Monday 25 April 2016

Singapore signs Paris Agreement on climate change

True test of Paris accord - 'turning words into actions'
Singapore stresses need to boost momentum as China and US - world's top polluters - pledge to adopt deal by year end
By Melissa Sim, US Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 24 Apr 2016

The Paris Agreement to curb global climate change must now pivot from diplomacy to implementation, said top officials gathered at the UN headquarters where 175 nations signed the landmark accord, making it the biggest one-day endorsement of a global deal.

The accord is a "strong affirmation that diplomacy is essential and capable of solving problems on the global commons", said Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan at the ceremony on Friday.

But he emphasised the importance of turning words into action and building on the momentum from the Paris meeting of last year.

"We all need to remember that we have to take decisive pre-2020 actions in order to create a solid foundation for our post-2020 commitments," Dr Balakrishnan said.

The deal reached in December commits states to hold global warming to well below 2 deg C.

While there are hopes that the deal can be brought into force before the initial target date of 2020, many states still require a parliamentary vote to formally approve the accord.

Taking the lead on this issue were China and the United States - the world's top greenhouse gas producers - which pledged to adopt the accord by the end of the year.

"The urgency of this challenge is only becoming more pronounced... The United States looks forward to formally joining this agreement this year and we call on all of our international partners to do so," said US Secretary of State John Kerry, reminding the audience at the United Nations that 2015 was the hottest year on record and last month was the hottest-ever-recorded March.

The Paris accord will enter into force only when ratified by at least 55 nations representing 55 per cent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Together, China and the US account for 38 per cent of these emissions.

"China will finalise domestic legal procedures on its accession before the G-20 Hangzhou summit in September this year," said Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli at the UN signing ceremony.

Domestically, early actions have already allowed Singapore to achieve relatively low carbon emissions per GDP dollar, said Dr Balakrishnan, but more can be done.

He said Singapore will pursue renewable energy in the form of increased solar photovoltaic deployment.

"This will supplement our substantial energy efficiency efforts and other mitigation measures to lower our emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, and to stabilise our emissions around 2030," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan acknowledged that "difficult conversations" had transpired to make the agreement happen, but added that the accord has shown there are ways for countries to work together for a "balanced and inclusive outcome".

"We have proven that an agreement can be built on a spirit of cooperation and collaboration. And that there is a pathway to raise ambition, to enhance global support for climate action, and to improve over time," he said.

In encouraging countries to continue to work together, Mr Kerry said: "The new energy future, the efficiencies, the alternative resources, the clean options - none of what we have to achieve is beyond our capacity technologically.

"The only question is whether it is beyond our collective resolve."


UN tackles climate change

* Paris accord set to come into force
Secretary-General personally garnered needed support from world leaders
The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2016

UNITED NATIONS • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was expected to announce yesterday that he has secured enough commitments from world leaders to ensure that the 2015 Paris climate accord will enter into legal force this year.

The milestone is within reach in large part because Mr Ban, who sees the climate deal as a centrepiece of his legacy, began a sustained push to win the formal approval of 55 countries representing 55 per cent of global emissions - the threshold needed to put the accord into force.

He pressed the issue personally with dozens of world leaders and with legislative bodies, including those in Russia and his native South Korea.

The UN had said that 30 states, including Singapore, would submit their ratification at the UN General Assembly. Currently, there are 185 signatories to the Paris Agreement. Of these, 29 states have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval, accounting in total for 40.12 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The accord approached its legally binding threshold this month after the United States and China, which together account for nearly 40 per cent of emissions, jointly announced that they would legally join the deal. The ratification by 30 other countries is likely to push the pact past the threshold for it to come into force.

Among the other countries to submit their ratification at the General Assembly were Latin American heavyweights Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. Others included Bangladesh, Thailand and major fossil fuel power the United Arab Emirates.

Complex and controversial international accords usually take several years to enter into legal force. But the haste on the Paris accord was driven, at least in part, by the looming American election.

Mr Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, has vowed to pull the US out of the accord if he is elected. If the deal comes into legal force before the presidential inauguration, it will take four years under the accord's rules for the US to withdraw legally. That would keep the country bound to the measure through the first term of the next administration.

"We have no time," Mr Ban said, addressing the General Assembly on Tuesday. "I urge you to bring the Paris Agreement into force this year."

A breakthrough in the quest for quick ratification came this month when the European Union (EU), which represents about 10 per cent of global warming emissions, set an Oct 9 vote to join the agreement, with or without action by its member states.

The bloc has pledged under the Paris Agreement to cut its emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030, but not all of its 28 member states are yet prepared to approve their individual climate pledges.

Another concern had been Britain's vote to leave the EU, which advocates of the Paris deal feared would complicate the bloc's ratification process and raise questions about Britain's own climate policy. But Mrs Theresa May, the new British Prime Minister, pledged before the General Assembly on Tuesday that her government, too, would legally join the Paris Agreement this year.

"The Paris Agreement gives a framework to act, but there must be a sense of urgency about bringing the agreement into force," US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday in his last address as head of state to the General Assembly.

Still an open question is the timetables of the world's three other major polluters: India, which accounts for about 7 per cent of emissions, Russia, which produces about 5 per cent, and Japan, which produces about 3 per cent.


Singapore ratifies Paris Agreement
By Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2016

Singapore has ratified the Paris Agreement, thus formally committing itself to reducing climate change.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan deposited Singapore's instrument of ratification at the United Nations headquarters in New York yesterday.

The Republic has pledged to reduce its emissions intensity, which is the ratio of carbon emissions to each dollar of the gross domestic product, by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

In April, Singapore was one of 175 countries to sign the Paris Agreement.

The Republic is also on track to meet its existing commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 16 per cent by 2020, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in a statement to the media yesterday.

In July, Singapore unveiled its Climate Action Plan to meet its targets under the Paris Agreement, outlining various measures to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and enhance resilience to climate change.

"Improving energy efficiency will continue to be Singapore's key strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said the MFA, adding that energy efficiency would be enhanced across all sectors, including power generation, industry and transport.

In a Facebook post, Dr Balakrishnan said the ratification of the agreement was a "profound and moving journey" for the team of negotiators from various ministries undertaken over a number of years.

He added: "We may only be a tiny state, but we made a positive contribution in a quiet but effective way."

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