Remarks by Senior Minister S Jayakumar, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim at Media Conference
Remarks by Senior Minister S Jayakumar
UPDATE ON THE STATE OF NEGOTIATIONS
The UN Climate Change Conference (COP-16) starts today in Cancun in Mexico. Our Chief Negotiator, Ambassador Burhan Gafoor, and our team are already there.
Minister Yaacob and I will leave for Cancun next week to attend the High-level Segment of the Conference.
CURRENT STATE OF PLAY
Last year, we failed to reach a comprehensive global agreement in Copenhagen.
True, there was the Copenhagen Accord (“CA”) hammered out by a small group of leaders from key countries, including the US and China, that broadly captures the key elements necessary in a global agreement. The Accord was certainly not a perfect text, but it was a step in the right direction. Singapore and 139 other countries have associated with it.
Since then, progress has been slow with little impetus. In fact, the process can be described as having moved “one step forward but two steps backward”. Why?
First, the major players are not agreed on how to move the process forward. To compound matters, there is declining domestic political support in some of the major developed economies on climate change. This is partly due to the international situation - the weak global economy and consequential domestic problems it poses for major players.
Second, views of developed and developing countries are still polarised on some key issues:
Many developing countries worry about provisions to increase transparency. As a result, no agreement yet from developing countries on how their pledges should be measured, reported and verified - important elements in any legally binding agreement.
Developing countries also want developed countries to take greater responsibility for their past emissions.
Developed countries, on the other hand, want developing countries to curtail their future emissions.
Third, a small group of countries are politically opposed to the CA and any elements associated with it. They say that the CA was not negotiated transparently. So moving the negotiations forward on the basis of the CA has been difficult, even though the CA represents a good basis for negotiations.
MANY ATTEMPTS MADE TO REACH AGREEMENTS
However, there has been no lack of effort to forge agreement this year. Since March, we had four formal negotiating sessions. Also, many informal consultations at both the Chief Negotiator and Ministerial levels were convened by Mexico as the new President of COP 16. The US-initiated Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) met four times this year. The MEF is an “important forum because the key countries are there. The UN SG also initiated a High-level Advisory Group to look at the very important issue of climate change financing, whose report was launched in New York on 5 November.
EXPECTATIONS FOR CANCUN - “BALANCED PACKAGE” AND NOT A “BIG-BANG” APPROACH
What is the biggest difference between then (Copenhagen) and now (Cancun)? It is that now all agree a “big-bang” approach is not possible, i.e. where all the outstanding issues are resolved in one single meeting. In other words, all acknowledge that a comprehensive, legally-binding global agreement (LBA) is not achievable by the end of this year.
The general consensus is that in Cancun, we must work towards a “balanced package” of “decisions” that incorporates more mature issues such as REDD+, Adaptation, Technology and Capacity Building. COP decisions are essentially political commitments by Parties, with certain operational repercussions.
Although decisions are not legally binding in nature, a balanced package of decisions in Cancun will send a strong signal that countries remain committed to the process and will help to put things back on track. However, there is still no consensus on what exactly would constitute a “balanced package” with different countries placing emphasis on different elements.
We need to look at climate change negotiations as a long-term process. We will have the next COP-17 in South Africa end 2011. South Korea and Qatar are now bidding to host COP-18 the following year. Cancun is one stepping stone in the process.
SINGAPORE’S POSITION ON A “BALANCED PACKAGE”
We support a balanced package, but such a package of decisions must lead to a future global agreement that is legally-binding. Why is this important?
First, the future climate change regime cannot be based just on political understandings alone, best endeavor basis, or a non-binding UN General Assembly-type resolution. It has to be grounded on legally-binding international agreements whereby countries undertake actions on the basis of reciprocity.
Second, if any deal is to succeed, the key factor is: there must be reasonable certainty of implementation of all actions and commitments.
There is no perfect solution. But a legally-binding agreement will help give confidence to governments that this is a global endeavor and that others will not renege on the decisions made.
As to what should go into any balanced package, our view is:
The issues of mitigation and Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) must be included. These are at the heart of the negotiations. Moreover, several countries, both developed and developing, including Singapore, have announced their mitigation pledges last year and post-Copenhagen. It is important that after a year of negotiations, we make further progress.
Next, finance, technology and capacity building is also crucial in any balanced package. In particular, if the Cancun meeting can decide on the establishment of a new Climate Fund in Cancun, it will be a confidence-building measure and signal the developed countries’ willingness to provide long-term support to developing countries to undertake adaptation and mitigation actions.
What is the best case scenario? If political will is present, it is possible that Cancun might launch focused negotiations to conclude a LBA by COP-17 next year in South Africa.
Can this be achieved? It all depends on the major players. The main ingredient is what it has always been, i.e. “political will”. If countries, particularly the major countries, are willing to make some incremental progress, then it will be possible.
