The vision of a sustainable Singapore can be traced to 1992 when the first Green Plan was released. This was followed by another edition in 2002, titled the Singapore Green Plan 2012. Several carbon-neutral objectives were announced, with targets set in 2020 to halve 2030 peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and achieve net-zero emissions "as soon as viable". With a land area of around 280 square miles (728.6 km²), Singapore is slightly smaller than the US city of Lexington, Kentucky (739.5 km²). Nearly 6 million residents inhabit this tiny nation in maritime Southeast Asia. Despite its size, Singapore boasts one of the highest per-capita GDPs in the world.
Providing impetus to the city-state’s green agenda, the One Million Trees Movement, launched in April 2020 with a plan to plant 1 million more trees by 2030 to reduce air pollution and offer shade, has so far managed to plant 388,242 trees across Singapore. Termed as ‘a city in a garden’, Singapore has harnessed trees to serve as natural clean air filters. Denser tree canopies reflect radiant heat and cool surface and ambient temperatures through shade and evapo-transpiration, and help to mitigate the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect and its impact on climate change.
Released last year, the Singapore Green Plan 2030 – the latest nationwide push to advance Singapore’s national agenda on sustainable development in line with the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda as well as the Paris Agreement – wants to increase the land area of its nature parks by over 50% from a 2020 baseline, and set every household within a 10-minute walk from a local park. As such, it is reserving 10 km² of green space out of which 2 km² will be designated as nature parks. The plan seeks to incorporate natural designs and planting in 140 hectares of parks and gardens, and restore and enhance 30 hectares of forest, marine and coastal habitats. By 2035, the city aims to add 1,000 hectares of green spaces. To encourage a healthy lifestyle and reduce carbon emissions, the city is now increasing its cycling paths to over 1,300 km with 8 recreational routes, including a 62 km coast-to-coast trail. By 2030, Singapore aims to achieve 75% mass public transport (i.e. rail and bus) modal share and expand its rail network from roughly 230 km today to 360 km by early 2030.
As part of the Green Plan, the country aims to ramp up solar energy deployment to at least a 2 gigawatt-peak by 2030. The country currently has a solar capacity of more than 630 megawatt-peak.
Furthermore, Singapore will also ban new diesel cars from 2025, and plans to cut household landfill waste by 30% through improved recycling infrastructure. Singapore is also asking companies to take more responsibility for the trash they generate during their day-to-day activities. Additionally, Singapore is one of the 20 cities on the radar of the Resilient Cities Network – a leading urban resilience network – that is working relentlessly to enhance urban food security in its member cities.
Over the past five decades, Singapore’s construction sector has evolved exponentially and reshaped its built environment, including its building infrastructure as well as its utility and transport networks, to transform what was once regarded as among the world’s worst slums into a beautiful, world-class city.
To make buildings more energy-efficient, Singapore is working with the International Energy Agency (IEA) to run the Regional Training Programme on Efficient Grid-Interactive Buildings to explore the use of smart digital technologies to transform buildings from energy-intensive consumers to energy-efficient and low-carbon prosumers that can interact with the grid to produce, consume, store, sell and buy energy.
According to the IEA, the built environment (human-built infrastructure) contributes a quarter of total energy use in ASEAN countries, with over 40% of this consumption coming from electricity generated mostly by fossil fuels.
Singapore has been leveraging digital technologies to reduce energy consumption using tools such as smart meters and sensors, as well as artificial intelligence to enable energy system communications and controls to automatically shave and shift peak electricity demand, increasing the grid’s capability to flexibly respond to changes in supply and demand.
Singapore’s government agencies such as the Centre for Liveable Cities and the Land Transport Authority have been instrumental in generating awareness and implementation of integrated spatial and transport planning, sustainable municipal services and distributed energy resources.
Many research centers such as the Singapore-ETH Centre aim to provide practical solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in urban sustainability, resilience and health through their programs. These include Future Cities Lab Global (FCL Global), Future Resilient Systems (FRS) and Future Health Technologies (FHT).
The center serves as an intellectual hub for research, bringing together principal investigators and researchers from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. It actively collaborates with universities and research institutes, and engages with industry and government agencies to translate knowledge into practical solutions to real-world problems.
Furthering the green agenda beyond its borders, Singapore has also made known its interest in collaborating with the UAE on digitalization and decarbonization in the maritime industry. Singapore is the largest port in Southeast Asia and one of the busiest in the world.
During the 7th Edition of Ports Authorities Roundtable (PAR 2022) in Abu Dhabi, Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive of Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, said, "Singapore and the UAE enjoy very strong bilateral relations; we are both maritime hubs in different regions of the world and it is our role to ensure that whatever ships that cross in Singapore and the UAE, we can handle the different types of challenges, moving forward."
Such cooperation between Singapore and UAE is likely to take shape sooner, as the UAE has signed the ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). The UAE's efforts to sign the TAC and join ASEAN as a Sectoral Dialogue Partner (SDP) are part of the broader strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) and the UAE’s Principles of the 50 Frameworks – UAE’s strategic national roadmap – with an emphasis on forging sustainable and effective partnerships with countries and multilateral organizations. The ASEAN member states include Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam and Laos.
“We are the only country in the world to freeze the growth of our vehicle population. We are one of the few countries, who have closed its water loop and re-use every last drop of water.We moved significantly away from coal-generator power many years ago. We do not subsidise the use of fossil fuel and in fact we tax the emisson of carbon. We will continue to build upon this strong foundation and launch a sustainable developmental movement for a better and greener future,” says Ong Ye Kung, Minister of Transport.
New ideas and green technologies are constantly being tested in several areas, including energy conservation, water and waste management, and urban mobility across Singapore, all in pursuit of a greener, more carbon-free environment. A key priority of the Green Plan is mobilizing and empowering the public, private and people sectors to co-create solutions for sustainability in the spirit of “Singapore Together” — a movement for all Singaporeans to join in building a shared future.