Densely populated, low lying and coastal, Singapore is particularly vulnerable when it comes to the effects of climate change. Long term impacts in the city-state are likely to include soaring temperatures, severe droughts and significant submersion.

Adding to the city-state’s plight, low wind speeds and a lack of geothermal resources make the pursuit of sustainable forms of energy anything but straightforward. All in all, Singapore pulled something of a short straw in the climate change stakes.

It is little wonder then, that the region has long been heavily invested in reversing its inherited inadequacies. Since 1992, it has had established policies regarding a range of environmental issues, including air pollution, energy efficiency and waste management.

Virgin Unite, sustainability, sustainia, Cities, Singapore

Virgin Unite, sustainability, sustainia, Cities, Singapore

Today, the Garden City is a world hub for climate change adaption and mitigation strategies. Last year, Singapore hosted the 2016 World Cities Summit. Around 20,000 guests from across the globe arrived in the city-state to exchange ideas on the innovations and resilience required to create liveable and sustainable cities.

At the heart of Singapore’s change of fortunes is its Climate Action Plan. Launched in 2011, this proposal maps out a number of ambitious approaches the region intends to implement in order to increase its resilience against climate change and to cut its carbon emissions.

The proposal includes the target of having 80 per cent of buildings in Singapore Green Mark certified by 2030. Meanwhile, the wheels are in motion to construct 700 km of cycling paths, which will facilitate both sustainable transport and outdoor physical activity. Plans are also afoot to expand the rail network to put 80 per cent of households within a 10 minute walk of a station.

In addition to these proposed future schemes, the Climate Action Plan has started to deliver immediate impacts. Three years after its inception, solar power capacity in Singapore had increased from 5.9 MW to 33.1 MW. This is expected to rise to 350 MW by 2020.

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Heavy investment in both the development and implementation of protection structures now sees sea walls occupy more than 70 per cent of the Singaporean coastline. Minimum elevation of new land reclamation has been increased from three metres above the mean sea level to four metres, further turning the tide against the impending threat of rising waters.

Some $1.5 billion, meanwhile, has been poured into retrofitting drainage infrastructure to deal with flooding. Additionally, flood-prone areas have been reduced from 3,200 hectares in the 1970s to just 36 hectares.

Economically too, Singapore has benefitted from the Climate Action Plan. Residents of the city-state now have access to new career opportunities with the creation of some 60,000 jobs in green industries, and the green economy in Singapore has expanded by around $4.4 billion.

By 2030, when the project has been fully implemented, total carbon emissions in the city-state are expected to be 36 per cent lower than they were in 2005. Despite a lack of natural gifts to assist its efforts, Singapore is demonstrating that tackling climate change is not only feasible but worth the extra exertion. Should all continue to go according to the Climate Action Plan, this study in overcoming adversity could create a blueprint for other cities struggling with similar geographical disadvantages.


Cities100 is a mission shared by Sustainia, C40 and Realdania to find the 100 leading city solutions to climate change. Read the publication here, and follow the conversation online using #Cities100

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