Points Made by Senior Minister S Jayakumar at the Climate Change Media Interview, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
SINGAPORE’S DELEGATION TO COPENHAGEN CONFERENCE
PM, SM/CMNS and Min (EWR) will attend the Copenhagen Conference.
We have actively participated in the talks. We have taken a whole of Government approach in our preparations. In 2007, we set up the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change (IMCCC)to study this issue carefully. The IMCCC, which I chair, comprises the Ministers from 6 Ministries - MFA, MTI, MEWR, MND,MOF, and MOT. In addition, we set up the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development (IMCSD), co-chaired by MND and MEWR, in January 2008 to give sustainable development a stronger focus. Energy efficiency is a key thrust of the Sustainable Singapore blueprint, which was released in May this year.
STATE OF PLAY AT UNFCCC NEGOTIATIONS
We have had two years of negotiations to reach a new global agreement on climate change in Copenhagen in Dec. 3 main goals of talks:
- Mitigation: to reach a global consensus on capping and reducing carbon emissions.
- Adaptation: to assist LDCs and small island developing countries in their adaptation efforts to cope with the effects of climate change.
- Financing: work out effective mechanism to help developing countries finance their mitigation and adaptation efforts.
US’s non-participation is a key weakness of KP, US did not ratify because large emitters like China and India, as developing countries, are not required to undertake any commitments to reduce emissions under the KP. A new global deal must get the US and China on-board as there will be no deal otherwise.
WHY IS THERE AN IMPASSE?
The talks are very complicated. Unlike other negotiations, the trade-offs here call for a vision for future generations. While the costs of mitigation and adaptation measures and their impact on economic growth are calculable, huge and immediate, the benefits of mitigation measures will only be seen in the very long term. Politically difficult for all governments who must be concerned about the effects on economic growth and competitiveness.
Deep divide between developed and developing countries. The developed countries want the major emitting and advanced developing countries to take on binding and verifiable mitigation actions. But developing countries argue that developed countries given their historical responsibility, must first fulfill all their commitments under the Convention and KP. The developing countries also want developed countries to provide on financing and technology transfers to assist in their mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Divergent interests exist even among the developed and developing countries. For e.g., developed countries cannot agree on financing. Among developing countries, the oil-producing countries want compensation for reduced petrol revenues, while the small island states want more stringent environmental measures globally.
Some specific issues have also complicated the negotiations. The US says that it will not ratify the KP and wants an entirely new agreement in which major developing countries such as China and India must take on mitigation actions within a common framework just like the developed countries. The other developed countries, to get the US on board, have also embraced this position. However, the developing countries cannot agree as they see this as a means to terminate the KP and put pressure on and differentiate among developing countries.
Financing mitigation and adaptation in developing countries is also a politically difficult issue. According to World Bank we need a substantial amount of between US$75 to US$100 billion a year for adaptation alone. The developing countries insist that the developed countries should bear the full responsibility of providing such an enormous sum, but the developed countries want all countries, except the LDCs, to contribute.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT COPENHAGEN?
These complications have led to an impasse. Given the limited time left, countries are no longer aiming to reach a comprehensive and legally binding international agreement by Copenhagen. A more realistic aim is a political framework agreement which contains the key elements for a legally binding agreement with details to be further negotiated in 2010.
SINGAPORE’S INTERESTS AND OUR APPROACH
Singapore has an important stake in a successful global deal. As a small and low-lying island state, we are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. A rise in sea-level can have serious consequences for us.
PM stated in Bali that Singapore will do our part in a global agreement on climate change
This is a long term global problem that requires a global solution. But an equitable global deal must take into account each country’s capability and constraints. If there is a global agreement, we are prepared to bear our share of reduction in emissions growth.
