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Observer status for NUS at UN climate talks

February 26, 2015

The Straits Times (Home, B8) ran an article today about the National University of Singapore (NUS) becoming an observer organization with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Here are some facts:

1) When did NUS apply to become an observer?

NUS applied for observer status in November 2013 following the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 18) in Doha in 2012, when the climate change negotiators agreed to negotiate a new agreement by 2015. The University submitted its application early in order to be accredited by 2015. Formal accreditation was on 10 December 2014.

2) Why did it do so?

The nature of the research undertaken at the Energy Studies Institute at NUS is in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. Moreover, many NUS research staff within faculties and specialist think tanks, such as the Tropical Marine Science Institute (TMSI) and the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) continues to work closely with national agencies on matters relating to Singapore’s carbon emissions. NUS thus saw the application for observer status as a great opportunity for learning and to be ‘plugged in’ to the international network of like-minded researchers involved in the climate change negotiations process. It would provide impetus for collective effort and enhance research collaboration around technological, legal and policy solutions to address climate change.

As an observer, NUS will be invited to attend all future international climate change negotiation sessions. This observer status also means that NUS’ faculty members and research staff have an official channel to provide input to the UNFCCC process, not only to the Secretariat but also to the Singapore government in its efforts to address climate change and environmental sustainability more generally.

3) Now that it has received that status, what does it intend to do?

NUS intends to raise awareness and disseminate information on the UNFCCC negotiations to the rest of the University by holding a series of workshops within NUS, that will focus on mitigation and adaptation technologies, international and comparative law, as well as policies needed to address climate change. NUS will also be sending research staff to climate meetings this year, including to Paris in December 2015 for COP21, where a new agreement is expected to be negotiated.

4) Has it provided any input to UNFCCC so far, if so, what is the input?

No, not yet.

5) If not, on what sort of topics does it intend to provide input? In which fields / what ways does NUS think it can contribute, specifically?

Based on the major groups identified as stakeholders in Agenda 21 (a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan formed at the UN Conference of Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, with regard to sustainable development), there are 9 acknowledged constituencies in the climate change process:  Business and industry NGOs (BINGO), Environmental NGOs (ENGO), Indigenous peoples organizations (IPO), Local government and municipal authorities (LGMA), Research and independent NGOs (RINGO), Trade union NGOs (TUNGO), Farmers NGOs (Farmers), Women and gender NGOs (Women and Gender), and Youth NGOs (YOUNGO).

The Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organization (RINGO) constituency that NUS now belongs to as an observer has a special role in the UNFCCC process. Members of the RINGO constituency produce peer-reviewed journals and other publications such as policy briefs and working papers that draw on insights from economics, international relations, public policy, the physical sciences and engineering that will help inform the international community.  Over the course of this year and in the mid-term, NUS plans to hold regular meetings to decide collectively the types of input to provide to the UNFCCC process. However, this will depend on the need for certain types of research based on the issues raised at UNFCCC negotiations and the resources available.

6) What is the commitment that comes with being an observer, i.e. attending meetings, or?

The Research and Independent Non-Governmental Organization (RINGO) status comes with no formal commitments. RINGOs like NUS can participate when and how they like. The Energy Studies Institute (ESI) is the designated contact point (DCP) for NUS and is the official channel for the exchange of information with the UNFCCC Secretariat, including receiving official notifications, nominating representatives for sessions, handling matters related to side events and exhibits or other session-related activities.

7) Does it intend to work with the other Singapore UNFCCC organisations, and if so in what way?

The other Singapore UNFCCC organisations are the Singapore Environment Council, the National Youth Achievement Award Association, Avelife (Ltd.), Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and Nexus Carbon for Development Limited (Nexus-C4D). Of these, the Asia-Europe Foundation is also a RINGO. NUS is thus looking to work most closely with them. NUS will also explore the possibility of working with the other Singapore UNFCCC organisations in the youth and environment constituencies – particularly with the youth given the relevance of such collaboration to education.

8) What sets NUS apart from the other Singapore organisations in terms of what it can contribute?

As a University, NUS is already engaged in independent research and analysis aimed at developing sound strategies to address both the causes and consequences of global climate change. Research staff, faculty members and students are addressing climate change in a committed manner by contributing in a way that provides a range of views. With its diverse interests and competencies, NUS is in the best position to play a bridging role between science and policy, and between youth, businesses and environmental organisations.

Singapore Youth Delegation Post COP20 Sharing, 27 February 2015, 7-9pm

February 17, 2015
Earlier in December last year, 350 Singapore and ECO Singapore put together a youth delegation, SG Youth @ COP20, powered by Young NTUC. The team of youth activists attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) twentieth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) in Lima, Peru. On 27 February, the youth delegation will be sharing their experiences, as well as their key takeaways from the negotiations. The interactive session also aims to provide some preliminary insights to the global climate deal to be made later this year in Paris.

