Speech by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, on Adjournment Motion on ‘Building a Heat-resilient’ Singapore on 7 February 2024
1 Mr Speaker, heat resilience is an important issue for Singapore. Rising temperatures will be compounded by the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, as our densely built-up environment absorbs and retains heat, and activities such as transportation and industrial works generate heat.
2 Various Members had previously filed questions on heat resilience, including just yesterday. We would like to assure this House that the Government has for some time now and will continue to address this as part of our overall climate resilience efforts.
3 The Government adopts a science-based and proactive heat resilience strategy, which has three prongs: (i) First, implementing national-level cooling strategies to benefit all segments of our society, including the vulnerable; (ii) second, strengthening the community’s resilience, especially among more vulnerable population segments; and (iii) third, deepening our scientific understanding of the impact of rising temperatures.
Implementing national-level cooling strategies to benefit all segments of our society
4 First, cooling strategies aim to keep us cool in our warm climate.
5 Greening Singapore is a key strategy that has multiple benefits, including providing shade and reducing ambient temperatures of our surroundings. As we transform Singapore into a City in Nature, we are setting in place a network of green spaces across the island so that by 2030, every household will be within a 10-minute walk from a park. We are also intensifying greenery beyond just our parks. This includes planting trees along roads. Under the OneMillionTrees Movement, with the help of our partners and the community, we have planted over 630,000 trees. Other greening measures include increasing skyrise greenery and greenery on building facades, such as through URA’s Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (LUSH) scheme. As part of greenery intensification efforts under the Green Towns Programme, suitable top decks of HDB multi-storey car parks are converted to greenery and community or allotment gardens.
6 We are also deploying other cooling strategies across the island. The Member may be aware from MND’s PQ response yesterday that HDB conducts environmental modelling for new towns and estates. This enables us to site new flats and orientate blocks to optimise wind flow and reduce heat gain. For existing towns, under HDB’s Green Towns Programme, we are studying the application of cool coatings.
7 Besides these broad-based measures, there are also specific measures to help various vulnerable groups cope with the impact of higher temperatures. For instance, HDB has created more openings along corridors in some older rental blocks by removing some units from each floor. This enhances airflow and natural ventilation in these blocks. Migrant worker dormitories are required to be provided with adequate fans to ensure good air circulation and ventilation in the dormitory rooms and Recreation Centres. MOM is also installing ice machines in Recreation Centres.
Strengthening the community’s resilience to heat
8 Second, we have taken steps to empower the community to cope with a warming world.
9 We launched the Heat Stress Advisory in July last year, to guide the public on ways to minimise the risk of heat stress. The public can easily check the prevailing heat stress levels on the myENV app before embarking on outdoor activities, and take simple steps to protect ourselves. This is no different from checking the weather forecast for rain, in deciding whether to bring an umbrella. Similar to the other weather data on the myENV app, readings are based on the monitoring station nearest to the app user automatically.
10 We currently have 9 WBGT stations islandwide, and will be expanding our network.
11 Access to water is important to address heat stress. We have easy access to clean drinking water. Singapore’s tap water is perfectly safe for direct consumption, without the need for boiling or water filters.
12 Furthermore, water dispensers are widely available at hawker centres, parks, bus interchanges and terminals. SUSS undergraduate Tng Ming Kang has created a crowd-sourced map on these existing water dispensers in Singapore.
13 We also have targeted sector-specific guidelines for various groups including outdoor workers, athletes, uniformed personnel, residential homes and schools. Let me elaborate.
14 The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) introduced an enhanced set of measures to reduce the risk of heat stress for outdoor workers last year. These include measures focusing on four aspects: acclimatise, drink, rest, and shade. Of note, employers are required to provide a minimum rest break of 10 minutes hourly under shade for workers carrying out heavy physical activities when the WBGT (degree celsius) is 32 or higher. Employers should also reschedule outdoor work to cooler parts of the day where feasible and re-deploy workers vulnerable to heat stress.
15 Beyond MOM’s guidelines, we are also heartened that organisations have taken additional steps to protect outdoor workers. For instance, Changi Airport Group provides refresh pods at staff rest areas which circulate cool air at the touch of a button. They also deploy trucks with isotonic drinks to remind workers to stay hydrated. For our delivery workers, Grab and Foodpanda remind riders on heat stress. Deliveroo provides water for riders at its delivery-only kitchens and encourages merchants do so too.
Deepening our scientific understanding of the impact of rising temperatures
16 Finally, on deepening our scientific understanding. Our heat-resilience strategies are based on science. For instance, we set the Heat Stress Advisory thresholds in consultation with experts, and we are reviewing our heat resilience plans based on the climate projections from our Third National Climate Change study.
17 We leverage R&D to design more effective heat resilience strategies. For example, the Cooling Singapore 2.0 project is developing a digital model, to simulate Singapore’s urban climate and assess the effectiveness of various cooling strategies. Researchers in NUS are also investigating the impact of warmer and more humid nights on sleep quality, to develop novel cooling solutions such as smart systems that can adjust fan wind speed and air-con temperature. This will ensure that rising temperatures do not take a toll on people’s rest while we remain energy efficient.
18 The Cooling Singapore 2.0 project also investigates the impact of heat on different segments of the population, such as the elderly and children. We may also consider studying other relevant social-economic dimensions in the future. Through the Climate Impact Science Research (CISR) Programme, we will examine the effects of rising temperatures on our physical and mental health, as well as second-order effects such as increased mosquito population.
19 We also cooperate with international partners on future collaborations and knowledge-sharing. The Heat Resilience and Performance Centre (HRPC) at NUS will be the Southeast Asia node of the Global Heat Health Information Network, an initiative by the World Health Organisation and World Meteorological Organisation.
20 Even as the government takes steps to address warming temperatures and UHI, I would like to call on the public to join us on this journey to make Singapore and our communities more heat-resilient.
21 Individually, we can take steps to reduce heat emissions by taking public transport, and using less air-conditioning and more energy-efficient electrical appliances. As a community, we can look out more for one another and co-create solutions such as setting up community cool spaces, to beat the heat together.