Singapore going after air-cons that make the world hotter

SINGAPORE: Singapore is chasing a new tagline: It now wants to be a “City in Nature”.

To do that, it’s planting 1 million trees over the next 10 years – double the current pace – as it prepares for a world that is getting hotter.

To cool itself, the city state is not only seeking shade from trees, but also cutting emission of hydrofluorocarbons by restricting the supply of refrigerators, air-conditioners and commercial water-cooled chillers that use the chemical from 2022.

“Some forms of HFCs trap a much larger amount of heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide,” Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said in Parliament Wednesday.

The newly announced plans come as Singapore readies a warchest of at least S$100 billion to counter global warming and protect its coastlines against higher sea levels.

The city-state has already been warming twice as quickly as the world average over the past six decades, according to the government weather service, and just notched its hottest decade on record.

Planting trees aside, it will also add 200 hectares of nature parks by 2030, two and a half times the size of the Botanic Gardens that has been inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, National Development Second Minister Desmond Lee said.

Over that same period, it’s also implementing species recovery plans for 70 more native and plant species, restore 30 hectares of forest, marine and coastal habitats and improve habitats in at least 50% of Singapore’s gardens, parks and streetscapes.

“We want to transform Singapore into a City in Nature to provide Singaporeans with a better quality of life, while coexisting with flora and fauna on this island,” said Lee.

With climate change seen as an existential threat, this is just Singapore’s latest attempt to counter what could become a crisis.

It imposed a carbon tax and just days ago, it pledged to halve the amount of greenhouse gases it emits from an expected peak in 2030 within the following two decades.

The southeast Asian nation expects the emissions ceiling to be 65 million tons of carbon dioxide around 2030.

The plan is to cut that to 33 million tons by 2050. It has also set up a Coastal and Flood Protection Fund and plans to phase out vehicles with internal combustion engines by 2040.

Reducing emission of hydrofluorocarbons – which could leak during installation, maintenance and disposal – is a step toward that direction.

As it moves to restrict products with that chemical, the government will provide grants for companies making an early switch to more climate-friendly commercial water-cooled chillers, Masagos said.

Halving its emissions may be an ambitious target given Singapore lacks alternative energy sources but, according to the minister, the city-state “will continue to raise our ambitions”.