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Paris Agreement inches closer to entry

September 22, 2016


Yesterday at a special “High-Level Event on Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change” convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, 31 countries including Singapore formally joined the Paris Agreement, moving the landmark deal closer to entry into force.


The Agreement is inching towards entry into force as 60 countries accounting for 47.5% of the world’s emissions have deposited instruments of ratification to the United Nations.

31 countries deposited instruments of ratification of the Paris Agreement yesterday:

  1. Albania (0.01%)
  2. Antigua and Barbuda (0.002%)
  3. Argentina (0.8%)
  4. Bangladesh (0.4%)
  5. Belarus (0.16%)
  6. Brazil (2.5%)
  7. Brunei Darussalam (0.04%)
  8. Chile (0.2%)
  9. Dominica (0.0006%)
  10. Guinea (0.062%)
  11. Honduras (0.1%)
  12. Iceland (0.005%)
  13. Kiribati (0.0001%)
  14. Madagascar (0.125%)
  15. Mexico (1.6%)
  16. Mongolia (0.128%)
  17. Niger (0.056%)
  18. Panama (0.047%)
  19. Papua New Guinea (0.21%)
  20. Senegal (0.061%)
  21. Singapore (0.1%)
  22. Sri Lanka (0.098%)
  23. Swaziland (0.006%)
  24. Thailand (0.8%)
  25. Uganda (0.1%)
  26. UAE (0.46%)
  27. Vanuatu (0.001%)

These countries bring the total emissions coverage to 47.7%, just a few points shy of entry.

The remaining percentage of emissions coverage needed to take the Paris Agreement over the threshold to entry could come from the European Union which accounts for 12% of global emissions. Alternatively, major emitters such as the Russian Federation which accounts for 5% of global emissions, Indonesia (4.3%), India (4.1%), Japan (3.6%), Canada (1.6%), Australia (1.48%) or South Korea (1.4%) could also contribute to meeting the last few percentage points.

Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the U.N. Paris Agreement Entry Event

September 22, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates in the UN Paris Agreement Entry into Force, at the UN General Assembly Hall, in New York City on September 21, 2016.

john kerry un paris agreement 21 sept 2016.jpg

Watch video here.

The Climate Change Experiment

March 28, 2016

After reading the extra credit dilemma that went viral online, I decided to try it on my class of 35 Geography students to teach the topic of climate change.

climate change rules

The results: A third of the class voted for 6 points in Round 1. Half the class voted for 6 points in Round 2. Unfortunately for the students, none of these points were real.

Read more…

Sustainability Reporting: A Conversation with Mr Sadashiv of Ernst & Young

March 14, 2016

Starting from Financial Year 2017, firms listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) will be expected to publish sustainability reports. The Climate Fellows had the opportunity to meet and chat with Mr. Sadashiv of Ernst & Young (E&Y Singapore), who heads the Climate Change and Sustainability Services Department (CCaSS ‘see-cass’). We talked about what sustainability reporting means for companies as well as other environmental issues in the Singapore context.

CCaSS works with companies on their climate change and sustainability strategies, with a range of services including advisory, verification of carbon emissions and the carbon footprint of companies. They help companies create a sustainability framework, advise companies on their risk management systems and implement programs. These help a company with sustainability reporting.

The hope is that compulsory sustainability reporting will drive companies to start, or continue to improve on their business’s sustainability. However, companies may feel that sustainability reports are just one more overhead for the company to bear, making it a burden instead. Mr Sadashiv rebuts this perspective, saying that sustainability is part and parcel of running the business. He gives the example of General Electric’s Ecomagination, which produces cars, and products with green technology that are higher priced than their regular products. Innovation will breed competitiveness, which is a good thing. Companies can show their customers they are environmentally conscious while also making profits.

Singapore could take cues from the Scandinavian countries that are driving the trend towards exhibiting responsible behavior, whether toward climate change or other environmental issues. Mr Sadashiv believes ASEAN is at the starting block as there is evidence of positive commitments happening at the governmental level (such as the INDCs), but the speed at which these regulations are implemented is much slower. With compulsory sustainability reporting it will happen in fits and starts, depending on whether companies see it as a reporting burden or an asset.

