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  Straits Times 26 Feb 07
Singapore: Getting ready for rising sea levels
Arti Mulchand

Measures are in place to deal with the effects of climate change

THE little red dot has no wish to be red-hot or submerged. The good news is that measures, including those long in place like minimum heights for reclaimed land, are helping to protect Singapore from some of the effects of climate change like rising sea levels.

In 1991, the Public Utilities Board had set the minimum platform levels for new reclamation projects at 125cm above the highest recorded tide, to 'ensure proper drainage of the reclaimed land', said a PUB spokesman.

This means that areas such as Changi East and the Tuas View Extension will be able to cope with even the highest sea level rise of 59cm, as projected by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this month.

Other measures have also been put into place to deal with some of the anticipated consequences at five key points of vulnerability.

These range from land loss and flooding, to the impact on Singapore's water resources, said the National Climate Change Strategy, developed by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The strategy paper points out that for Singapore - a tropical island city-state - issues like warming temperatures and rising sea levels are real concerns requiring anticipatory measures.

It was launched last April, along with Singapore's signing of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to curb pollution by reducing gas emissions from various sources, including air-conditioners, cars and large coal-fired power plants.

Thus, in anticipation of seawater being able to get into reservoirs here, there are plans for more steel plates in tidal gates.

An ongoing two-year study by the NEA - the first of its kind here - is looking at the possible impact of climate change, including changes in rainfall patterns, sea levels and possible extreme weather conditions, and to identify strategies to help deal with the problems, said the NEA.

The world's vulnerability to potential climate change made headlines in the weeks following the release of the report summary of the IPCC report, which said that signs of global warming are 'unequivocal' and that human activity is the main cause.

The report is a 'screaming siren' compared to just a wake-up call from the last report, released in 2001, Greenpeace's spokesman said.

Among other findings, the report states that global average temperatures could rise between 1.1 and 6.4 deg C, and that sea levels are likely to rise by 18cm to 59cm. Heatwaves and heavy rains are 'very likely' to become more frequent.

Authorities here are awaiting the full IPCC report, expected to be released in May. It is expected to make regional projections of climate change effects that can feed into Singapore's study.

NEA's spokesman has also said that inter-agency task forces, like those previously formed in response to dengue and the haze, will be formed to deal with 'likely scenarios arising out of climate change'.

Also watching matters closely are environmentalists and agencies like the Climate Change Organisation, Singapore, and the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

Last month, SIIA and oil company Shell Singapore released a special report outlining the key environmental challenges for Singapore and the region, with information culled from an experts' roundtable discussion in September last year, one of which was to build awareness along different avenues and target specific stakeholders.

Another major challenge: translating climate change findings for the layman, so he understands how such issues are directly relevant to his life.

Roundtable participants also pointed to the need for more Asia-centric research on climate change, since most current research is being done in the West.

They also highlighted the need for 'regional political will to effect change in Asia', such as through Asean.

Cutting carbon emissions

CARBON dioxide is the main culprit in Singapore's greenhouse gas emission. The aim is to bring emissions to 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Five key sectors that use energy are targeted.

This is the largest primary source of CO2 emissions.

Aim: Improve power generation efficiency; encourage use of cleaner, less carbon-intensive fuels like natural gas.


Between 2000 and 2005, electricity generated by natural gas has grown from 19 to 74 per cent. Natural gas emits 40 per cent less carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated.

Use of energy efficient power generation technology.

Since 2000, energy from incinerated waste contributed up to two per cent of energy supply.

Funding for renewable energy like solar power.


Emissions standards for power plants.

Encourage reporting of CO2 emissions to raise awareness of energy use and identify areas for improvement.



Improve energy efficiency to cut carbon intensity.

Capitalise on business opportunities, including exporting carbon-efficient technology, and carbon trading.


Energy audit schemes, like the $10 million Energy Efficiency Improvement Assistance Scheme to co-fund energy audits. As of May last year, 18 applications have been approved.

Tax incentives for energy efficient equipment.


Generate heat and electricity together. Using waste heat from combustion can increase energy efficiency of power generation from 40 to 50 per cent to more than 75 per cent. Trigeneration - the simultaneous generation of power, heat and chilled water - is being test-bedded.

Promote energy-efficient industrial equipment through tax incentives, minimum energy-efficiency standards and energy labelling.

Encourage energy audits.


Aim: Minimise emissions by managing usage, improving fuel efficiency and promoting use of cleaner fuels and green vehicles. Vehicle population in 2006: 776,571.

Existing: Mechanisms like the Certificate of Entitlement system, Electronic Road Pricing, and schemes like car sharing and Park-and-Ride.

Taxes pegged to engine capacity and petrol tax based on volume.

Voluntary fuel economy labelling.

Green vehicle rebate.


Mandatory fuel economy labelling, further support for the use of vehicles using compressed natural gas, review of the green vehicle rebate, cultivating fuel-efficient habits and promoting public transport and car-pooling.



Boost energy-efficient design and technologies, conservation, and natural light and ventilation - energy use can be cut by 35 per cent.


Minimum energy-efficiency standards focusing on heat transfer, building labelling schemes like the Green Mark, energy audits and use of solar energy.


Review of insulation standards for non-air-conditioned buildings like schools and HDB flats, promoting energy-efficient designs and practices, promoting solar energy, and expanding building labelling.


Aim: Get people to buy energy-efficient appliances, and to have energy saving habits.


Voluntary energy labelling, 'green corners' in stores like Best Denki, and public education.


Mandatory labelling and minimum efficiency standards for energy-intensive appliances like air-conditioners and fridges, and increasing public awareness.

What parts of Singapore gets flooded with 1m rise of sea level? on the flood map website

Related articles on Global issues: climate change
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