MP He Ting Ru

Ms He Ting Ru asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment in view of the changing climate and increasing frequency of extreme weather events, in particular extreme heat, what targeted measures are being taken to mitigate the impact of these events on heat vulnerable groups, such as the elderly or lower income groups, who are more at risk of adverse effects due to physiological or social obstacles to cooling solutions.

Ms He Ting Ru asked the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment (a) whether studies are being conducted or will be conducted to better understand the distribution of heat and energy inequality in our communities; and (b) what are the long-term plans to build heat resilient communities.

Mdm Deputy Speaker: Please do.

Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien: I thank Members Prof Koh Lian Pin, Ms He Ting Ru, Dr Tan Wu Meng and Mr Christopher de Souza for their questions on how Singapore is preparing for rising temperatures. I will address them together with Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How in two parts. First, I will set out the broad context of how climate change and rising temperatures will affect Singapore and outline the Government’s approach to strengthening Singapore’s heat resilience. The Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How will then elaborate on specific policies and measures to cool our neighbourhoods and community spaces.

In recent weeks, many countries have been experiencing heatwaves, including China, India, Pakistan and many European countries. Record-breaking temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius have resulted in deaths, heat injuries and damaged infrastructure. These heat waves are increasing in frequency and intensity worldwide as a result of climate change and portends the severe consequences we would face if we do not take significant steps today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. 

Singapore will not be spared the impacts of global warming. 2012 to 2021 was our warmest decade on record. The Centre for Climate Research Singapore, CCRS for short, has projected that climate change would lead to average temperatures rising by 1.4 to 4.6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Days with peak temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius may appear as early as 2045. This is compounded by the Urban Heat Island effect, or “UHI” effect, where built-up areas are warmer due to heat trapped by buildings and heat generated by activities such as transportation and industry.

To prepare for rising temperatures, the Government has adopted a science-based and proactive heat mitigation and adaption strategy, which has three prongs. First, we are deepening our understanding of the science behind how rising temperatures affects Singapore and our residents. Second, we are reviewing efforts to strengthen the community’s resilience to heat. Third, we are designing effective heat mitigation strategies and scaling them up. Let me elaborate on the three prongs.

 First, understanding the science of how heat affects Singapore and our residents. The CCRS translates global climate projections to understand the localised effects and implications for Singapore. For example, while we do not experience the extreme temperatures arising from high pressure systems that form across large continental masses in the mid-latitude region, we are affected by climate drivers such as El Niño that are likely to be exacerbated by climate change. These projections are being reviewed and will be updated through the Third National Climate Change Study or “V3” that will be released next year. This will enable our heat mitigation action plan and other climate adaptation planning to be informed by the latest IPCC findings and by local and regional warming trends.

To understand how heat affects the Singapore population, we are driving research and development to study the factors contributing to urban heat, test different heat mitigation strategies and assess the effects of heat on public health. For example, under the Cooling Singapore 2.0 project, we are working with researchers to develop a digital model to simulate Singapore’s urban climate and predict the effectiveness of various heat mitigation strategies. This enables us to understand how heat affects different parts of Singapore and identify cost-effective heat mitigation strategies.

Second, we leverage science to design better policies and guidelines to strengthen community resilience to climate change, especially to account for the fact that some segments of our population, such as the elderly or outdoor workers, may be more vulnerable to rising temperatures. MOH and MSE are studying how heat stress could affect our population. MOH, MOM and the Workplace Safety and Health Council also work closely together to ensure that guidelines on managing heat stress at workplaces are regularly updated based on the latest scientific evidence, including the V3 study which I earlier mentioned.

Third, designing effective heat mitigation strategies, of which there are two broad categories. First, measures to promote cooling in our urban environment, such as through urban planning and building guidelines, infusing more greenery and scaling up the use of cool materials on buildings. Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How will elaborate on these. Second, measures to reduce the heat generated from human activities, such as from our homes, our roads and our industries. These include, for example, efforts under the Singapore Green Plan to electrify our vehicle population and to increase the energy efficiency of industrial, commercial and residential buildings.

Individuals also play an important part. When we use less electricity, we not only reduce the heat emitted from our own electrical appliances, we also reduce the energy that needs to be generated by our power stations, thereby reducing both heat generation and carbon emissions at the system level. Hence, we have been enhancing community resilience to climate change by encouraging businesses and individuals to adopt greater energy efficiency, such as the introduction of the Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme to help consumers choose more energy-efficient appliances.

Although Singapore has so far not faced heat crises on the same scale as other countries, it would not be possible to avoid the rise in temperatures due to global warming. We must continue to engage and co-create solutions with the community to enhance our resilience to climate change. We will also roll out policies and measures to cool our neighbourhoods and community spaces, which Senior Minister of State Tan Kiat How will now elaborate on.

Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment
2 August 2022

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