Parliamentary Reply by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Yaacob Ibrahim to Parliamentary Question on Singapore's Climate Change Commitments
Nominated Member Mr Viswa Sadasivan asked the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources in light of the next UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in November 2010 (a) whether detailed carbon emission reduction measures have been drawn up or implemented for the various sectors in Singapore to meet the 16 per cent target committed to at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference; (b) whether Singapore is on track to meet the target; and (c) what innovative measures or approaches have been employed.
The Minister for the Environment and Water Resources (Dr Yaacob Ibrahim): Sir, in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009, Singapore pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 16 per cent below Business-as-Usual levels in 2020, contingent on a legally-binding global agreement in which all parties implement their commitments in good faith.
The 16 per cent pledge is a stretch target and includes the measures announced earlier under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint (SSB) in April 2009. This is a substantial commitment on our part, bearing in mind our constraints in terms of our low alternative energy potential and the significant measures we already took to reduce our emissions in the past. As a non-Annex 1 country, we are not required to commit to an emissions reductions target. However, we are prepared to do so using our own resources as a responsible member of the international community.
Achieving this target will entail significant economic and social costs. It will require all households, firms, and the economy to make significant adjustments. Naturally, we are prepared to commit to such a target only if there is a legally-binding global agreement. Singapore’s carbon emissions are very low and account for less than 0.2 per cent of global emissions. Without such a global agreement to address climate change, our efforts alone will be meaningless and will mean imposing costs and sacrifices on our citizens without any real effect on global climate change.
Singapore has thus given full support to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in reaching a legally-binding global agreement to address climate change. Negotiations are on-going under the UNFCCC. It is unlikely that a final legally-binding agreement will be reached by the next Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico later this year, but all countries should continue to try working towards reaching such an agreement in subsequent conferences.
Nevertheless, in the absence of a global agreement, Singapore will still take significant steps to implement the mitigation and energy efficiency measures already announced under the SSB. The SSB represents a major national effort to reduce emissions. We will do this regardless of whether a global deal is reached. These measures include the implementation of the minimum Green Mark standards for all new buildings in Singapore, Minimum Energy Performance Standards for household appliances which will be introduced in 2011, and the Energy Conservation Act which will come into force in 2013.
At the same time, Sir, we are also carefully studying the additional mitigation measures that would be needed to fulfil the 16 per cent pledge when a legally-binding global agreement is reached. These measures will have to be phased in progressively, to give everyone time to adjust. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change (IMCCC), chaired by the Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Prof S Jayakumar and of which I am a member, is looking into both the domestic and international aspects of climate change.
Five main sectors will be the focus of our domestic mitigation efforts: transport, buildings, households, industry and power generation. Achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions in each of these sectors will require a judicious combination of price signals, fiscal incentives and regulations. These policies and measures should encourage investment in energy efficiency technologies and changes in energy consumption patterns.
As a responsible member of the international community, Singapore will play its part in the ongoing global efforts to mitigate climate change. Agencies will work out and see through the optimal mix of policies and measures, taking into account factors such as emission reduction potential, economic competitiveness and energy security.
Mr Viswa Sadasivan: I thank the Minister. Could the Minister give one or two specific examples of measures that the Government has started taking which do not inflict a social, economic cost on Singaporeans?
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim: Sir, there are already measures that were put in place. One of the most effective is behavioural change where users, such as you and me, can adopt energy efficient appliances at home so that we can lower our energy demand. We have already moved to label energy-efficient appliances so that we provide the opportunity for consumers to make informed choices. In fact, several agencies, including the TCs, will switch over to more energy-saving light bulbs when they change the light bulbs along the corridors. These are the things in which we can do progressively to ensure that the economy and society can adjust to the commitments.
Other measures will take time. I have mentioned in my reply that we have already imposed a new minimum Green Mark Standard for new buildings. This will be imposed on all new buildings. In terms of existing buildings, this will progressively be incorporated as building owners, for example, change the chillers and so on. Meanwhile, we have put in place incentive schemes for building owners to tap on so that they can do an energy audit to decide on the energy savings that they can make within their buildings.