In parallel with the international negotiations, we are actively taking steps to ensure that we are prepared for climate change domestically.
In March this year, I announced in Parliament the revamping of Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change (IMCCC), which comprises Ministers from MFA, MTI, MEWR, MND, MOF and MOT, to deal with both the international negotiations and our domestic policies. I also announced that the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), which supports the IMCCC, would be headed by a Permanent Secretary and repositioned under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). This was to reflect the importance of the policy measures to be coordinated. NCCS will lead and coordinate Singapore’s domestic and international policies, plans and actions on climate change so as to secure a sustainable living environment for our future generations.
I don’t want to load you with details on organisation, but suffice to mention the following:
(i) First, the International Negotiations Working Group (INWG) will develop our strategy in the international negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This is chaired by PS (FA) Bilahari Kausikan.
(ii) Second, the Mitigation Working Group (MWG) which has been tasked to develop an economically-efficient suite of domestic measures to achieve our 16 per cent below Business as Usual (BAU) target in 2020, to be implemented if a legally-binding global agreement is reached. The co-chairs of this group are PS (T&I) Ravi Menon and PS (Finance) (Performance) Chan Lai Fung.
(iii) Third, the Resilience Working Group (RWG) will study and develop measures to address our physical vulnerabilities to climate change. It will also review existing adaptation measures and develop long-term adaptation plans to ensure that Singapore is able to cope with climate change. This is co-chaired by PS (EWR) Desmond Kuek and PS (ND) Tan Tee How.
(iv) The chairmen of the 3 WGs together with PS (Transport) Choi Shing Kwok are members of the IMCCC Exco chaired by the PS (National Climate Change) Tan Yong Soon.
Since I have spoken at length on the international negotiations, let me say something about the other two aspects.
We take our mitigation pledge of 16 per cent below BAU by 2020 very seriously. This target, which is conditional on there being a binding global agreement, is not a light commitment on our part.
We face constraints in terms of our low alternative energy potential. For example, solar has some potential in Singapore but there is limited space to deploy solar panels because of our small land mass and high urban density. There is also insufficient wind speed in Singapore for wind power to be commercially viable. There is also insufficient space, whether on land or off-shore at sea, to deploy large-scale wind farms.
In addition, we have also undertaken significant measures to reduce our emissions in the past. For instance, since 2001, the power generation sector, which contributes more than 50 per cent of our total emissions, has been switching from fuel oil to natural gas. As at 2009, 80 per cent of our electricity is generated from natural gas, which is a cleaner form of fossil fuel for electricity generation.
In the absence of a global agreement, Singapore will still take significant steps to implement the energy efficiency measures already announced under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. These will significantly reduce national emissions.
Our 16 per cent BAU pledge goes beyond the SSB. Achieving this will entail significant economic and social costs. It will require all households, firms and the economy to make adjustments. There will be trade-offs to be made. Hence, this requires careful study.
The inter-agency Mitigation Working Group (MWG), headed by MTI and MOF, is studying the policies and measures that would be needed from a whole-of-government perspective. The principle is to put in place cost-effective mitigation measures through an appropriate mix of price signals, fiscal incentives and regulations.
As PM mentioned recently at the Singapore Energy Lecture 2010, the best approach is to apply a carbon price. This way, energy prices will take into account the social cost of carbon emissions.
If there is a global deal to curb carbon emissions and we have to reduce our own emissions more sharply to comply with international obligations, we will have to make the carbon price explicit to send the right price signals.
As a low-lying island state, Singapore is vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The Resilience Working Group (RWG ) is studying Singapore’s physical vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and to develop appropriate adaptation plans to ensure that Singapore is able to cope with climate change. This is not an easy task as there are many aspects to vulnerability and climate science is complex and still evolving.
Studies are underway. The Government commissioned a Climate Change Study to examine Singapore’s vulnerabilities to climate change. Phase 1 of the Study was completed in 2009 and looked at the physical effects of climate change such as changes in sea-level and temperature rise. The results indicated that the average daily temperature and mean sea-level rise could increase by 2100.
Phase 2 of the Climate Change Study has been commissioned and will look at other projected effects of climate change, such as public health, biodiversity and energy consumption.
Additional studies are also planned and will be carried out in tandem with advances in climate science. These studies are part of a continuing process to build up our knowledge in climate science. Inputs from experts and peer reviews will be incorporated to ensure that the studies and the results are credible. Study findings will be reviewed and updated as climate science evolves. Due to the complexities in modeling climate change effects, growing our understanding of climate effects will be a long-term process.
As our understanding of climate impacts grow, we will be better able to refine and improve on our adaptation measures.
