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Statement by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, at the United Nations Climate Summit 2014

September 26, 2014
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan delivering Singapore's National Statement at the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit 2014 (Photo credit: Dr Balakrishnan's Facebook page)

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan delivering Singapore’s National Statement at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit 2014 (Photo credit: Dr Balakrishnan’s Facebook page)

Your Excellencies John Kufour and Marçin Korolec,

On behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, I wish to add Singapore’s voice of appreciation for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s tireless efforts to focus the global leadership on climate change. The IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report starkly warns of potential mean surface temperature rises of up to 4.8°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

This is the correct moment to pause and reflect. We should renew our political commitment to the 2°C global climate goal – a goal based on science. Such a commitment requires two decisions: First, to mandate our negotiators to engage constructively in building the new climate agreement at both Lima and Paris. Second, to act domestically to mitigate climate change. Such domestic efforts can start right now, and need not wait for an agreement in December 2015. Allow me to elaborate on both points from Singapore’s experience.

Singapore’s Role at the UNFCCC Negotiations
We participate actively in the UNFCCC negotiations as a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and of the Group of 77 and China. We help build bridges between the many stakeholders in this complex negotiation. We see real potential in a viable, constructive, and comprehensive agreement in 2015. We believe that we can build an inclusive agreement which will serve as a durable base for all nations, big and small, to make a responsible contribution to address climate change.

In 2009, we announced a voluntary pledge to reduce emissions by 16% from the 2020 business-as-usual (BAU) level [1], contingent on a legally-binding global agreement under which all countries implement their commitments in good faith. We have proceeded to implement measures to reduce emissions by 7 to 11% from the 2020 BAU level. Given our constraints in alternative energy, and the fact that our actions are all domestically funded, this is a substantial commitment which entails economic and social opportunity costs.

As a further sign of our continued commitment to the multilateral system, I am pleased to announce Singapore’s ratification of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. I deposited our instrument of acceptance at the UN Treaty Event earlier today. We are also working domestically to prepare our post-2020 contribution. Singapore will submit our nationally-determined contribution (NDC) in a timely manner.

Singapore’s Climate Action
Singapore has also taken various domestic climate action initiatives. In 2012, we published the National Climate Change Strategy outlining a whole-of-government strategy to move towards a low carbon pathway.

In the interest of time, full details of these efforts are in my circulated statement. I can summarise that our efforts include: (i) a significant expansion in public transport; (ii) major restraints on the vehicle population and usage; (iii) a Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS); (iv) an Energy Conservation Act to mandate energy management practices for large users of energy; and (v) energy efficiency standards for household appliances. We also (vi) made an early switch to natural gas – the cleanest form of fossil fuel – for over 90% of our electricity generation. (vii) We price energy at market cost without subsidy, so that prices incentivise energy conservation. Looking ahead, we will: (viii) target a 70-30% modal split for public-private transport by 2020; and (ix) target 80% green buildings by 2030. Given our limited options for alternative energy, we will nevertheless (x) intensify solar panel deployment. We also fund a (xi) National Innovation Challenge on “Energy Resilience for Sustainable Growth” to catalyse research, development and demonstration to increase our energy options, improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

Singapore’s emissions grew at an average annual rate of 2.0% in the last decade, compared to 2.2% globally. Similarly, our GDP grew by 76%, compared to a 22% increase in emissions and a 34% increase in energy use. This demonstrates our improved energy and carbon efficiency. Over the same period, our carbon intensity decreased by 3.6% per annum, which compares favourably with the global average decrease of 0.01% per annum. These are Singapore’s voluntary contributions, done without waiting for a global agreement to be reached. They are taken in the belief that every small nation can help with a meaningful contribution towards combatting climate change.

Working with the International Community
Singapore also contributes by sharing our experience in city planning, transport, waste and water management at international events such as the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week, Singapore International Energy Week, Singapore Green Building Week/International Green Building Conference and World Engineers Summit. With the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), we established the BCA Centre for Sustainable Buildings – the first in Asia to help others develop green building policies and actions. We have been actively contributing to the efforts of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to address the impact of international transport on climate change. We share our adaptation and mitigation experience through the Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP), and the more customised Sustainable Development and Climate Change (SDCC) Programme which has already benefited nearly 7,000 officials from fellow developing countries.

It is our firm belief that we have a unique opportunity now to build an agreement which will serve as a durable and universal base, for all countries to undertake climate action. We hope that the common resolve in New York today will inject renewed impetus and political momentum to the negotiations as we head to Lima and then to Paris.

[1] Projecting from 2005, Singapore’s BAU emissions are expected to reach 77.2 million tonnes (MT) in 2020.

Source: Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources

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