Why Singapore?

Environmental sustainability and economic growth have been key drivers of Singapore’s socio-economic development. As a small country with few natural resources, it is important that we optimise the use of our available environmental and energy resources, and at the same time achieve synergies across the policy objectives of environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness and energy security.

While governments around the world are struggling to meet the goals of the Paris agreement — keeping the global temperature increase to about 1.5 degrees Celsius and the rise in sea levels to less than 0.5 meters — Singapore is devising a S$100 billion ($72 billion) plan to safeguard the city against temperatures and floodwaters several times those levels.

Analysis by the Meteorological Service Singapore’s Centre for Climate Research Singapore suggests that in a worst case scenario, floods could rise by almost 4 meters, factoring in effects like storm surges — an increase that would submerge cities from New York to Shanghai and London if repeated globally.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called climate change a matter of “life and death,” an existential threat to the country as important as national defense. “Everything else must bend at the knee to safeguard the existence of our island nation,” Lee said in August at his National Day Rally — Singapore’s version of the State of Union address.

Singapore has reason to worry. According to the government weather service, the city has been warming twice as quickly as the world average over the past six decades, with temperatures rising about 0.25C per decade. It just had its hottest decade on record and if global carbon emissions keep rising at the current rate, daily temperatures could reach highs of 35C to 37C (95-99 Fahrenheit) by 2100.

At the heart of Singapore’s plan is a coastal adaptation study commissioned by the Building and Construction Authority in 2013 and submitted to the government last year. The BCA declined to provide details of the report, saying that the government is reviewing the findings, but the options for the government are expected to be wide and varied, from using mangrove to protect coastlines to flood-proofing subway stations and developing green “sponge” areas that can absorb floodwaters

A Coastal and Flood Protection Fund will be set up with an initial S$5 billion, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his budget speech on Feb. 18. He said S$1 billion will be committed to research in urban solutions and sustainability, focusing on such things as renewable energy and cooling.

“If we start early and think long term, we can begin the preparation,” Heng, who is also deputy prime minister, said in a Bloomberg TV interview on Feb. 19. The fund “will allow us to take the measures that are necessary.