As a result of Singapore’s long-term approach to infrastructure planning, some measures are already in place that would address the potential impacts of climate change in the short to medium term. For example, since 1991, the PUB has required new reclamation projects to be built at least 125cm above the highest recorded tide level. Agencies will keep up to date with developments in climate science and carry out regular reviews of the sufficiency of Singapore’s existing infrastructural measures.
On both fronts - international and domestic - we are taking a serious and practical approach towards climate change.
Internationally, we are a small country and our contribution to global emissions is very low (<0.2 per cent). Singapore cannot by any means be considered a major emitter. Having said that, we have been playing a constructive role both within the UNFCCC framework and beyond to nudge the global community towards reaching such a legal agreement, because that is also in our interest. For example:
Within the UNFCCC, Minister Yaacob co-chaired with Norway ministerial consultations on International Transport Emissions and Trade Actions related to Climate Change at the COP-15 in Copenhagen last year.
Our Chief Negotiator Amb Burhan chaired the UNFCCC Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) drafting group on finance at its June, August and October sessions.
Singapore recently hosted the Third UNFCCC Asian and Pacific regional workshop on technology transfer project preparation for funding in October 2010.
At the pre-COP in Mexico City earlier this month, Mexico asked me to chair one of the three working groups (on finance, technology and capacity-building).
Outside of the UNFCCC, Finance Minister Tharman is a member of the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Finance (AGF) whose proposals of sources of long-term climate change finance may serve as useful inputs to UNFCCC discussions on this matter.
We were also invited to the Major Economies Forum (MEF) in Rome in June 2010, where I represented Singapore. In September Minister Yaacob represented us at the MEF held in New York. After that meeting, we have been invited again to the Washington MEF meeting in mid-November.
We have also participated in various informal meetings and provided capacity-building and training under the auspices of the Singapore Cooperation Programme.
Domestically, we are seriously looking into the policies and measures required. Our target is to achieve the BAU minus 16 per cent in 2020 provided there is a binding global agreement. This means we need to implement policies and measures before 2020 to achieve our target. We are approaching this carefully as this is a difficult issue. We need to conduct proper cost benefit analyses. We want to avoid those measures which impose high cost on end users but really achieve very little carbon mitigation. I have directed the Mitigation Working Group to come up with the proposals on policies and measures needed by middle of next year. We will run the proposals through a couple of iterations, including consulting stakeholders, before making the final decisions and announcing the required policies.
On vulnerability, we are looking into various effects of climate change. Although a Phase 1 study into the localised impacts of climate change on Singapore was completed in 2009, agencies under the Resilience Working Group will be undertaking additional studies on the secondary impacts of climate change, and the effects of extreme weather conditions, and developing appropriate adaptation plans to ensure that Singapore is able to cope with the impact of climate change. We will not be complacent.
Climate change is a long-term issue that the world and Singapore will have to grapple with for many decades to come. We must all play our part and continue to contribute towards securing a sustainable living environment for our future generations.
Remarks by Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan
Our efforts in climate change are for the long haul, but it is important that we anticipate the impact and prepare ourselves now. To this end, we have taken steps on the domestic front to address the possible impact.
One major challenge is in the area of improving our energy efficiency, given the uncertainty in oil prices and our lack of alternative energy resources. Over the last few years, MEWR and MND had worked with agencies on sustainable development, which resulted in the launch of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint (SSB) in 2009.
The SSB set targets to reduce our energy intensity (energy consumption per GDP). By improving our energy efficiency, we would also be able to reduce our emissions growth, and this will contribute to the -16 per cent BAU pledge.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS
Since the adoption of the SSB in Apr 2009, the Government has launched many initiatives. I would like to briefly touch on some key developments and achievements.
SOLAR PANELS IN HDB ESTATES
Our efforts to make our public housing estates more resource efficient are progressing well. As part of HDB’s island-wide test-bed of solar technology in public housing precincts, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have been installed in precincts in Serangoon, Sembawang, Tampines and Marine Parade to supply electricity to common areas and lifts. More such projects are in the pipeline.
In addition, Singapore’s first eco-precinct, Treelodge@Punggol, will be completed by the end of the year. It is the first public housing project to be awarded Green Mark Platinum, and incorporates green technologies and innovations such as centralised recyclable refuse chutes, a rainwater collection system and green roofs.
The Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity was adopted at the 10th Conference of Parties (COP10) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on 29 October 2010. The adoption of the Index at this UN platform is recognition of Singapore’s contribution to global biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation efforts.
Our efforts include: (a) enhancing our native ecosystems and habitats such as mangrove restoration work and coral nursery; (b) reintroducing extinct species, e.g. hornbills; and (c) increasing our public awareness programmes. These initiatives will contribute to improving our biodiversity.
