SINGAPORE: In an adjournment motion presented on 7 February, Member of Parliament He Ting Ru emphasized the imperative for Singapore to address the escalating temperatures due to their significant social and economic repercussions.
She stressed that conventional approaches to mitigating these impacts should be pursued, and the nation should not defer action.
Opening her speech, He Ting Ru acknowledged the prevailing perception among Singaporeans that climate change might feel distant from their daily lives in the country.
She highlighted the latest Met Service report, indicating that the 10-year period from 2013 to 2022 marked Singapore’s warmest on record, with the man-made urban environment being a notable contributing factor.
“While we cannot on our own stop the climate from getting hotter, we can reduce the impact global warming has on the immediate environment around us,” Ms He said.
She stressed the urgency of this action by emphasizing two key points.
Firstly, the substantial social and economic costs that will be incurred if mitigation measures are not implemented.
Secondly, the consequences of postponing action, leaving the predicament for future generations to grapple with, thereby burdening them with increased costs due to path dependency.
Singapore urgently addresses urban heat challenges with strategic socio-economic measures and regulatory actions
Ms He noted in 2019, the government announced a potential expenditure of $100 billion or more to protect the island from rising sea levels.
While such spending might not be necessary for heat mitigation, strategies to adapt to urban heat in Singapore need to consider socio-economic issues.
These strategies should be accelerated and strengthened through regulatory measures.
Firstly, socio-economic dimensions of the urban heat problem must be addressed to identify principles and priority areas.
Last year, MSE and NEA introduced a new heat stress advisory and rules to reduce heat stress risks for outdoor workers, marking significant progress in workplace safety.
However, attention should now shift towards indirect but heat-related safety issues.
Humid heat exposure significantly impacts sleep quality, contributing to potential adverse effects on mental and physical health, as well as an increased risk of workplace injuries.
The impact of urban heat on vulnerable groups, particularly those less well-off, requires urgent attention.
While better-off Singaporeans can easily combat heat through air conditioning or passively cooled buildings, less affluent individuals often resort to cooling measures such as cool showers.
Initiatives like the Home Improvement Program and Climate-Friendly Households Program should be expanded to encourage heat-resilient efforts, such as providing subsidies for fans or blackout curtains.
The need for a decent living standard concerning heat becomes paramount, acknowledging that vulnerable groups contribute the least to climate change-related carbon emissions and are least able to adapt to climate change.
Secondly, the importance of acting quickly in tackling urban heat involves considering pathway dependency and making informed decisions.
Initiatives such as the pilot study coating HDB blocks with heat-reflective paint exemplify preventive measures.
The government should consider subsidies for successful outcomes and explore feasible concepts from other cities for trial in Singapore.
Preserving green spaces is pivotal, given their impact on environmental temperatures and property prices.
The URA’s Master Plan review should prioritize the retention of green cover, considering its socio-economic impacts.
Accelerating the implementation of building standards and retrofitting targets, such as the Singapore Green Building Master Plan, is vital, particularly for public sector buildings, to lead the way in sustainability.
Lastly, regulation plays a pivotal role in addressing heat-related challenges.
New legislation, such as facilitating solar panel installations in condominiums and requiring climate change impact assessments for new infrastructure, should be considered.
Intermediate solutions, like ensuring access to free tap water in public spaces, can pave the way for future regulations, benefiting outdoor workers and the general public.
“Every day our environment gets hotter is a pivotal day for our country,” said Ms He.
She stated that balancing timely actions, effective measures, and careful consideration of future choices is essential to ensure a sustainable and resilient future, avoiding adverse consequences for the upcoming generations.
Singapore adopts science-based heat resilience strategy to tackle rising temperatures and urban heat
In response, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor said the government adopted a science-based and proactive heat resilience strategy.
“Indeed heat resilience is an important issue for Singapore,” said Dr Khor.
Rising temperatures in Singapore will be exacerbated by the urban heat island (UHI) effect, stemming from the densely built environment absorbing and retaining heat, along with heat-generating activities.
Dr Khor said that the government’s proactive and science-based heat resilience strategy comprises three key aspects.
Firstly, national-level cooling strategies are being implemented to benefit all segments of society, with a special focus on the vulnerable.
Transforming Singapore into a city in nature involves the creation of a network of green spaces across the island, ensuring that every household will be within a 10-minute walk from a park by 2030.
This effort includes planting trees along roads, the 1 million trees movement, and intensifying greening measures beyond parks, such as sky-rise greenery and building facades.
Additionally, specific measures, such as environmental modeling for new towns, aim to optimize wind flow and reduce heat gain in HDB flats.
The second aspect involves strengthening community resilience, particularly among vulnerable population segments.
She gave examples of initiatives like the Heat Stress Advisory guide the public on minimizing heat stress risks, providing real-time heat stress levels through the My Environment app.
Access to clean drinking water is emphasized by Dr Khor, noting the widespread availability of water dispensers and a crowd-sourced map created to locate them.
The third prong of the strategy involves deepening scientific understanding of the impact of rising temperatures.
Dr Khor also noted that the government collaborates with experts and conducts research and development (R&D) projects to enhance heat resilience.
The Cooling Singapore 2.0 project, for instance, is developing a digital model to simulate urban climate and assess cooling strategies’ effectiveness.
Researchers explore innovative solutions, like smart systems adjusting fan wind speed and air-con temperature, to mitigate the impact of warmer nights on sleep quality.
As the government takes steps to address rising temperatures and the UHI effect, the public is encouraged to participate in building a more heat-resilient Singapore, said Dr Khor.
Individual actions, such as using public transport and energy-efficient appliances, can collectively contribute to reducing heat emissions.
“As a community, we can look out for one another and co-create solutions, such as setting up community cool spaces to beat the heat together,” she added.
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