Ideally, there should be a push toward sustainable behavior before pushing sustainability reports. Singapore is a society which over consumes. For example, a handphone contains rare Earth material that constitutes tons of earth dug up to make it, yet the pricing system for handphones is designed to drive the consumer to replace it every 18 months. Many people don’t recycle their handphones and have 3-4 in a drawer somewhere that they don’t use. Other problems Singapore faces:

  • Waste Separation is an issue for us due to the way HDBs have been built.
  • We are addicted to air conditioning. How do we encourage people to convert to fans, which are actually healthier for us?
  • Prices for repairing dryers (and other household appliances) make buying a brand new model more worthwhile than repairing it, and this is done on purpose because that’s the company’s strategy.
  • Pulau Semakau may run out of space to put our waste but no one seems to be worried about this.

So what exactly is lacking in Singapore culture?

Mr Sadashiv says, “An appreciation of how what we do in everyday existence links to the wider world or bigger problem of waste.”

This sounds very much like what companies should consider when it comes to climate change and sustainability: “What, due to my operations, are the externalities I should consider? What is the impact I’m having?”

What should SGX sustainability reporting include?

  1. Material matters/issues–expecting the company to declare the framework they’re using for reporting their energy, waste, water, etc.
  2. Stakeholder engagement (verified by the stakeholders). Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines stakeholders as those who have an impact on the company, and vice versa.
  3. Need to have policies and procedures in place.
  4. Set targets for the material matters that have been identified.
  5. Most importantly, the board of directors sign off to endorse the sustainability report.

Setting targets is tricky because companies worry about whether it is practical to have an annual target to meet. From a sustainability perspective, a long-term ambitious target makes more sense than a short-term target, as you may have to wait for technology to catch up.

Overall, it seems to boil down to people and companies living in a way that involves taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Sustainability reporting is one measure to motivate companies, but there needs to be a fundamental push on the individual in society to practice sustainable behavior as well.

Further Reading:

E&Y Analysis of the Top 50 SGX companies and their state of sustainability reporting at present






Climate Change and Hollywood – What’s the link?

March 3, 2016

The Revenant

It’s Oscars week in Hollywood! The main issue the Oscars grappled with this year is race and the lack of diversity in Oscar nominations, thus the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag (and well-founded). However, another issue lurked beneath the glossy post-produced films. Six-times nominated and first-time Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio (finally!) gave a shoutout to climate change in his Oscar acceptance speech:

Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world — the world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production had to move to the southernmost tip of this planet just to be able to find snow.

Climate change is real, it is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.

We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous peoples of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this, for our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.

I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted; I do not take this night for granted.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Oscar Acceptance Speech

The Revenant (2015), a film about the legendary fur trapper Hugh Glass, features snowy landscapes and takes place, for the most part, out in nature. The decision to shoot only in natural lighting meant the cast and crew would be surrounded by the elements throughout the production. And while it seems the wonders of CGI today knows no bounds, the crew instead shot on-location surrounded by snow. But snow itself proved elusive, with weather predictions turning… well, unpredictable. The cast and crew had to shift from Canada to Argentina just to be where the snow was, even resorting to snowmakers (machines which churn out manmade snow). They had to compete with Tarantino’s latest film The Hateful Eight (2015) for the snowmakers, as it also features snowy landscapes, except it one-upped them by including a blizzard (although The Revenant does have a vicious bear… we’ll call it even).


The Hateful Eight

Since its inception, film has had a close relationship with realism. For what is the camera but a means of recording reality (and existence)? This is what some film theorists (ahem, Siegfried Kracauer) would say. Italian neorealist films such as De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1948) took realism as a gold standard, shooting on-location on busy streets, often with curious passers-by gazing into the lens of the camera.

That is to say, film production crews are in a unique position. Many times, they will see and feel the first-hand effects of climate change as they travel around to scout locations. By necessity of the script, a lot of film production depends on weather and climate. Judging from the problems encountered by The Revenant and The Hateful Eight’s crew, scriptwriters will likely have to be more discerning when choosing to include snowy landscapes in the future.