What we cannot agree to is unreasonable pressures by some developed countries to get advanced developing countries like Singapore to take on greater responsibility in reducing emissions, solely because of our high per capita GDP. Some even want to graduate us into Annex 1, i.e. take on mandatory economy-wide emission cuts. We cannot agree, because:
a. Benchmarks like per capita GDP are artificial, distorted and unfairly penalise small urbanised countries like Singapore.
b. Singapore has severe constraints such as lack of recourse to alternative energy sources. I will elaborate on these constraints later.
c. Our contribution to global CO2 emissions is negligible, i.e. less than 0.2 per cent.
Importance of maintaining economic competitiveness. While climate change is clearly a very serious problem,we cannot ignore the impact of mitigation measures on our economy. Whatever we do, maintaining economic competitiveness is a key consideration because we have to preserve growth in order to have the resources to continue to take mitigation and adaptation actions.
SINGAPORE’S CONSTRAINTS: ALTERNATIVE ENERGY DISADVANTAGED COUNTRY
As small country, there are inherent limitations to what we can do to reduce emissions. We face significant constraints in switching to alternative or renewable energies, such as geothermal, wind or hydropower, to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
We are an “alternative-energy disadvantaged country” just as in UNCLOS where we were a “geographically disadvantaged country”.
Solar technology: has some potential and we are investing in solar R&D. But at the present level of technology, it is uneconomic and intermittent. Given our high urban density, there is limited space to deploy solar panels. Even if all easily accessible roof top and reservoir space was covered, it would not provide a significant proportion of our current electricity needs at the current level of technology.
Wind Speed in Singapore is only 2 meters per second while the minimum wind speed for commercial viability is approx. 4 meters per second. If we talk about wind farms, where can we locate them? Where do we have space on land? Off-shore in the sea? The waters surrounding Singapore are one of the busiest shipping routes. Some 150,000 vessels pass through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore annually bearing 1/3 of world trade and ½ of the world’s oil.
While we have not ruled out nuclear energy in the long term, given our small size, this is a complex undertaking with issues such as safety, waste disposal and economic viability that need to be satisfactorily addressed and resolved before this option becomes feasible.
The past actions we have already taken to conserve energy have also limited our potential to further reduce emissions.
WE HAVE ALREADY TAKEN SIGNIFICANT STEPS: PAST SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT MEASURES
Despite all these constraints, we have always taken the environment seriously. Long before climate change became a global issue, we took several actions which have resulted in significant reduction in emissions growth. Otherwise, Singapore today would not be livable. These past measures include:
(a) Green cover: Over the 20-year period from 1986-2007, our policies to actively “green” Singapore led to an increase of over 10 per cent in our green cover from 36 per cent to 46 per cent even though our population had increased by 68 per cent during this period.
(b) Transport policies: We are one of the few countries to cap vehicle growth. In the past, we limited annual car growth to 3 per cent, and have lowered it down to 1.5 per cent from 2009. These stringent policies to limit vehicle growth and usage have reduced emissions by approximately 5 per cent.
(c) Fuel Switch: In 2001, we switched from fuel oil to natural gas, which is the cleanest form of fossil fuel for generating electricity. The power sector is a major source of emissions and contributes to about 50 per cent of our total emissions. Currently, natural gas accounts for about 80 per cent of our electricity generation. This has reduced emissions from the power sector by 25 per cent.
(d) Energy efficiency: In 2006, carbon intensity was approximately 30 per cent below 1990 levels.
(e) Recycling: We recycle 56 per cent and incinerate 41 per cent of our wastes. Incidentally, incineration provides 2-3 per cent of our electricity and reduces methane emissions from landfills. Methane has 21 times the warming potential of CO2.
RECAP: THE SUSTAINABLE SINGAPORE BLUEPRINT (SSB)
Most recently, in April 2009, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development announced measures under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint (SSB) to improve the energy efficiency of our economy over the medium-term in four key sectors of our economy - industry, transport, households and buildings. The SSB represents a major national effort to reduce emissions.
