Speech by President Tony Tan at the Opening Ceremony and Welcome Reception of the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit on 10 July 2016 at Sands Expo and Convention Centre


Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome WCS-SIWW-CESS participants

Welcome to Singapore.  It is my pleasure to be here this evening to officiate the joint opening of the World Cities Summit, the Singapore International Water Week and the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore. This year, the three Summits will focus discussion on innovation and resilience in creating liveable and sustainable cities.

Cities and the increasing complexity of urban challenges

Cities are not a passing phenomenon. As nations develop economically and socially, the concentration of people in global centres will continue. As such, cities have to grapple with complex urban challenges, which include dealing with the implications of climate change – from rising sea levels in the longer term to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather conditions in the short term. In recent times, we have seen floods that have deluged cities in Europe, monster storms affecting several Australian cities and heat waves that have hit cities in India.  Cities have to lead the way in finding innovative urban solutions to address these challenges.

Singapore’s Experience

Like many other cities, Singapore also faces complex urban challenges. Meteorological projections show that Singapore’s climate is changing and we are likely to face higher temperatures, more intense and frequent heavy rainfall events coupled with more pronounced dry seasons, and higher sea levels. 

In dealing with the environmental challenges, we can look to our past to find inspiration for the future.  Singapore as a city-state with resource constraints has to rely on innovation to deal with our challenges.  

Our water story is a prime example. At independence, Singapore was a rapidly urbanising city that faced a plethora of water challenges, including scarcity and pollution.Singapore made a crucial decision to invest heavily in Research and Development. Singapore’s investments in NEWater and desalination over the last two decades provided us with some security against the threats of climate change. 

Singapore’s fifth NEWater factory will be completed this year, and two additional desalination plants will be completed in the next four years. We are also developing a fifth desalination plant. These investments will boost our water supply capacity from alternative sources to 85% by 2060. Besides supply, Singapore also actively manages our water demand, through outreach and various water conservation measures for both industry and households.

Singapore’s future plans for innovation and resilience

In our role as a global citizen, Singapore seeks to do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Prior to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last year, Singapore announced our carbon mitigation plan to reduce our emissions intensity by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

This evening, I am pleased to announce the release of Singapore’s Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan outlines bold steps that Singapore is taking to achieve our 2030 carbon mitigation plan, as well as to strengthen our resilience to climate change. We will reduce emissions from power generation, by raising solar power in our system to 350 Mega Watt peak by 2020, an 18 times increase as compared to 2014. This would constitute about 5% of Singapore’s expected peak electricity demand.

The Singapore’s Climate Action Plan will fit within the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, the country’s broader sustainable development framework to guide our sustainability efforts until 2030.  The Blueprint outlines our national vision, and plans for our home, environment and future through 5 key thrusts of building “eco-smart” towns, going “car-lite”, working towards a zero-waste nation, pushing for a leading green economy and encouraging civic participation for an active and gracious community.

Culture in the City

Beyond its buildings and physical infrastructure, a city is also very much about its people, its history, artistic expression, way of life and character – in other words, its culture. This often intangible aspect of city living binds people across changing demography, influences of technology, and environmental, social and economic stressors. For Singapore, racial and religious diversity is a hallmark of our culture, and our ability to preserve social harmony is a key contributor to social resilience.

Culture provides an anchor for identity. The Singapore urban development experience has taught us the importance of working innovatively with culture to balance competing forces; to adapt for the future by enriching and enlarging the culture of a city. During the Summits, there will be site visits to some of our heritage and cultural sites, as well as an exhibition on our national monuments, organised for all participants.  I encourage you to participate in them, so that we can share our experience in harmonising culture with urban development.

Partnership and Collaboration

This week’s Summits are excellent platforms for exchanging ideas and learning about innovative and emerging solutions in creating liveable and sustainable communities. Many of us here today are city leaders, practitioners or urban solution providers who are at the forefront of spearheading such efforts. 

I wish you a fruitful and productive time networking and learning from one another, and hope you will continue to maintain the friendships and networks forged here and continue the meaningful dialogue beyond the Summits.