For more details and further reading, check out Vanity Fair’s article on ‘How Extreme Weather is Melting Hollywood’s Winter Shoots‘.


Ice Watch Paris – The Clock is Ticking

January 27, 2016

From my visit to the Arctic last year I have a very lively memory of the horrifying noise and sight of huge ice blocks cracking and breaking away from the pack. The Arctic is indeed the gatekeeper of climate disorder: for years, this region has been sending us signals that we cannot neglect anymore. The international community must hear them and turn them into acts.

- Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, President of COP21

They said that an image is worth a thousand words. This might be the easiest 3,000 words that I might ever write.

imagesPhoto Credits:

Denizens of affluent cities (like Singapore) lament the warmer weather and compensate by the extended use of air-conditioners indoors and Ray-ban shades when we step out. There are many others for whom such substitutes or adaptation measures don’t exist. In fact warmer temperatures impact their livelihoods and their very existence in extreme cases. We adapt to thrive whilst they struggle to adapt, even to survive.

ice watch

Photo Credits:

Ice melts when heated. Every 10 year old knows that. When glacial ice melts in the Artic, the sea-levels rise and if all this ice melts, sea-levels will rise by 7 meters. While this might be a little far-sighted, let’s assume the scenario of a modest 2 meter rise in sea-levels.  High-rise buildings and a mandate to raise the minimum reclamation levels by an additional 1 meter on top of the previous level of 1.25 meters above the highest recorded tide level observed should keep the inhabitants of Singapore safe. We’ll Survive.


  Photo Credits:

Without food, we will die. Agriculture represents one of the most climate-sensitive industries. A small variation in rainfall will impact crop cultivation and yield. Adverse weather patterns and an uplift on global sea levels will destroy crops, cattle and our food supplies as a result. Most of what we eat in Singapore is imported from the very countries that are threatened by adverse climate impacts. What happened to surviving?

These problems and consequences specified above are just the tip of the iceberg. There is still time for us to do something about this crisis. Everyone one of us. The melting icebergs in the Artic are not that far off after all.

Deploying Resources of the Green Climate Fund: “What makes a good project?”

January 11, 2016


Picture source: The Green Climate Fund

On a side event organized by The Green Climate Fund on 2 December, speakers explained how GCF will go about identifying and prioritising investment opportunities and set out the criteria that the Board will use in making funding decisions.

The Green Climate Fund has approved its first 8 projects in the Fund Board’s first round of investment decisions in November and gives a good flavour of what the fund can do. The projects approved varies from a good mix of purposes like adaptation, mitigation, government, private etc.

The Board has developed criteria to prioritise investment decisions so that it can match its ‘paradigm shitfting’ level of ambitions.

Alberto Paniagua, CEO of PROFONANPE, the Peruvian Trust Fund for National Parks and Protected Areas suggested that good GCF projects should balance resource conservation with mitigation and adaptation measures. In order for projects to be more effective, he stressed the importance of building up experience.

Having been recently accredited by the Fund, Rwanda’s Minister of Natural Resources Vincent Biruta credited this significant achievement to the Ministry’s focus on environment and climate change at the heart of Rwanda’s development. The accreditation was also possible because Rwanda had identified its challenges, set specific goals, and put in place the frameworks.

Some panellists also spoke about the potential and importance of the GCF to reach their goals.

As a means of building resilience in face of threats to groundwater as a result of rising sea levels, Ambassador Amjad Abdullah of the Maldives explained how GCF-funded water management projects would provide safe and secure freshwater to the people in the northern atolls of Maldives.

Mexico’s first projects approved by the fund, elaborated by the Vice Minister of Environmental Policy and Planning Rudolfo Lacy Tamayo, through its pilot role within the Latin American and Caribbean energy efficiency green bond programme will go towards funds for small-scale energy efficiency projects for a wider range of investors.

The Fund, moving forward, will need to scale up its investments. It also stands ready to support the implementation of the INDCs and welcomes developing countries’ ambitious and effective projects to the Fund for the Board’s considerations.

Adapted from:

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