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Infograph on COP21

August 25, 2015

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Minister Balakrishnan and Team Singapore lauded at PM’s National Day Rally for efforts to advance climate change negotiations

August 24, 2015

Minister of Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan was lauded yesterday for his contribution and efforts towards the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Lima, Peru last December.

COP20 was a crucial negotiations which set the scene for this year’s talks in Paris at COP21, where a new global agreement on climate change binding all countries is expected to be reached.

Following the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol being passed in 2012, Singapore was the 14th country to submit its instrument of acceptance of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on 23 September 2014, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York. At the time of writing, only 41 countries have done so. A total of 144 instruments of acceptance are required for the entry into force of the amendment.

Last December, Singapore was the third country to submit its 3rd National Communication (NC) and 1st Biennial Update Report (BUR), containing progress towards its 2020 target. In Cancun in 2010, countries agreed to promote transparency and accountability. The first BURs were due at the end of December 2014 and so far only 14 have been submitted.

Singapore has undergone a Technical Analysis of its NC/BUR in May 2015 and will have to partake in a Facilitative Sharing of Views (FSV) likely to be held in June 2016. In keeping with its mandate, the principles or concepts of non-intrusive, non-punitive and respectful of national sovereignty will have to be appropriately governed throughout the ICA process.

So it is no wonder that Dr. Balakrishnan was invited to become one of two Friends of the Chair (H.E. Mr. Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of the Environment of Peru and President-Designate of COP 20 and CMP 10) at the Lima COP20 along with Minister Tine Sundtoft of Norway. They were tasked to conduct ministerial outreach during the talks.

PM Lee also praised the “strong and cohesive” team which supported Minister Vivian Balakrishnan during the negotiations.

“Team Singapore”, as PM Lee called them, was effective in COP20 in not only staffing Minister Balakrishnan but also working on the ground with other delegations. Because the team champions Singapore’s interests abroad, PM Lee suggested that they wear red at such meetings.

Minister Vivian Balakrishnan arrives at the countdown party of the Youth Olympic Games in 2010. (Photo © John Ang)

See Minister Balakrishnan’s Facebook posts/photos of COP20/CMP10 in Lima here.

Singapore has been active at other UN platforms as well. On 30 July, Singapore’s representative to the UN, Ms. Karen Tan, told the United Nations Security Council’s Open Debate on Small Island Developing States held at the UN Headquarters in New York, that climate change would have a massive impact on small islands in the Asia-Pacific region.

See video of Ms. Karen Tan speaking to the UN Security Council here.

What this shows is that Singapore, a tiny island city-state, is pulling its weight in climate change diplomacy. There are many other examples of how Singapore is doing this in other fora but having been cited at this year’s National Day Rally at such a time when negotiations are ongoing for a new deal in Paris suggests that the Singapore Government is cognizant of the effort needed to overcome challenges and to garner support for this new agreement. Apart from the need to represent Singapore’s interests, Team Singapore at the UNFCCC has been able to lend themselves well to the process, to build bridges and be honest brokers of information.

Singapore is viewed as a constructive player and therefore has been actively involved in UN climate change meetings and has had access to the innermost circuit of discussions.

It is likely that Singapore will continue to contribute to international negotiations on climate change, particularly in the two upcoming UNFCCC meetings in August/September and October in Bonn, Germany before countries meet in Paris.

The (Climate) Heart of Paris

August 2, 2015

This December in Paris, governments are expected to come together and agree on a way forward to combat climate change when Kyoto Protocol expires in 2020.url

In order to avoid the mistakes made from before, and in the interest to not step on any pre-existing contentions among countries that has been bred in the past twenty-three years of climate negotiations, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) was created. It is a vehicle that aims to bring countries closer towards achieving a global agreement to combat global warming.

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And like any vehicle, there will be both strength and shortcomings. Therefore, this article hopes to be able to shed light through some of the key points on both sides to provide readers with a more balanced view.

Things to be positive about

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First, the INDC prevents any unrealistic top down driven commitments onto any country, which doesn’t have any implementation ability to support whatever agreements that comes out of it (something that happened in Copenhagen). The INDC allows each government to decide in their own terms, their share of work in this global effort to combat climate change.