The SSB aims to achieve the following:
- Reduce energy intensity by 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030
- Improve recycling rate to 70 per cent in 2030
- Reduce energy consumption in new and mature housing estates by 20 per cent and 30 per cent respectively by 2030
Through, inter alia, following policies:
- Managing the growth of private transport, refining our Electronic Road Pricing system, and improving schemes.
- Encourage cycling and walking with investments in infrastructure such as covered linkways, cycling paths and parking facilities for cyclists at MRT stations.
- Promoting energy efficient Green Building through incentives to co-fund the cost premium to achieve higher Green mark standards of Goldplus and Platinum, demonstration projects such as the first-ever retrofitted Zero Energy Building in South East Asia, and making Green Mark a pre-requsite land sales requirement for new growth areas.
FURTHER EFFORTS … RECALL PM SAID WE ARE STUDYING WHAT MORE WE CAN DO
Despite all the problems we face, we will certainly do more if there is a global agreement on climate change and other countries commit to reduce their emissions too.
Since the publication of the SSB, the Government has engaged in a wide-ranging and comprehensive study of what more we can do to further reduce our emissions growth.
After careful study, Singapore will undertake voluntary actions to reduce our emissions growth by 16 per cent below 2020 BAU.
This is a substantial commitment that will require a major effort, bearing in mind:
- our severe constraints;
- that these will be on top of the significant measures we have already taken in the past, and much more than what we have planned to achieve under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint;
- that we have no historical responsibility for climate change;
- that our absolute greenhouse gas emissions are very low, less than 0.2 per cent of the global total;
- that all of our measures will be domestically funded and unilaterally implemented.
Let me stress that whatever enhanced measures we will undertake has to be contingent on a global agreement being reached; on other countries also adopting significant targets and implementing their commitments in good faith.
Without a global agreement by all to address climate change, our efforts alone will be meaningless. Implementing our package of measures in such a scenario will mean imposing costs and sacrifices on our citizens and making significant sacrifices without any real effect on global climate change.
WHAT ARE THE MEASURES WE WILL TAKE TO ACHIEVE THIS?
The details of the specific measures are still being studied and will be announced at a later stage. We will have to look at implementing new measures as well as enhancing existing ones, for instance:
- Transport policies such as to achieve 70:30 public transport Modal Split (e.g. through improvements in public transport system and further restraints on vehicle population and usage), enhanced Off Peak Car Scheme, improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles, bio-fuels, electric vehicles etc;
- Raising Green Mark performance standards for buildings and sustainable construction;
- Strongly encouraging households to conserve energy, e.g. through energy performance labeling for fridges, aircons, lights, standby power etc;
- Encouraging industries to use energy more efficiently and to reduce their direct CO2 emissions, since industry accounts for a major part of our energy consumption and CO2 emission.
To achieve this targeted reduction in emissions, we will have to rely on a combination of regulations (e.g. efficiency standards) and fiscal measures. Market forces will also have an important role to play, to make sure that people and businesses get the right price signals and have the right incentives to save energy and reduce emissions. Our agencies are carefully studying all the options, and the specific measures will be announced at a future date after we have worked out all the details and after the outcome of the negotiations is clearer.
None of this is going to be cost free. The measures we will take to reduce our emissions will entail both economic and social costs and will require considerable domestic adjustments. There will be impact on industries and households.
The Government will do what is necessary to buffer this impact, and to help them to adjust to the new low-carbon environment. We will do our best to keep the costs to the minimum and to achieve the emissions growth reduction in the most efficient possible way. But I must caution you that this is not just a matter for the Government alone. It will require all sectors of our economy to make adjustments.
Let me wrap up by saying that the approach we have taken is a constructive, pragmatic and realistic one, bearing in mind our special circumstances.
