Climate change poses major risks and potential disruptions, but it also offers opportunities to coalesce efforts towards a more sustainable future. The New Climate Economy estimated in 2018 that bold action against climate change could yield a direct economic gain of US$26 trillion through to 2030, as compared with business-as-usual—and these were just conservative numbers.1 Other opportunities include the creation of green jobs, leveraging technology for smart solutions and spurring green growth through green finance. Actions against climate change could also bring health and environmental benefits—for example, shifting towards renewable energy and electric vehicles in cities would enhance air quality and reduce cases of respiratory-related illnesses.
While the benefits of working towards a sustainable future are clear, there are concerns that current global actions may be falling short of climate targets—an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2022 indicated that harmful carbon emissions from 2010 to 2019 have never been higher in human history. This puts us on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5°C aspiration that was agreed in Paris in 2015. On a more positive note, it is still possible to halve emissions by 2030, if governments ramp up action now. To limit global warming to around 1.5°C, global emissions would have to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43% by 2030.
Governments around the world remain key players to steward and support this transition, as well as capture opportunities for its people. This issue of ETHOS seeks to feature the different aspects of this transition to limit global warming.
In understanding climate change and devising policy solutions, using a futures lens can help us better anticipate issues, prepare for alternative pathways in advance, and instil agility in responding to trends and crises.
Additionally, the interdependencies between various industries, activities, and players require systems thinking to unlock synergies while balancing trade-offs. At the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), we aim to promote and share knowledge on such approaches as a Futures Centre on Urban Liveability. In the past year, we have convened the perspectives of relevant stakeholders to draw plausible future scenarios for Singapore as a city. Through this process, we hope to support more informed policy thinking and planning for the Infrastructure and Environment (I&E) sector.
In assessing sustainability, city indices act as a mirror to our policy and planning efforts, and such data can help monitor our progress towards targets—especially among cities with similar environmental and development challenges—and share frameworks and strategies for sustainability. CLC’s indices research has revealed that although Singapore’s performance may be limited by natural resources and land scarcity, our challenges also serve to spur us towards realising opportunities for innovation in terms of energy, waste and environmental strategies, as well as in research and development.
In realising ambitions towards sustainable development, other cities like Los Angeles and Espoo have found creative ways to bring their citizenry on the journey, capturing rich data through crowdsourcing. These are some good examples of how cities tap a multi-layered collaboration between public agencies, businesses and the community to make a difference in sustainability performance.
In Singapore, various pilots have led to transformation at different scales—helping developers, regulators and solution providers ramp up innovations for sustainability against real world constraints. In so doing, we can pioneer business and developmental models that work to tackle climate change. The pathway to net-zero carbon for every city would most likely be different, depending on inherent constraints and governance models, and being able to learn and adapt would help cities achieve more ambitious climate targets.
A huge thank you to all contributors for sharing their ideas and knowledge in this issue of ETHOS. On the launch of the issue at the 8th edition of the World Cities Summit (WCS) that brings global leaders, businesses and experts to Singapore, I hope we can inspire each other in the journey towards preparing our cities for critical uncertainties in our climate future.
Centre for Liveable Cities, Ministry of National Development Singapore
- New Climate Economy, Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century: Accelerating Climate Action in Urgent Times (Washington DC: New Climate Economy, 2018). See https://newclimateeconomy.report/2018/.