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Second, the INDC intends to level the playing field of discussion by sidestepping any unwanted arguments that plagued the negotiations in the past, resulting in several deadlocks for the past 20 years. Hence, the four words were carefully chosen and here’s a quick breakdown:

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“Intended” is used to ease governments the worry of being backlashed for doing too little or locked into committing too early while getting a sense on how each other is doing before firming up any official stance.

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“Nationally Determined” is used to reassure countries that they will decide what is best for them, keeping in good faith each would do their best to combat global warming. Taking away the pressure of historical obligations of developed countries and expectation of developing countries that are pursuing their interest in economic growth for its people.

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And “Contributions” is used as a replacement for “Commitments” because the later has a more forceful nature and tends to focus only on mitigation efforts. This is another negotiation contention whereby developing countries are dissatisfied over the insufficient climate efforts on adaptation work to deal with the impacts of global warming that are already set in motion.

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Third, this is an opportunity to do a global stocktaking. Having the INDC means countries will need to begin a process do baseline study of what it has and can do. These not only allow countries to defend whatever position would eventually want, but also allows them to gather information for long term planning. But ultimately, this is really a chance for countries to learn to understand each other’s different circumstances. The least developed countries (LDC) is also using it as an opportunity to look into what they need for growth, so that the more affluent countries would know how to better help them in their development.

Call for Concern

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First, trust and good faith of a common global interest hasn’t been something that is vividly demonstrated in the negotiation process. Therefore, one of the biggest worry is that the eventual INDC put forward by countries would not aptly addressing the climate challenge, especially those that have consistently show to have weak political motivation. A huge possible disconnect between policies and scientific information.

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Second, while the INDC provides a good opportunity to do stocktaking, many countries lack the capability to do so due to their economic situation. This means that either they quick ram up their ability to do so or just stick to being very conservative in their approach, thus pulling back the good faith that the process hope to establish.

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Third, it is the ability to integrate the potentially diverse contributions within the short time frame to come up with a document that everyone can agree upon, that can fulfil the aim of preventing the average global temperature increase of 2ºC. The nature of the INDC means one can expect a huge range of contributions that the various countries will put forward. And this, by default, would make it very challenging to produce an outcome that would satisfy all negotiating parties adequately, let alone the world. At the moment this article is written, there are 80 pages of text for governments to plough through and agree to by the end of COP21.

Sentiments of INDC as a vehicle

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Mustering all the resources at its disposal, the French government have been actively and diligently pushing to ensure the INDC is being done as it will form the foundation of the negotiation outcome. Both developed and developing countries such as the European Union, the United States, Australia and China further support the efforts to ensure submission of INDCs are done by every country by October this year.

While this is going on, two camps of thought on the existence INDC as a vehicle are formed.

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The first one is more hopeful. They believe that the INDC and the eventual Paris outcome is the starting point and hence, there should not be worldly expectations like that of Copenhagen where the outcome is the silver bullet in solving the climate crisis. Basically, we should get everyone should agree to board on the same train (an agreement of sort), and then we can then adjust the speed (commitments to combating climate change) accordingly.

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The second is more critical. They believe that the science-based evidence is there given that scientists couldn’t have agree more now than they did before, and technological solutions are readily available; the only thing that is lacking is the political will. With that, there is fear that the INDC may end up being used as a distraction from what is actually needed.

Conclusion

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In a nutshell, the INDCs combine the top-down system of a United Nations climate agreement, with bottom-up system-in elements whereby countries put forward their agreements in the context of their own national circumstances, capabilities and priorities.

The great march in Copenhagen attracting up to 100.000 people on the day of Global Action Against Climate Change.

It would be too idealistic to expect the INDCs to facilitate the Paris negotiations this December to deliver what it predecessors – the Kyoto Protocol (KP) – couldn’t, which is a fair and ambitious legally binding agreement. However, this doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t still be some sort of expectation and pressure to be put on governments and negotiators to work towards that as an end goal.

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And for now, perhaps the first step is to make sure everyone pushes for his or her own country to submit their INDCs, and if they have, how can they be improved. All these should be done before having any unrealistic outcome in December this year.

