Cities can be ally in climate action: Experts

Well-planned cities can be an ally against climate change, experts at a green building event said yesterday.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, the guest of honour, said the building industry was crucial in tackling the two global mega trends of climate change and urbanisation.

Carbon dioxide levels are going up, he said, and more people are moving to cities, where there are opportunities for better education, jobs and cultural exchange.

In dense, well-planned cities, the unit cost of supplying inhabitants with resources and services like water and utilities would be lower compared with more dispersed communities, said Dr Balakrishnan, who was previously minister for the environment and water resources.

"Urbanisation is, in fact, part of the solution for our sustainable future," he added.

During yesterday's event, co-organised by media outlet Eco-Business and the Singapore Green Building Council, Singapore Management University climate scientist Winston Chow said well-designed cities could incorporate technologies to reduce the amount of emissions.

For example, they could deploy solar panels on rooftops to reduce reliance on fossil fuel-generated electricity and make cooling systems more energy-efficient.

Making buildings more energy-efficient may not solve the problem of climate change, as emissions from the burning of fossil fuels is still the main driver of global warming, said Associate Professor Chow, who is a lead author of an upcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But every action counts, he said. Moreover, it was imperative for cities to adapt to changing weather patterns driven by global warming.

Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Green Building Council - which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year - noted that the industry has shifted towards greater sustainability over the past decade.


Dr Ho said Singapore has to approach sustainability as a necessity. He said: "It has to become part and parcel of how we go about developing and shaping our built environment. In essence, going green must become the new business as usual."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2019, with the headline 'Cities can be ally in climate action: Experts'. Print Edition | Subscribe