Climate change is a long-term issue that the world will have to grapple with for many decades to come. As a responsible member of the international community, Singapore will play our part and continue to contribute to the global effort in reducing emissions. Although our emissions are an insignificant percentage of the global total and we have no historical responsibility for climate change, we are prepared to do our part in the context of a global agreement in which all countries implement their mitigation actions and emissions targets in good faith.
REMARKS MADE BY MINISTER FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT MAH BOW TAN
Thank you very much, Senior Minister Jayakumar. Let me just add on to what Professor Jayakumar had said in one particular area, and that is in the area of what we had done in the past and what is the implication of that.
Long before climate change was an issue, Singapore had done a lot. We had to do this - one, because we are a resource constrained country and therefore as a result of that, energy efficiency was one of the areas that allowed Singapore to be competitive. And secondly, of course, as a small country with resource constraints, it was important for us to make sure that Singapore remained a liveable city. That is the first point.
The second point is that as a result of what we had done, because of these past efforts, there is really less potential compared to other countries - for us to do more. But that does not mean that we are not going to do anything, that we just rest on our laurels and say this is what we have done full-stop. No, in fact, we have taken further measures to do even more and I will elaborate on that later on.
So, a) we have done a lot since independence and b) because of what we have done, there is less potential compared to other countries to reduce our emission growth further. What we had done in the past, our past sustainable development efforts, have contributed significantly to the reduction of emissions growth. Some of the more significant areas that we have embarked upon include for example, the area of transport. As you know, we are one of the few countries in the world, if not the only one, to do both the limitation of vehicle growth through the COE (Certificate of Entitlement) system as well as the introduction of congestion pricing, usage controls through the ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) system.
In the power sector, we have also progressively switched from using fuel oil to less carbon intensive and more efficient natural gas to the extent that today we generate some 80 percent of our electricity through natural gas. What these efforts have done collectively is to reduce our carbon intensity by about 30 percent from the 1990s till today. But that is something that is already done. I don’t think it is going to be credited to us as far as negotiations are concerned.
So as I said, we have done a lot. But at the same time, we recognise that there is still a lot more that we should do in conjunction with both the economic imperatives of high energy prices and also our responsibility as a member of the international community towards reduction in emissions growth. So, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development (IMCSD) in April this year launched our sustainable Singapore blue print. What this blueprint sought to do was to reaffirm our commitment to do more for sustainable development because it is in our domestic interest, because we recognise that the future will be one where there will be even less resources available to us which means higher oil prices, but also because we want to make Singapore an even more liveable place for our people. This is what the IMCSD sought to do --- improve energy efficiency, reduce energy usage --- and our target for the IMCSD blueprint was to reduce energy intensity by 35 percent by 2030. So that was our focus at that time --- reduction in energy usage, improvement in energy efficiency.
We are prepared to do more in spite of what we have done in the past, to go beyond the IMCSD measures. As Professor Jayakumar mentioned just now, we are now prepared to commit to further reduce carbon emissions growth by 16 percent from the 2020 BAU levels. This will be done provided we have a global agreement on climate change. I also want to put this 16 percent in context. You know, when we did the IMCSD blueprint we took a bottom-up approach. In other words, we canvassed views from industries, from the private sector, from members of the public, from various agencies, various ministries to see what we can do to further reduce energy usage. We took all these inputs, gave ourselves a stretch target, 35 percent (reduction in energy intensity) by 2030. But recognising that there is a need for us to do more, we have gone back to those targets and stretched it even further, and we have come to a figure of 16 percent, which we believe is achievable with considerable effort. It is a stretch target. It requires, I would say, tremendous effort from all parties concerned, everybody concerned. From the Government, from businesses, from organisations, from individuals, with the help of NGOs, with the help of agencies through legislation, through incentives, through education. I cannot emphasise enough how much of an effort we need to make in order to achieve this 16 percent below 2020 BAU. For example, some of the things that we will need to do in the area of transport, it will require us to up the modal split, in another words, the percentage of travel on public transport, from something like 59 percent in 2006 to something like 70 percent by 2020.
