Liveability and Sustainability: the Core of Singapore’s Climate Diplomacy with Cities

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Forums such as the Singapore Sustainability Symposium (S3), an annual event hosted by Nanyang Technological University in collaboration with other public and private Singaporean institutions, have continuously added to the city-state’s efforts in promoting best practices in the field of urban planning and development. Events like S3 not only serve as a useful platform for knowledge exchange but also help Singapore assume a leadership role in promoting a green, sustainable and liveable city agenda. Recommendations and inputs from this year’s S3, held on 9-11 April 2015, will be presented at the next World Cities Summit in July 2016.

Discussions at this year’s S3 centred on climate adaptation, green/smart city planning and development, upgrading of urban centres toward more climate friendly infrastructure and building standards, and green growth. Funding options, both from traditional sources like multilateral financial institutions as well as innovative examples like impact investing from different regions, were also raised and discussed. Along with the outputs of the upcoming COP21 in Paris later this year, these issues will hopefully further contribute to discussions on the future of cities and urban environments at the World Cities Summit in 2016.

Singapore, through the Ministry of National Development, Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Centre for Liveable Cities, has hosted the World Cities Summit since 2008. Part of the biennial program also includes the World Cities Summit Mayors Forum as well as the awarding of the Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) World City Prize, given to cities with outstanding achievements and contributions towards the development of sustainable urban communities. In the past, this has been awarded to the cities of Bilbao (2010), New York (2012), and Suzhou (2014).  

The mandated role of the Centre for Liveable Cities, which was established in 2008, is centred on 'distilling, creating and sharing knowledge on liveable and sustainable cities’. Aside from the World Cities Summit, the Centre for Liveable Cities with the support of the Temasek Foundation is also involved in training city leaders from all over the world to learn from Singapore’s best practices in urban planning, development and governance through the international arm of the Leaders in Urban Governance Programme (LUGP) and the City Executive Leaders Programme (City EXCEL).   

At the S3 this year, the Singapore government presented its 2015 Sustainable Singapore Blueprint which includes a host of climate mitigation and adaptation measures, based on principles of liveability and green growth. For example, Singapore aims to increase the number of buildings with a Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Green Mark Certified rating from 21.9% in 2013 to 80% by 2030.

By hosting and engaging other cities from around the world, Singapore has positioned itself as one of the major players in urban sustainability and city networking.  Events like S3 as well as World Cities Summit are very much part of Singapore’s city-to-city diplomacy and cooperation efforts. It has long championed itself as a model city for others to follow and learn from, and such efforts constitute its continuous exercise in branding itself as a city for the future.