Singapore’s Environment Minister Co-Chairs Session on Differentiation at Informal Ministerial Consultations on Climate Change in Paris, 20-21 Jul 2015

July 23, 2015

Minister for the Environment Izabella Teixeira, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Ms. Christiana Figueres (Source: Dr. Balakrishnan’s Facebook Page)

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan attended the Informal Ministerial Consultations on climate change in Paris, France, from 20 to 21 Jul 2015. He co-facilitated a discussion on differentiation with Brazilian Minister for the Environment Izabella Teixeira.

The Informal Ministerial Consultations on climate change was hosted by France and Peru, and served as a preparatory meeting for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP) and 11th Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) to be held in December 2015 in Paris.

The Informal Ministerial Consultations was intended at allowing Ministers from different regional groups in the climate negotiations to exchange views on a future climate agreement.

Minister Balakrishnan was accompanied by officials from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He will next be speaking at the ASEAN Power Shift 2015 on 25 July 2015.

On 4 July 2015, Singapore submitted it’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of an emissions intensity reduction of 36% from 2005 levels by 2030. Singapore’s emissions intensity is projected to decline by 2.5% annually from 2021 to 2030, compared to 1.5% annually from 2005 to 2020.

Year Emissions Intensity (kgCO2e/S$GDP)
2005 0.176
2030 (expected) 0.113

The INDC also noted that Singapore is planning to stabilize emissions with aim of peaking around 2030. This is similar to two other INDCs from Mexico (“net emissions peak starting from 2026”) and China (“to achieve peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and making best efforts to peak early”). Singapore also added that it would “continue to study the potential of international market mechanisms”. Singapore’s INDC includes an adaptation component (only 11 out of 20 INDCs submitted so far have adaptation components).

Singapore, a tiny island city-state, is pulling its weight in climate change diplomacy. Singapore has consistently been ahead of the game when it comes to participating at relevant multilateral platforms, including the UNFCCC. Following the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol being passed, Singapore was the 14th country to submit its instrument of acceptance of the Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on 23 September 2014, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York.  As of today, only 38 countries have done so. A total of 144 instruments of acceptance are required for the entry into force of the amendment.

In December 2014, Singapore was the third country to submit its 3rd National Communication/1st Biennial Update Report. Developing country Parties are required to submit their first NC within three years of entering the Convention, and every four years thereafter. The Biennial Update Reports were due at the end of December 2014.

In the case of INDCs, Singapore is the 45th country to do so. As of 23 July 2015, only 20 submissions have been made, although notably the EU’s submission represents that of all 28 Member States.

Singapore has and will likely continue to play a facilitating role in the development of the new Paris Agreement expected to be agreed on in December in Paris. The new agreement is expected to commit all countries (not only developed countries, as in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol). We commend the Minister and the Singapore delegation for their hard work and look forward to good news later this year.

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Sources: MEWR, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan Facebook Page, UNFCCC INDC Submissions Portal

See also: Who’s who in the world of climate change diplomacy?

Goodbye Kyoto Protocol. Hello Paris!

July 20, 2015

A Greenpeace activist dressed in a polar bear costume demonstrates in front of Parliament Hill to call on Canada's minority Conservative government to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, in Ottawa January 29, 2007.  REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Many have heard of the Kyoto Protocol (KP), but did you know it is due to expire in 2020? So what happens next? That is the significance of the COP21 or the Paris negotiations due in December this year. The success of the negotiations largely resides around the idea that every country will submit their own Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs, which will serve as the foundation of the new agreement. So what is it?

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We begin with a little bit of history. The KP, agreed in 1997, was a great start to get developed countries to take on responsibilities of cleaning up the mess they have made as they developed themselves. But KP was to have two commitment periods with the first one ending in 2012. And the terms of second commitment period were meant for further discussions and to be agreed upon by 2009, giving governments 3 years to prepare themselves to ensure a smooth transition. Otherwise KP would essentially be dead in 2012.

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This is one of the reason why there were so much pressure put on the climate change negotiation in Copenhagen as the “be all, end all” event that will be the solution to our global warming problems. Nonetheless, it failed to achieve its goals in 2009, largely due to poor institutional framework, lack of national capacity, insufficient political commitments and unrealistic expectations. By the end of 2012, KP was barely salvaged by having the minimum number of countries’ weak commitments to ensure it goes into the second phase with some amendments.