If you look at how the modal split has changed, if you look at how travel patterns have changed, I think you will realise that this 70 percent by 2020 will require a huge change in people’s travelling behaviour, will require huge investments in transportation infrastructure like rail, will require changes in roads, public transport facilities and so on. So that is one area. Take another example, in the area of energy efficiency in buildings, we have already committed in the IMCSD blueprint to converting 80 percent of our buildings to achieving the Green Mark certified rating. Now the Green Mark certified rating is the lowest Green Mark rating. If we are to achieve this 16 percent, that is not going to be enough. We have got to up the minimum rating to something like the GoldPlus or even the Platinum rating which is a much more difficult standard to achieve but that is something that we would need to do if we are to achieve minus 16 percent. So this is just to give you a flavour of what are some of the measures we would need to implement in order to achieve what I consider to be a very tough target but it is something that we believe we will be able to meet if all parties involved put in the effort, and through various measures. So I just wanted to add these comments to what Professor Jayakumar has said.
REMARKS MADE BY MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES YAACOB IBRAHIM
Thank you, SM. Let me now just say a few words about the flavour of the negotiations. As you know, since 2005, Singapore has been actively participating in the climate change negotiations both at the officials’ level and the political level.
In fact as rightly pointed out by SM, the journey towards Copenhagen started in 2007 at COP-13, COP is Conference of Parties. This led to the adoption of the Bali Action Plan (BAP) and Singapore participated both at the pre-COP level in Bogor and COP level in Bali. As you remember PM also attended the meeting. A small group of selected Ministers attended the pre-COP meeting. We have a very good working relationship with the President of COP-13, which is Rachmat Witolar, the Indonesian Minister for the Environment. As you know we have ongoing discussions with them on several regional issues. But because we have worked with them, we were able to help them push for the inclusion of the issue of emission reductions from deforestation in the Bali Action Plan. So the rainforest nations were very happy with us because we supported that programme.
Following that, we were invited back to the COP meeting and the pre-COP meeting organised by the Polish government, that was COP-14. This year is COP-15. I have a very good relationship with the incoming President which is the Danish Minister Connie Hedergaard. And as has been the practice in previous UNCCC meetings, they also organised a pre-COP meeting recently in Copenhagen and we were also invited ahead of COP-15, which is happening in a few days. Given the importance of the Copenhagen meeting, the Danes also took an additional step. They organised a series of informal Ministerial meetings or IMMs. This is really a small group of Ministers and Singapore was included, so that we could discuss the climate change issues throughout 2009, among a small group of countries for us to give political guidance on some of the difficult issues at the negotiations. They managed to hold four meetings, one in Nairobi, one in Greenland, one in New York and recently in Barcelona. Singapore attended all of the meetings and we participated actively.
These meetings, allow very close consultations among the countries especially at the political level to identify some of the focal concerns over key issues which have to be addressed and at the same time where flexibility would be possible so that we can reach an agreement. The most important thing is that our lead negotiator, in this case Ambassador Chew Tai Soo, also attends the IMM and therefore there is a link back to overall discussion at the UNFCCC. This is not just a small group of Ministers but together with the negotiators they go back to the larger meeting with the political guidance to push the process forward. And so the IMMs has been an important platform to establish some of the key elements for a politically binding agreement to be reached in Copenhagen, which in turn, as mentioned by SM, will pave the way for a legally binding text to be completed in 2010. COP-16 will be held in Mexico next year. We do not know whether the agreement will be signed at the end of next year or the middle of the year but we have to leave it to the COP to decide that.
