Concerted global effort needed to resolve climate change issue: Balakrishnan

The Foreign Affairs Minister adds that despite being a small nation with no access to alternative energy, he is optimistic that Singapore can hit its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 4 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Climate change is a "clear and present danger" and the only way to resolve it is through a concerted global effort, said Singapore's Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

Speaking on Friday (Dec 4), a day before departing for the climate change conference in Paris, Dr Balakrishnan also said that even if there is no global agreement, he is optimistic that by 2030, Singapore can reduce the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions by 36 per cent from the levels in 2005.

He noted that Singapore is a small nation that does not have access to alternative energy, but its targets can still be achieved by becoming more energy efficient, both in the domestic and industrial sectors, having more green buildings and harvesting solar energy.

Efforts are also being made to transform the transport sector to rely less on fossil fuels. These targets are part of Singapore's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), which each country has to submit before the conference.

"The INDC that we've put forward is one which we believe is not only achievable, but is also good for us," said Dr Balakrishnan. "And as I said, we can, to a large extent, save money for citizens. So I think this trajectory that we have set for ourselves is the correct one and is one that we should pursue anyway."

The INDCs lay out the steps each country will take to address climate change domestically. They are a key element of negotiations to create the new global climate agreement, which will take effect from 2020. But Dr Balakrishnan said three factors will make or break this agreement.

First is ambition - can all countries agree the INDCs are "sufficient and adequate" to cap global temperature below two degrees Celsius? Next is finance - can developed countries commit to financing their developing counterparts at a hefty price of US$100 billion (S$139 billion) each year by 2020 to mitigate climate change? And lastly, all countries must acknowledge that they have a "differentiated but common" responsibility to fight climate change.

ALL COUNTRIES "CAN AND SHOULD DO MORE"

Dr Balakrishnan said: "I think the world has accepted that this is a global problem. Something needs to be done. We all can do something. What I'm hoping is to remind the developed countries that (they) must not back down from their prior commitments. In negotiating jargon, we say no backsliding. You do not retreat from commitments and responsibilities which you have already undertaken.

"Having said that, to the developing countries, without getting into all those arguments ... the fact remains that we all can and should do more."

He also said: "There is a group of developed countries with a historical responsibility for putting out all this excessive carbon dioxide over the past two and a half centuries. The big argument is that these so-called Annex 1 countries are saying, 'But the world has changed and the developing countries are now putting out a greater share of carbon dioxide today.' But the immediate counter-argument says, 'Yes, the world may be changing, but you cannot wish away historical facts.'"

The minister added: "Sometimes countries bicker like children. If you listen to five-year-olds argue with each other, what's the commonest term you'll hear - 'it's not fair', right? Well, in a funny but painful way ... that same style of argument goes on in international affairs. So this fight on differentiation is really a fight about fairness."

Though he is optimistic, Dr Balakrishnan said he will only celebrate when the conference ends with an agreement.

- CNA/hs


Minister calls on S’poreans to save money, not make sacrifices, on energy
ALBERT WAI Today Online 5 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday (Dec 4) expressed confidence that Singapore will meet its pledge to reduce emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, adding that for many Singaporeans, this will mean having to be more conscious about saving energy on a daily basis.

Speaking to reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before leaving for Paris to attend talks on a post-2020 global climate change regime, the minister said “a concerted and deliberate long-term plan has been put in place to ensure that we can all save money, at the personal, national and industrial level”. “I’m not asking you to make sacrifices. I am asking you to save money. We all need to pay attention to the way we use (electricity) and, more importantly, go back to the age-old wisdom about not wasting.”

He said that if Singaporeans paid more attention to their household electricity bills, they may find it possible to cut electricity consumption by 10 or even 25 per cent. Technological solutions such as the possible introduction of smart electricity metres in the home would also facilitate the process.

As for the industry, he noted there are grants, incentives and technology transfer schemes to help companies use the most efficient equipment.

The Building and Construction Authority has also been encouraging the construction of more green buildings with lower energy requirements.

The Republic has pledged to reduce emissions per gross domestic product dollar by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking it around 2030. Dr Balakrishnan said the pledge is unconditional, regardless of whether a new global climate deal is agreed upon in Paris next week.

He characterised Singapore’s pledge as “ambitious” and “difficult targets for us to achieve”. “We feel that this is the right and responsible thing to do. In typical Singapore fashion, when we set a target, we go all out to achieve it,” he said.

Dr Balakrishnan said that while Singapore’s carbon footprint is being reduced, “there are some adjustment transitions we have to make”, including schemes such as the National Environment Agency’s Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme that awards more ticks to energy-efficient products to “gently guide the market”.

“What we have in Singapore is a well-designed future-ready city built on sound economic principles. And we can actually show the world how you can save money, make a living and save the world at the same time,” he said.


Concerted global effort only way to reverse climate damage: Vivian
ALBERT WAI Today Online 4 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE — The focus for the ongoing Paris climate change talks should be on securing a global agreement that applies to all parties, said Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan today (Dec 4), adding that countries should subsequently step up efforts in addressing climate change, which he says presents a “clear and present danger” to mankind.

Speaking to reporters ahead of his trip to Paris to attend talks on a post-2020 global climate change regime (the existing Kyoto Protocol expires in 2020), Dr Balakrishnan said the only way to reverse the damage is through coordinated, concerted and effective global action.