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So, the KP is a done deal. The world managed to buy some sort of commitments until the year 2020. However, the world has changed significantly since 1992 when the climate change negotiations was given birth to at the Rio Summit. Countries grew, technologies advanced, connectivity enhanced, resources further depleted and interests continue to diverge; essentially we live in a totally different world, and that whatever were the conditions for negotiations back then, may not necessarily apply now. A child born then would now be 23 years old. Therefore, there is a need for a different approach in coming up with an agreement to tackle the climate issues at hands post 2020, when KP fully expires.
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While the Climate Change negotiations in 2009 has failed to achieve what it set out to do, in retrospect, the world have managed to learn quite a fair bit from it. For one, expecting heads of States to agree on a global deal, forged by some, in a forced top down manner without solid infrastructure support, not only produced a less than ideal outcome, but created an environment of mistrust. This not so distant bad after taste is what negotiators want to avoid. These existing tensions, concerns, dissent and mistrust have to be taken into consideration as nations continue to work towards a new global deal.

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Therefore, learning from the mistakes made in Copenhagen and in the interest manoeuvring around the pre-existing negotiation sensitivity, the concept of INDC was born.

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Benefits, disadvantages, sentiments and what to expect from COP21 will be shared in the next article. So for now, Goodbye Kyoto Protocol and hello Paris!

Singapore Youth Fellowship on Climate Change

July 5, 2015

cop21 logo Nations are working toward a new global climate change agreement later this year in Paris for post Kyoto Protocol. These negotiations offer governments a critical opportunity to craft a broad, balanced and durable agreement strengthening the international climate effort. The talks are taking place under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a treaty adopted in 1992 that includes virtually every nation on earth. They will conclude at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) in December in Paris.

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And since 2008, ECO Singapore have been sending youth delegations to the Climate Change negotiations to ensure youth representation, especially that of Southeast Asia is aptly present. We provide guidance and mentoring of young Singaporeans towards these talks before, during and after. One of the important role these youth team does is to keep abreast of the climate change works in Singapore, the region and the world, and connect them with both the Singapore and regional audience.

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We do so through active online blogging (such as this site) and conduct active sharing sessions so that other may benefit from what we do and be inspired to be more actively involved, both at the policy level and grassroots level.

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In view of the coming COP21 in Paris, we will build on the annual effort of sending a youth delegation. But instead of an annual pilgrimage to COP only, we want to create a platform, housed under our organisation where young people can come together and take action on influencing the climate negotiations. Essentially, we are piloting a 12 months Singapore Youth Fellowship on Climate Change.

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Therefore, we are calling out for passionate young people (18 – 35) who are interested to learn more about the climate negotiations and from this group, we will have a youth team from Singapore to the climate change negotiations (with the support of the rest of the fellows). You don’t have to be knowledgable, but you must have a heart for the environment and be willing to learn. In the coming 12 months, we will look at how to build up your capacity on climate change with meetings and discussions with various practitioners.

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If you are keen to be part of this initiative, as part of ECO Singapore’s Phase 2 development, to be part of this pilot Singapore Youth Fellowship on Climate Change, please do fill up the form online at http://bit.ly/unfcccsg

REVISED CLOSING DATE: 5 SEPTEMBER 2015

Should you have any further queries, do feel free to drop an email at international.affairs@eco-singapore.org

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Some blast from the past (Click on picture to zoom):

cop20_logo_text_173 IMG_9275 From left to right: Melissa, Christl, Siang Yu, Zen, Ambassador Kwok, Wilson, Lastrina & Juliana

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208px-COP15_Logo.svg ECO@COP Team COP15 with PM LEe

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National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) – Singapore’s Submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

July 5, 2015

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Singapore has recently released its contribution on how it will do its part to combat climate change. In comparison to what was put forth in 2009, which was 11% emission cuts based on Business As Usual, to what is now a whopping 36% cut based on 2005 emission intensity by the 2030. And keeping it that way.

At the UNFCCC Climate negotiations that began in 2013, it was decided that there is a need to come up with a post 2020 plan to curb our emissions because of the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol. There, governments have also decided there was a need to make it a bottom up approach instead of a top down like what happened in 2009 at Copenhagen. With that in mind, governments have agreed to submit their own efforts that is due by October this year. Singapore’s submission makes it the first country to do so for ASEAN, which are expected to follow suit by the agreed deadline.

National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) – Singapore’s Submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

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