Opening Remarks by Minister Desmond Lee at the Launch of the Climate Action Exhibition

A very good afternoon to everyone.

I am delighted to be here for the opening of our second Climate Action Exhibition, “Change the Present, Save the Oceans”, held in collaboration with City Developments Limited.

I would like to say a very big thank you to CDL for making this meaningful exhibition possible. CDL has also created a virtual 3D version of the exhibition, so that those who can’t visit the gallery in person can enjoy it from the comfort of their home, wherever in Singapore or over the world they may be at. I hope that through the exhibition, more people will understand the importance of our marine habitats and biodiversity, and how everyone can play a part in conserving them.

Indeed, for many years now, CDL has been flying the flag of sustainability; not just by organising exhibitions and providing us with a beautiful facility in the Singapore Botanical Gardens, an UNESCO site, but also in its everyday work, in its support for NGOs and sustainability activities, and in its development of projects in Singapore and around the world. I hope other developers will also embody the sustainability goals that we set out to achieve, and to help us achieve the “80-80-80” targets for the built environment under the Singapore Green Building Masterplan.

Impact of Climate Change on Marine Biodiversity

Our marine ecosystems are an invaluable part of Singapore’s natural capital. Although the waters in Singapore are in some of the busiest waterways in the world, they are rich and valuable. Coastal reefs and mangroves provide us with essential ecosystem services – they help protect us from storm surges and floods, they act as carbon sinks that mitigate our emissions, and much more.

Despite being a small city-state, Singapore’s marine ecosystems support a very wide range of marine biodiversity. For example, we have more than 250 species of hard corals, which is about a third of the total hard coral species in the world. We also have over 200 species of sponges, 120 species of reef fish, a rich diversity of nudibranchs, and other invertebrates. Our mangroves are one of the most biodiverse in the world as well – we have more than half of the world’s ‘true’ mangrove species.

And in fact, we are still finding new species in Singapore. Just recently, researchers from the National University of Singapore discovered three Bryozoan species that are new to science at the Sisters’ Island Marine Park. Nine other species of Bryozoan were also recorded in Singapore for the very first time. Bryozoans are simple, filter-feeding animals, and interestingly, some of them have been found to be a promising source of anticancer drugs. So, it is very important to conserve and protect our marine habitats and their rich biodiversity, especially given their significant role in our ecosystems.

But marine ecosystems are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For example, rising sea levels threaten to overwhelm coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangroves. Rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification also result in coral bleaching, which can cause irreversible damage to them. This is why we must take collective action to protect our marine ecosystems, as we transform into a City in Nature.

Nature-Based Solutions for Climate Resilience

To do so, we have dedicated $25 million to the Marine Climate Change Science programme recently, which builds on the work of the earlier Marine Science R&D Programme.

The Marine Climate Change Science programme will fund research to understand the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems. This will help us to use nature-based solutions more effectively, to protect and restore Singapore’s coastal habitats. For instance, we recently worked with community partners to plant trees and restore the coastal habitat at Kranji Coastal Nature Park. By combining habitat enhancement with engineering solutions, we established a natural green belt in the Nature Park, which not only supports the biodiversity there, but also protects our coastline from erosion and storm surges.

In partnership with scientists, volunteers and marine conservation groups, we are also restoring two other coastal sites on Pulau Ubin. Using nature-based solutions, these projects encourage the natural establishment of mangroves to mitigate coastal erosion and habitat loss. This will in turn provide spaces for marine and coastal species to thrive and restore more of the island’s rich biodiversity.

We will continue to study different nature-based solutions in other parts of Singapore, to strengthen our climate resilience.

Partnering the Community for Marine Conservation

Transforming Singapore into a City in Nature is not something the Government can do on its own. We need everyone to play a part.

That is why we have been partnering the community on the Marine Conservation Action Plan, which sets out our comprehensive plans for marine biodiversity conservation.

We work closely with researchers and academics, volunteers and the public on various research, outreach and education efforts, such as monitoring the health of our coastal and marine habitats, enhancing coral reefs and other marine habitats, and conducting species recovery projects for endemic, rare or threatened species.

I would like to thank our marine community for stepping up to support these marine conservation efforts. And as border reopens and travel resumes, we hope more collaborations will take place physically and virtually.

As just one example, our Friends of the Marine Park community, comprising researchers, kayakers, boat operators, and divers, works with the National Parks Board to manage Bendera Bay on St. John’s Island. This is a 3.9-hectare bay comprising various marine habitats such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and rocky shores. It provides unique opportunities to organise activities such as beach and dive clean-ups, guided walks, and citizen science projects, to raise awareness on marine conservation and heritage.

Many other volunteers have participated in our various outreach programmes, including biodiversity surveys and other citizen science initiatives, and we thank them for their contributions and efforts. Through these shared activities and experience, we can forge stronger community bonds, and better steward our environment together.

Promoting Community Stewardship

Today, more and more Singaporeans are going out to enjoy the wonders of nature, especially amid the stresses and strains of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is great that more people are experiencing the joys of the great outdoors, some for the first time. It is a golden opportunity for us to reach out to them and share more about our marine environment and how best to care for it – the actions that directly or indirectly support the conservation of the seas around us.

If you are keen to join us in this effort, there are many ways to volunteer. You can join our Intertidal Watch citizen programme, and share your knowledge of our intertidal zone with visitors. The next low-tide season is coming up and we are working with our community partners, stakeholders and NGOs to take this opportunity to turn things around and to reach out to communities who are quite excited in exploring our rocky shores, to share with them the knowledge and the spirit of stewardship. Or you can help to share responsible etiquette that all of us should practise when visiting intertidal habitats and other coastal areas in Singapore. You can also join us on our biodiversity surveys, and habitat restoration programmes, such as at Chek Jawa Wetlands on Pulau Ubin.

Let us all do our part, so that everyone, including our future generations, can continue to appreciate our precious biodiversity in its natural habitats.

Thank you.

Source: Municipal Services Office

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