Date: Friday, 27 February 2015
Time: 7-9pm
Venue: NTUC Centre, One Marina Boulevard, Level 9, Room 901

Register at 

If you are on social media, the event can also be found on Facebook at this link. Grateful if you can RSVP ahead of time and share it with your friends and networks!
We look forward to seeing you there!

Global Divestment Day

February 16, 2015

Global Divestment Day was a huge success all around the world last Saturday.

Across the globe, almost 200 cities and organisations have committed to divest, moving an estimated USD50 billion away from fossil fuels to date. Activists all over the globe are continuously working to raise this number.

Will you go fossil-free?

Watch the Global Divestment Day wrap-up video here and start a movement in your country next year!

Positive signs ahead of COP21 in Paris

February 1, 2015

Pharrell Williams to sing at this year’s Live Earth Concert, the Pope addressing climate change in his encyclical, and an increase of 16% in global investment in clean sources of energy in 2014. All these point to positive changes in 2015 and for a historic climate change agreement to take place at COP21 later this year.

Read more here to see how the stars are aligning for an effective and positive climate deal to be reached in Paris:

What does leather have to do with the environment?

January 24, 2015

What exactly does leather and tanneries have anything to do with our environment? The direct link between leather tanneries and the environment may not be so clear, but the fact is these leather tanneries all over the world use toxic chemicals to process and dye leather. Many tanneries reap huge economic benefits for their respective economies – for instance, the industry is estimated to be worth $1 billion annually in Bangladesh. The toxic chemicals, along with other harmful waste discharge, are then released into main waterways where fishing activities take place. The daily catch is consumed by fishermen and their families, but also by the general public when they unknowingly purchased poisoned fish. While some of us think that tanneries and leather products may have nothing to do with us, the fish we consume could have come from toxic waterways, which is why it is important to understand that while a direct link may not be clear in many cases, almost every process has an impact on our environment and the time to react is now. With more and more waterways being polluted, food supplies may be further impacted negatively.

Watch the video found in this link to get a better understanding of how tanneries affect us all, and especially the workers in the tanneries. Would you give up your leather products now, for the betterment of these workers who often don’t have much of a choice in terms of employment?

Ang Mo Kio set to be the first walking and cycling town

January 1, 2015

Following the launch of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015, the Land Transport Authority and Urban Redevelopment Authority announced on 30 December 2014 plans to improve the walking and cycling network in Ang Mo Kio in 2018, in a bid to create a “car-lite” environment. Singapore “envision[s] a ‘car-lite’ Singapore where public transport, walking and cycling are default choices commuting and there is reduced reliance on private motorised vehicles”. This will include a 2.6 kilometre corridor which connects Yio Chu Kang MRT station to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park via Ang Mo Kio MRT station. Designated cycling paths will ensure better safety for cyclists, as well as provide residents with cycling as a feasible alternative mode of transport.

The building of good walking and cycling systems is a step towards making green modes of transport more accessible for citizens. The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 also listed details on the expansion and implementation of the National Cycling Plan, which includes building more bicycle parking facilities islandwide and looking into bicycle-sharing schemes. To find out more about the Walk & Cycle programme, visit To read the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 in detail, visit

Agenda 2015: Foundations for the 21st Century

December 31, 2014


Just over the horizon of the new dawn, is the year 2015: Politically, it is perhaps one of the most defining year in this century not just for Singapore, but also for the world. It may be the year that lays down the foundations for what is to come in the next fifty years locally,regionally and globally.

The Jubilee Year


Singapore will be celebrating its fiftieth year of independence come 9th August since 1965. Fifty years is also a good time to look back, to review and reflect on successes and failures. It also presents itself as an opportunity to reconsolidate and chart her path in going forward.

The very survival of the island state nation is nothing less than a miracle, backed with sheer tenacity of her founding fathers that ruled with an iron fist. There is much to thank them for,along with the pioneer generation that has worked hard to bring Singapore from a third world to first, in an unprecedented manner.

Brought up with a different set of environment, experience and social normative, the next fifty years will require a new generation of leaders and doers to ensure the nation’s survivability continues. Essentially, Singapore will need a next wave of pioneers in its own way. Based on the last General Election (GE) held in 2011, be it out of perceived suppression or sowed discord of its citizens, it was a clear that the people of Singapore wanted change, and to have more say in the country’s decision making process. Perhaps a sign of progress, where people are indirectly saying, “ I want to take on responsibility of how my country is being run”.

