Home > Speeches > Opening Address by Minister for National Development and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee at World Cities Summit 2024 Mayors Forum on 02 June 2024

Opening Address by Minister for National Development and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee at World Cities Summit 2024 Mayors Forum on 02 June 2024


  1. Good afternoon, and welcome to the 13th World Cities Summit Mayors Forum.

  2. I am glad to see many familiar faces from last year’s Mayors Forum in Seoul – thank you for your continued support. We are growing from strength to strength, with mayors and leaders from more than 80 cities participating this year.

  3. This is testament to the value of this forum – an opportunity for us to come together to address common challenges, share best practices, and collaborate and support one another.

    Cities Face Common Challenges

  4. The theme for this year’s summit is “Liveable & Sustainable Cities: Rejuvenate, Reinvent, Reimagine”. These three “Rs” reflect the shift in mindsets and approaches we need to tackle the challenges that our cities face.

  5. Allow me to focus on two pressing challenges that many cities will have to grapple with – climate change and an ageing population.

  6. First, the climate crisis. Cities all over the world are already experiencing the effects of climate change. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense. These are not just environmental concerns; they have become existential threats.

  7. As a small, low-lying island city-state, Singapore is vulnerable to rising sea levels. By the end of this century, our mean sea level is projected to rise by up to 1.15 metres or more. Our weather is also expected to become warmer, with annual mean temperatures rising between 0.6 and 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. We need to ensure that our infrastructure is flood and heat resilient.

  8. Next, an ageing population. By 2050, one in six people in the world will be aged 65 and above. Singapore is one of the fastest ageing countries. Today, one in six people are already aged 65 and above. This will increase to one in four people by 2030. We need to rejuvenate our homes and neighbourhoods to enable our seniors to live independently and age gracefully in their golden years.

  9. These challenges underscore the enormous responsibilities that we, as mayors and city leaders, bear. We must get it right – to build age-friendly and sustainable urban environments that will last for generations. At the same time, we must be nimble and ready to adapt to rapid changes, and seize opportunities.

  10. The Mayors Forum seeks to address these common challenges, and others. The discussions are centred on two topics:
    1. First, how we can balance ground-up and top-down approaches in planning;
    2. And second, how we can lead our cities into the future.


  11. For Singapore, we have had to make the most of our limited land resources, to provide for everything that a city and a country needs – from defence, to housing, to industry and critical infrastructure – all within about 730 square kilometres of land. How do we do it? First and foremost, we have to carefully steward our land and resources, balancing competing needs of today’s generation and future generations, so that they can continue to thrive in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable world. We have to take a long-term perspective in planning.

  12. Our conference venue, Suntec Singapore, is an example of this. It is part of the bustling Marina Central area, which sits on reclaimed land that took decades to plan and prepare, starting in the early 1970s.

  13. We also review our long-term plans regularly and follow through with implementation. This allows us to safeguard land and respond nimbly to evolving trends and changing demands.
    1. We do this by undertaking what we call a Long-Term Plan Review every 10 years, to take stock and plan for the next 50 years and beyond.
    2. Every five years, we carry out a more detailed Master Planning exercise, to translate these long-term 50-year horizon strategies into tangible plans that can be implemented over the next 10 to 15 years.
    3. This allows us to rejuvenate our city to keep up with the times.

  14. The principle of setting long-term targets and developing detailed plans to achieve them, extends to our response to climate change.

  15. Singapore is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. To get there, we have set out our medium-term 2030 targets through the Singapore Green Plan, launched in 2021. This is a whole-of-nation movement to galvanise sustainable development across every sector.

  16. Resetting our energy use is one key pillar of the plan. Under this, we aim to use clearer, greener energy sources across all sectors. We also need to decarbonise our buildings through the Singapore Green Building Masterplan, which focuses on decarbonising existing buildings, encouraging new ones to be designed sustainably, and pushing the boundaries of energy efficiency.

