring that further stimulus is channelled towards sustainable economic recovery by investments in renewable energy.

Dr Vinod Thomas, a former senior vice-president of the World Bank and a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore, says: "Climate action will not slow long-term growth, it is climate inaction that will exacerbate disasters and derail sustained growth."

Human activity, such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels for energy, is causing heat-trapping gases to build up in the atmosphere. This ever-thickening blanket is throwing the climate system out of whack, and scientific studies have shown it could lead to more frequent and intense extreme weather events and rainfall patterns.

Assistant Professor of strategic management Simon Schillebeeckx at the Singapore Management University says the Covid-19 pandemic made people realise how physically interconnected the world is. "This has accelerated the understanding that climate change is not an issue for other people or for future generations."

Singapore contributes 0.11 per cent to global emissions but it will still be vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

How will the sustainability discourse impact the individual?

Economist Walter Theseira from the Singapore University of Social Sciences says it might get people to rethink being able to live out an "ideal middle-class lifestyle with low emissions".

Currently, there is an expectation that technological progress will accommodate everyone having a middle-class lifestyle at the emissions intensity of the less developed world, he says. But technology might not be panacea.

"If so, we will have to accept that some high emissions intensity aspects of our regular lifestyles may have to cease or be significantly restricted," says Associate Professor Theseira. This may involve redefining expectations of what a middle-class lifestyle is like under significant carbon constraints. "I don't think that means only eating bread and water and not using air-conditioning, but it may turn out to be quite different from what we are used to today," he adds.

Professor Stephen Cairns, director of the Singapore hub for the Future Cities Lab Global, says the pandemic should prompt a rethink of the status quo. "The gist here is to address the crisis and redouble our efforts to design our best possible future. It is something we all do in a crisis: take stock and consider better ways of doing things in the future."


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