Hence, besides celebrating how far it has come, the jubilee year will be a chance for the nation as a whole to think how it wants to reinvent herself, going into Singapore 2.0 before the next GE.  As the political parties in Singapore, both existing and soon-to-be ones, attempt to connect to the people and shortlist candidacy that they want to put forward; it citizens, both old and new, must come together and explore how they can work together constructively to build a new layer of foundation.

The ASEAN Economic Community


While all eyes are on China and India in an era deemed by many experts as “The rise of Asian powers”, ASEAN as a bloc should not be neglected despite all the critics surrounding it. With a market of over 600 million consumers and combined GDP of nearly US$3 trillion, ASEAN is a vibrant and growing region; a force to be reckoned with as it gets its act together. In fact, if ASEAN were a single entity, it would rank as the seventh largest economy in the world, behind the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Formed in 1967, ASEAN is a political and economic organisation of ten countries located in Southeast Asia.  Its birth was brought forth because the respective government needed a peace of mind to focus on their respective nation building, and more importantly a strong desire for economic development.

In 2007, to further strengthen the economic development of the region, the bloc adopted a blueprint with the goal of merging the economies of its member states into an integrated economy. This project, a scorecard of sort, is known as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and is set to be due in December 2015.

Leaders of the recent ASEAN Summit held inNovember have shared that about 80% of the overall measures of the AEC has been achieved. The gap that remains will require more political will to fulfil as member states will be required to review their respective domestic law. And this will take time.

So while the commitment to complete the AEC blueprint by next year continues, it should be looked upon as a stepping-stone into the future. In fact, member states have already begun making preparations for a post 2015 agenda, which we should stay tuned for. Whatever the achievements of the AEC next year, it will be a significant milestone by itself for the region. It will also be the foundation for further trade barriers to be lowered, connectivity to be enhanced, infrastructure to be built and legal frameworks to be refined to fit the community.

The Climate Change Agreement


Signed in 1997, the well-known KyotoProtocol is an agreement where countries, especially developed ones, commit themselves to an emission target respectively to prevent the average global temperature rise more than 2ºC. A number that is already being agreed by over 80% of the scientific community, that will result in more extreme and difficult environment for us humans to thrive in. Now, into its second commitment period since 2013,it is set to expire in the year 2020.

Despite the agreement, our emission continues to increase. At the moment, we have put out about 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, way above the safe upper limit of 350ppm. Hence, the need is there for a post 2020 agreement of sort to continue pushing down our emissions as a whole.

However, emission targets alone in this new agreement will not suffice as human have already set in motion the impacts of climate change onto our planet. Therefore, the agreement must address the implementation of necessary adaptation measures as well, especially to those that are the most susceptible to its wrath.

Experts and stakeholders have already agreed that there will be an outcome or agreement of sort. However, the key critic lies in whether this agreement will set us on track to deliver a future that is acceptable for the survivability of the human race.

This agreement, set to be delivered by the next climate change conference in December 2015 at Paris, will not be another“be all end all” Copenhagen moment. Rather, it will set the foundation on how states will work together, along with other non-state actors, to achieve their respective and collective desired outcome towards dealing with climate change.

The Millennium Development Goals


As the world approached the end of the last century, it brought together the largest gathering of world leaders ever in history at the Millennium Summit in the year 2000. Its goal was to discuss about the purpose and the role of the United Nations (UN) at the turn of the century.

Then UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, launched the report “We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the Twenty-First Century”after a two year consultation prior with over 1,000 non-governmental (NGOs) and civil society organisations  (CSOs) from more than 100 countries. The report identifies issues that require governments to work together and have them addressed, in which the United Nations is aptly positioned to facilitate such efforts. Guided by the report, the world leaders adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership with a series of time-bound targets that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a deadline due in 2015.

Despite not fully achieving everything on its scorecard, one can safely note that much progress has been made towards achieving the MDGs including a decline in global poverty, increase in primary school, child mortality drop and increased access to safe drinking water.

With the MDGs concluding at the end of2015, world leaders have called for an ambitious and long-term agenda, to further improve people’s lives and protect the planet for future generations,building on the momentum generated by the MDGs.

Therefore at the Special Summit onSustainable Development in September next year, world leaders will be expected to adopt a Post 2015 agenda that will provide a framework for countries embark on new pathways for actions to end poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for all, protect the environment and address climate change. The new scorecard will be called the “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs).


As we wind down the year and indulge ourselves in the festive holiday seasons with our loved ones, where we give and receive blessings, reflect upon the past year and give ourselves a little pat on our shoulder for making through the year.

In an increasingly interconnected world, we no longer just hold the citizenship of any country, we must come to realise and accept that we do hold a common citizenship of this planet. And as a global citizen, it would perhaps be wise to take a little step back and look at the ever changing political landscape in the coming year and the key events that are set to unfold, for they will affect us one way or another, whether we know it or not,whether we like it or not.

Happy New Year.




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