Friday 26 September 2014

Singapore ratifies the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

By David Ee, The Straits Times, 25 Sep 2014

SINGAPORE has ratified the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that formalises climate change commitments by nations from 2013 to 2020.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan announced this early yesterday morning Singapore time, in an address to world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City.

More than 120 heads of state and government have gathered in the United States to discuss their national plans of action against a warming planet, ahead of an important climate summit in Paris in December next year.

In Paris, nations will seek to overcome their differences and adopt a binding global agreement covering climate actions beyond 2020.

This is seen as critical if the world is to avoid the worst effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise and extreme weather, caused by unprecedented levels of carbon emissions from human activities.

The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol - ratified by Singapore and 190 other nations - lasted from 2005 to 2012. The Doha Amendment represents the second commitment period.

A legally binding climate agreement covering all developed and developing nations beyond 2020 has so far proven elusive, as rich and poor countries argue over how much of the burden they should bear.

Nonetheless, Singapore, like many countries, has voluntarily put measures in place to reduce its carbon emissions.

Singapore has pledged to cut its carbon emissions by 16 per cent from a projected 77.2 million tonnes in 2020, as long as a binding global climate agreement can be reached.

In the absence of one, Singapore aims to achieve a 7 per cent to 11 per cent reduction.

"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," said Dr Balakrishnan.

He asked world leaders to "pause and reflect" on scientists' warnings that sea temperatures could rise by 4.8 deg C by 2100.

He also urged nations to agree on a new climate agreement in Paris next year, and to act domestically to fight climate change.

"Such domestic efforts can start now, and need not wait for an agreement in December 2015," he said.

Singapore, he added, was working to prepare its post-2020 climate commitments.

Opening the summit, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said: "We are not here to talk. We are here to make history."

Up to 216 million threatened by rising sea levels: Study
By Tan Hui Yee Thailand Correspondent In Bangkok, The Straits Times, 25 Sep 2014

SCIENTISTS have long warned that global warming could swallow hundreds of islands and large swathes of coastal areas by the end of the century. But a new study has identified just how many people - and where - could find their homes under water come 2100.

Some 147 million to 216 million people would find their homes below the sea or subject to chronic flooding by the end of the century, assuming that the emissions of greenhouse gases continue at the current rate, according to analysis by Climate Central, a news and scientific organisation.

Among the top 20 countries and territories with the greatest number of people exposed to the risk of flooding or submerged homes, 12 are located in Asia.

Over a quarter of Vietnam's population will risk seeing chronic floods or their homes submerged, while 12 per cent of Thais and 10 per cent of Japanese will face the same threat.

In terms of sheer numbers, China topped the chart with more than 50 million people exposed, followed by Vietnam, with more than 23 million considered vulnerable. India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines and Indonesia are the other countries at risk.

In Singapore, between 0.9 per cent and 1.4 per cent of its population - or up to 72,000 people - would be affected, said Climate Central in response to queries from The Straits Times.

Dr Ben Strauss, a Climate Central director, said: "The degree of underestimation is likely to be greatest or at least higher than average in large, dense urban areas… So since Singapore's population is concentrated pretty much exclusively in such an area, I am confident that - unfortunately - the ultimate numbers will prove much higher."

The study was based on analysis of the most detailed sea-level data available, looking at how heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide would melt the ice caps and raise sea levels, while taking into account likely reductions in emissions in the future, as well as the sensitivity of sea levels to temperature changes.

Much of the greenhouse gas is released when fossil fuels are burned for energy, but the rapid loss of forests has also accelerated the process as it leaves fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide.

Small island states like the Maldives are particularly vulnerable to being obliterated by rising sea levels.

Among the countries or territories with more than one million people, the Netherlands had the greatest percentage of population exposed to floods or submergence, but the study also noted that its extensive network of levees may protect its residents.

Residents of China - currently the biggest contributor to such gases - form the largest group of people who would have to contend with homes under water.

Climate Central warns that the figures in its report are probably understating the severity of the problem because of the likely imprecision of the data used. "If the overall error factors we calculated for the US apply globally, then 300 to 650 million people live on land that will be submerged or exposed to chronic flooding, by 2100, under current emission trends," it said on its website.

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