Observer status for NUS at UN climate talks
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.