  17. We want to reinvent a city where energy-efficient buildings are the norm, not the exception.

  18. Beyond climate mitigation, Singapore is also adopting creative solutions to protect ourselves against the impacts of climate change. To tackle rising temperatures:
    1. We are greening our island, by galvanising the community to plant one million trees between 2020 and 2030.
    2. And we are configuring new towns to optimise wind flow and reduce heat gain from the sun.

  19. This spirit of stewardship is a defining feature of the approach we have taken in Singapore: that we are not just consumers of this city and its resources, but stewards with a duty to carefully plan and grow it for the next generation.

    Partnering our People

  20. Second, we partner with Singaporeans in developing our plans, by making public engagement an integral part of the planning process. We have been actively doing this for many years.
    1. As part of the recent Long-Term Plan Review, we partnered more than 15,000 Singaporeans to shape our long-term strategies for the next 50 years.
    2. Another example is Forward Singapore, a national exercise over the past two years to refresh our social compact. More than 200,000 Singaporeans participated and shared their aspirations for Singapore’s future. These were then fed back into the policy and planning process.

  21. With many competing needs and potentially unlimited wants, our plans may not always meet everyone’s expectations. But through regular dialogue, we can come together to understand different perspectives, find win-win solutions, and reimagine the future of Singapore.

  22. For instance, many seniors shared with us that they wanted to age in familiar surroundings, and not necessarily move into nursing homes and institutions.

  23. This is why we launched Age Well SG last November, a national programme that involves rejuvenating our living environment to support our seniors to age safely and independently in their homes and communities.
    1. We engaged our seniors to find out what senior-friendly fittings they needed to feel safer at home, and offered these at subsidised prices for public housing, where over 80% of Singaporeans live.
    2. We will also upgrade both public and private residential estates to enable seniors to move around with ease in the community.
  24. But Age Well is not just about the structure in the homes and the estates - it is also about the social and health services we need to put into the community, to enable seniors to feel connected, to be looked after, in terms of their health and wellness, and then to make infrastructure age-friendly.

  25. Ultimately, cities are about our people. So we need to actively involve them in our plans and put them at the heart of our efforts to rejuvenate, reinvent and reimagine our shared future.

  26. Conclusion

  27. The two values of stewardship and partnership have, by necessity, become deeply ingrained into Singapore’s planning DNA, given our unique nature and constraints.

  28. But wicked problems, like climate change and an ageing population, are not unique to us.

  29. Singapore does not have all the answers. In fact, no city or country has a monopoly on urban or social solutions. This is why it is so important that we come together regularly to learn from each other’s experiences and best practices and to build up relationships of trust between the leaders of cities around the world.
    1. For instance, the Lord Mayor Sally Capp from Melbourne will be sharing about the Greenline Project, an ambitious effort to transform Melbourne’s waterfront.
    2. Commissioner Rohit Aggarwal, New York City’s Chief Climate Officer, will be sharing about how many stakeholders came together to develop their building decarbonisation law.
    3. And Mayor Soichiro Takashima from Fukuoka will be sharing about the rejuvenation of Fukuoka’s city centre through the Tenjin Big-Bang project.
  30. I am looking forward to learning from them, and also from all of you.

  31. I am also happy to share that CLC is launching the WCS edition of its Urban Solutions publication today. It explores how cities are adapting and innovating to push the boundaries in the ways we plan, engage, and govern.
    1. For example, it explores Indonesia’s ambitious project to shift its capital to Nusantara, a new sustainable forest city,
    2. And how the regional government of Santiago, Chile, prioritises citizen participation, including marginalised and vulnerable communities.

  32. You can find a copy at your seats, and we hope you will find it useful.

  33. Singapore is delighted to host this Forum and contribute to this international discourse. But it will only be as effective as how much we all individually put into this summit and into the discussions with one another. I look forward to a fruitful and insightful discussion, and a good and robust forum together. Thank you.