Singapore and Denmark team up to fight climate change

Climate change is a global challenge that demands urgent responses from cities, industries, and citizens alike. And in Singapore and Denmark, two nations with ambitious environmental goals, public and private sector agencies are exchanging ideas and experiences on action plans related to the environmental agenda.

In light of that agenda, more than 50 representatives from Singapore and Denmark, comprising of government stakeholders, academics, industry professionals, and research scientists came together this morning to share ideas and exchange knowledge along with best practices for accelerating the uptake of green sustainable solutions and technologies as well as how to encourage citizens to embrace more sustainable lifestyles.

Themed Cities & Citizens Confronting Climate Change, the event was the third in a series of annual bilateral dialogues organised by the Royal Danish Embassy in Singapore. Mr Khoo Teng Chye, Executive Director at the Centre for Liveable Cities, Ministry of National Development, was the guest-of-honour at the dialogue, held at the newly-minted zero-energy Singapore Sustainability Academy (SSA), Singapore’s first people, public and private ground-up institute dedicated to tackling climate change.

To mark the occasion, the Ambassador of Denmark to Singapore, Her Excellency Dorte Bech Vizard, as well as Mr Morten Kabell, Copenhagen’s Mayor for Technical & Environmental Affairs jointly officiated at the planting of partner plaques on a “green wall” on the SSA’s premises.

“Singapore is responding to climate change through the collective efforts of people, private and public sectors, and through active collaboration with international partners,” Mr Khoo said in his keynote address. “I hope today’s dialogue will open up conversations between businesses, agencies, organisations, individuals, and the community to work together to share ideas from one another and collaborate towards ensuring a more sustainable and liveable Singapore.”

Both Singapore and Denmark harbour ambitious goals for going green. Singapore is committed to lowering its emissions and improving energy efficiency, particularly by greening its buildings and reducing electricity and water and consumption. On the other hand, Copenhagen, Denmark, is aiming at becoming carbon-free by 2025. So far, it has implemented a number of initiatives to support sustainable lifestyles, with residents of Copenhagen acting as the driving force behind the changes.

An interesting notion that surfaced during the dialogue was the concept of “nudging.” The idea, which leverages on cognitive and social psychological biases and habits to drive sustainable lifestyle behaviours, is being increasingly deployed in public campaigns alongside policy solutions.

“The main difference with nudging is to understand the behaviour you are trying to change. Traditional behaviour change programme tend to rely on channels and tools such as advertisements and taxes to modify what people know or want. Good examples are infomercials and tobacco taxes, which are used to deter smoking. Such programmes work on the underlying rationale that people are always applying conscious processes in deciding what they do,” Mr Andreas Maaløe Jespersen, Associate Researcher at Danish behavioural research firm, iNudgeyou, explained. “Nudging builds on scientific disciplines with a more nuanced view on people’s behaviours. It uses contextual elements to drive behavioural outcomes without necessarily having to introduce more information or resorting to fines and incentives.

The nudging concept has led to numerous successes in terms of achieving greener behaviours in Denmark. Additioanlly, Mr Jespersen highlighted the example of a field experiment to reduce little in the streets and alleys of Copenhagen – a persistent problem that has been costly in both economic and environmental terms.

“With a little social psychology and nothing more than some decorative stickers, we found that nudging could cut the prevalence of litter by as much as 43 per cent,” Mr Jespersen added.

“Through the Pure Love for Copenhagen campaign, we aerated awareness of littering, and now rubbish is being thrown into bins, instead of the street,” Mayor Kabell said. “Copenhageners are proud of their city so we utilised this in our campaign. We have encouraged and created a cleaner city, where saving the environment from the stress of litter has made a direct impact, and protected the environment from the burden of city clean ups.”

Singapore, along with other governments around the world, has come to realise that “nudging” can be more effective than warnings or fines when it comes to driving changes in behaviour. For example, Singapore Power has been bringing about less wasteful behaviours by showing families how their electricity and water consumption compares to the average Singaporean household through the monthly utility bill.

“City Developments Limited is honoured to be the venue host for this timely and meaningful dialogue,” Ms Esther An, City Developments Limited’s (CDL) Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO), and a speaker at the event, said. “The vision of our Sustainable Academy is to be hub for knowledge and capacity building, thought leadership and partnership. It complements CDL’s long standing commitment to build a greener and more sustainable future.”

Other speakers touched on topics related to the role citizens, governments, and industries, played in co-creating sustainability solutions during the panel discussion.

“Climate change is real and it is happening fast,” Her Excellency Dorte Bech Vizard, said. “The theme for this year is a timely one as both Singapore and Denmark grapple with the prospect of enrolling every citizen in their respective environmental agendas. The dialogue today is a reflection of Denmark’s desire to join hands with other governments to further the cause of confronting climate change, explore new opportunities for collaboration, and co-create outcomes that could benefit societies.”