Singapore

Singapore will tackle climate change with nature's help

Minister says plans include restoring mangroves and planting thousands of trees

Singapore's plans to tackle climate change will include nature-based solutions such as restoring its mangrove areas and planting thousands of trees, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday.

While it has mentioned engineering options before, this is the first time the Government has officially said that nature-based solutions to deal with climate change are on the cards.

Mr Masagos underscored the seriousness of the threat posed by climate change, calling it an existential challenge that nations could not afford to ignore.

"Otherwise, citizens will take their cause to the streets and reason will fail to rule," he said, in his strongest comments on the subject to date.

Speaking at the first Singapore meeting of scientists from the United Nations' climate science body, Mr Masagos added: "We take both hard and soft engineering approaches to mitigate coastal erosion, and (will) actively restore our mangrove areas."

He said nature-based solutions will also go beyond coastal protection.

He cited the over two million trees in Singapore, as well as its more than 350 parks and four nature reserves.

Mr Masagos said: "Under the Forest Restoration Action Plan, an additional 250,000 native trees and shrubs will be planted.

"The benefits are multi-fold: This will support our biodiversity and, importantly, further drive climate mitigation and strengthen our resilience."

In August, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said in his National Day Rally speech that Singapore was looking into engineering works to buffer the country against rising sea levels.

Among the strategies being examined were empoldering, a land reclamation technique, along Singapore's eastern coast, as well as reclaiming a series of offshore islands there, PM Lee said then.

His speech had led some scientists to ask if Singapore would also consider nature-based solutions.

Experts backed the new approach outlined in Mr Masagos' speech yesterday.

Associate Professor Daniel Friess, a mangrove expert with the National University of Singapore's geography department, said mangroves have the potential to keep pace with some rates of sea-level rise - making them a natural and adaptable coastal defence that can help prevent rising seas from inundating coastlines.

Prof Friess said that while there are a number of areas where mangroves have been lost, there is a chance of bringing them back to areas such as Pulau Ubin.

He added: "We can also think about new areas where we can grow mangroves in novel ways, for example, by designing future developments and reclamations that allow mangrove growth."

The Straits Times had earlier reported that land in Singapore changed from being a net absorber of carbon in 2012 to a net emitter in 2014, as forests made way for settlements.

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Environment