Why are we attending all these meetings? There are two clear benefits. First as I mentioned earlier, it gives us a deeper understanding of the concerns of the major economies. Brazil, China, India and, the US were there. So this allows us to be understand what they were prepared to commit. The discussions have so far focused on the key issues of mitigation and finance for climate change. There is general convergence on very broad issues. There is general acceptance of the CBDR (Common but Differentiated Responsibilities) principle. We know what Annex 1 countries have to do. Non-Annex 1, as mentioned by SM, whatever we do is voluntary, but the Annex 1 countries have to take economy-wide emission reductions based on the principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR). CBDR is a very important principle and in all the discussions we keep reminding them that we cannot depart from that. At same time, whatever that the non-Annex 1 countries like Singapore do, we must respect national circumstances as enumerated by Prof (SM Jayakumar). The concerns that we have about AED and other constraints. But there is also an agreement that any global deal must be contingent on adequate and sustainable financing from the developed countries because without financing, the developing countries cannot implement some of their adaptation and mitigation measures. However, I think a lot of work needs to be done to narrow the gap. These are the details that we have to discuss, maybe in Copenhagen and beyond. But overall, I would like to say that the mood of the meetings has been very positive because there is a sense that everybody wants to reach an agreement in Copenhagen. At the recent pre-COP meeting in Copenhagen all of a sudden you have countries announcing their targets. So we have a big positive move to get countries to put on the table what they were prepared to do, they even asked Singapore, so I said, “Wait and see, we will announce it very soon.” SM Jayakumar has just announced our target and I think the Danes would be very happy that Singapore has shown commitment that we are prepared to do something.
The informal meetings also provided us the opportunity to highlight what we have done and what we can do to mitigate carbon emissions. Even though as I say, we are a non-Annex 1 party, we have done a lot as Minister Mah has mentioned. Hence we use those occasions to remind them that we are not starting from zero. We have done a lot in terms of energy efficiency and conversion from fossil fuels to natural gas for our power generation. They recognise that countries like Singapore will have to take into account our national circumstances and whatever actions that we have done in the past to reduce the rate of emission, we will undertake further action using our national resources. We will not ask for funding. We will do it on our own unilaterally. Again, there will be some cost. As mentioned by SM, this would have to be worked out in detail.
The most important thing for me in terms of the second benefit is that several Ministers now acknowledge our constraints. So we keep using the term AED. Ambassador Chew has mentioned it so many times so that people recognise AED. They recognise that we can’t do as other countries. That is very important because it must be impressed upon then that we cannot switch to renewable energy sources. If we can, we would have done so, but we can’t. We also inform them that we are a small country. We depend on imports for most of our resources, our water, our energy, our food. We are the second most densely populated country after Monaco and within that 700 sq km we have to put our buildings, our housing, our roads, our industries, our reservoirs, our power plants, so really we do not have a lot of space left. And our own geographical conditions give us little recourse to renewable energy options.
Let me give you some numbers. Our wind speed is only 2 metres per second, not enough for wind turbines to be cost effective. We don’t have hydropower, nor geo-thermal. Nuclear power poses a challenge due to our high population density and small land area. Solar has relatively more potential, but it can only contribute to a small proportion of our energy needs because Singapore is densely populated. We lack very, very big areas that you see in solar farms to mount all these solar panels. But despite these constraints, as Minister Mah has mentioned, we are investing in energy R&D and will be test-bedding alternative energies, such as solar on key installations such as the Marina Barrage , the Singapore Poly and of course under HDB Punggol New Town, which will an eco-precinct where we’re going to test some of this technology.
So being an AED, energy efficiency is our key strategy. We have to be efficient in the way we use energy in order to combat climate change and there are clear benefits. Energy efficiency will lower household utility bills. Businesses will improve their competitiveness and Singapore will enhance our energy security because even without climate change we have to move towards energy efficiency because as Prof (SM Jayakumar) mentioned it is practical, and realistic measure that we have to do anyway. So as you heard from Minister Mah, we had set an energy intensity target of 35 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. So we are committed to what we can do and I share the aspirations of Prof and Minister Mah that we will have to do this come what may because it is the only thing that you have in order to ensure that we can combat climate change.
Thank you very much.