“If we can get a system with universal participation (in Paris), we will be much, much better off than the Kyoto Protocol,” said Dr Balakrishnan, referring to the previous global climate accord signed in 1997.
“The key problem with the Kyoto Protocol is that it was high in ambition with a top-down formula imposed on the world. It didn’t work because it lacked sufficient participation.”

The United States Senate did not ratify the protocol, while other major developing country emitters such as China and India were not required to reduce emissions.

More than 180 countries have reportedly submitted their post-2020 pledges that collectively account for more than 90 per cent of all global emissions.

Negotiators aim to stop global temperatures from rising by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels but studies have suggested that all the pledges taken together would still lead to a 2.7°C increase.

“We do not have the luxury of procrastinating any further ... This Paris meeting is going to be a make or break moment,” the minister said. He added that after the agreement has been finalised, monitoring, reporting and verification mechanisms will kick in to help the world improve its performance in addressing climate change.

“Everyone’s efforts and results are available for the world to see. Importantly from the political perspective, for your own citizens to see,” he said

“Having a system of greater transparency will be a spur for governments to improve their levels of performance, hopefully even beyond what they have committed so far.”

Dr Balakrishnan also touched on several key outstanding issues that could hamper a deal in Paris. He said that the intense debate on differentiation — referring to how countries are divided in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as Annex One developed countries and Non-Annex One developing countries, with the former expected to take on greater responsibilities — is ultimately “a fight about fairness”.

Developed countries hold the view that as the world is changing, developing countries are now producing more emissions and should take on more responsibilities. But developing countries argue that developed countries have historic responsibility for global warming.

Dr Balakrishnan noted that this is not a trivial issue and can derail negotiations. He said that the “solution is already obvious”, and the existing system of submitting post-2020 climate pledges (also known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs) is essentially a bottom-up exercise with all countries putting up their best efforts in good faith.

“Developed countries must not back down from prior commitments ... My message to developing countries is without getting into an argument about bifurcation (of developed and developing countries), the fact remains that we all can and should do more,” he said.

“I am hoping that with good sense and good faith, we will prevail and overcome this otherwise insolvable debate about differentiation.”

Questions have also been raised on whether the proposed system of INDCs will lead to a sufficient solution. Some parties, including small island-states facing climate change as an existential threat, have called for more ambition and urgency, while others want a more realistic approach and say more time is required to cut emissions and adjust to climate change.

Dr Balakrishnan said it is difficult to make precise estimates on how climate change has led to individual extreme weather events, therefore making the issue more complex.

“The lack of precision in our estimates make these arguments about ambition and how quickly we need to move difficult to resolve,” he said.

The minister said that another sticking point in the negotiations is funding promises made by developed countries to help developing countries cope with climate change. Even though developed countries have pledged to provide US$100 billion (S$139.7 billion) annually from 2020 onwards, some developing countries have asked for proof of the funding, with the exercise quickly becoming an issue of accounting.

“Fundamentally, it requires trust in each other,” he said.

The minister expressed optimism that the Paris talks would result in a new global agreement, predicting that there may be a more than 50 per cent chance of success.

“The world will have to watch with bated breath whether we are able to collectively seize this opportunity to make a difference both for now and for the future,” he said.


S'pore pledge to meet climate goals is unconditional
Audrey Tan, Straits Times AsiaOne 5 Dec 15;

Singapore yesterday gave an unconditional guarantee that it will strive to meet its targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, even if the ongoing United Nations (UN) climate talks do not result in a global pact to reduce emissions.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan gave the assurance yesterday before he sets off early tomorrow for the talks in Paris.

Referring to the targets submitted by Singapore ahead of the climate talks, he said they were not only "achievable" but also "good for us".

"To a large extent, we can also save money for citizens, so I think this trajectory that we have set for ourselves is the correct one, and is one that we should pursue anyway."

His comments followed reservations expressed last month by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change.

Mr Teo had said Singapore may have to review its climate change position if a global pact is not achieved in Paris.

He said that some measures, such as incentivising industries and building owners to reduce energy use and increase carbon efficiency, "need to be done in tandem with other countries".

In July, Singapore had laid out its pledge in a document sent to the UN ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties, which started on Monday and is expected to end next Friday.

Singapore had set the the target of stopping any increase to its greenhouse gas emissions by around 2030.

It also pledged to become greener economically by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Despite Singapore's lack of renewable energy, such as wind or geothermal, it can still meet the targets in other ways, Dr Balakrishnan said.

These include:

- Promoting greater energy efficiency in the domestic and industrial sectors;

- Pushing for more green buildings, especially at the design and planning stages;

- Aiming for the petrochemical industry to continuously upgrade using the least pollutive, safest and most efficient technologies available;

- Improving public transport; and

- Increasing solar energy production.

The UN climate conference aims to achieve the first global climate agreement that would help keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 deg C above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

The existing Kyoto Protocol governs only emissions from developed countries.

The Singapore delegation to the conference will be led by Dr Balakrishnan and Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli. Mr Masagos, at a separate event on Tuesday, urged all Singaporeans to use less energy.

"At the same time as we reduce our use of energy and resources, we have to think about how to reuse and increase the amount of things we can recycle.

"All these put together, from a consumer's point of view, will reduce the amount of resources and energy that we need in Singapore," he said.

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