The Government has been investing heavily in public transport infrastructure to encourage more to take the public transport. Since 2009, an addition of 20km has been added to the Rail Transit network, with the operation of Boon Lay Extension and Circle Line (Stages 1 - 3). We are also on track in our efforts to integrate our bus and rail services through the provision of the 4th Integrated Transport Hub (ITH) at Boon Lay. Two more ITHs at Serangoon and Clementi will be completed by 4Q10 and 2011 respectively.
NATIONAL CYCLING PLAN
In line with the National Cycling Plan, we are promoting cycling as an environmental friendly and healthy transport option for intra-town travel to transport nodes and key amenities. There is also a longer term plan to implement an extensive network of cycling paths in Marina Bay.
The development of the cycling infrastructure at HDB towns is progressing as planned. The first phase of cycling paths in Tampines has been completed. A section of tracks will be completed in Taman Jurong by the end of the year. The remaining cycling paths in Tampines and Taman Jurong as well as Yishun, Sembawang, Pasir Ris, Bedok and Changi-Simei are on schedule to be completed by 2014.
The building sector accounts for 30 per cent of total electricity demand. It is an area where there are potential gains in energy efficiency to be made.
For new buildings, we have already mandated minimum Green Mark standards since April 2008 to help them go green. These standards will be raised in December 2010. In May this year, new buildings in key development areas, namely Marina Bay and CBD, Jurong Gateway, Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central, have to meet Platinum and Goldplus Green Mark standards as part of the land sale requirements.
The key challenge now is in improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings, which makes up almost all the entire building stock. Retrofitting existing buildings is ultimately a cost effective measure as the energy savings from the retrofits will pay off themselves.
Some building owners may not appreciate this as it is an upfront cost to retrofit their buildings. Moreover, the payback period is between 5 and 7 years which some owners consider unsatisfactory. We need to educate building owners, and work with them to retrofit their existing buildings to achieve greater energy efficiency.
To overcome these barriers, we have introduced a $100m Green Mark Incentive Scheme for existing buildings to meet higher Green Mark standards.
The Government will continue to extend our R&D efforts to pilot-test new green technology. BCA’s Zero Energy building is a showcase of green building design features and technologies for a retrofitted existing building. It has, one year into operation, generated a surplus of electricity over and above operational needs. The power surplus translates to cost savings, equivalent to the electricity demand for 35 units of HDB 5-room flats in a month.
While we continue with promotional efforts and incentives and monitor the results, we may need to mandate minimum standards for existing buildings. While such a measure will impose additional retrofitting costs on the industry, there will be energy savings which building owners will enjoy eventually. We will consult the industry and study this regulatory option carefully before making a decision.
For the industry sector, we will boost energy-efficient industry designs, processes and technologies, through a combination of incentives and raising awareness of good energy management and design.
One incentive scheme available is the Grant for Energy Efficient Technologies (GREET), which encourages the adoption of energy efficient technologies or equipment. GREET co-funds up to 50 per cent of the investment cost of energy efficient equipment or technologies, capped at $2 million per project, for projects which have a payback period of more than 3 years and up to 7 years.
Among large energy users in industry, a range of energy management practices exists today. We want to ensure greater management attention is paid to energy. This will ultimately benefit companies in terms of cost-savings. MEWR targets to introduce the Energy Conservation Act (which will come into force in 2013) which requires companies in the industry sector consuming more than the equivalent of 15 GWh of energy each year to appoint an energy manager, monitor and report energy use to NEA, and develop and submit energy efficiency improvement plans.
To help companies prepare for these requirements, NEA launched the Energy Efficiency National Partnership in April 2010. This platform promotes efficiency on an organisational level, and helps companies put in place their own energy productivity improvement projects. A total of 87 companies have joined as Partners of EENP so far.
The commitment required of us in a legally-binding agreement under the -16 per cent BAU is greater than those under the SSB. At the minimum, we will implement the measures under the SSB, and if there is a global deal, we are prepared to do more.
Remarks by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim
In the household sector we are focusing on helping households and consumers realise the benefits of energy efficiency. There are two prongs – getting households to upgrade to more efficient appliances, and educating the public about energy saving habits.
Two years ago we brought in the Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme (MELS) for household appliances such as refrigerators and air-conditioners, so that consumers would have more information to make energy efficient purchases. To complement this effort, NEA entered into a voluntary agreement with retailers and suppliers to promote energy efficient appliances. The next step we are taking is to implement Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for household air-conditioners and refrigerators. These appliances are the most energy-hungry in the household. Over their life-cycle, they not only lead to more carbon emissions, but also impose higher costs on consumers. By next year, under MEPS, the poorest performing appliances will be removed from the market. This represents up to 20 per cent of current sales volumes. A more efficient refrigerator that costs the same as one phased out by MEPS can save a household about $130 a year. When all the existing air-conditioners and refrigerators in Singapore comply with the MEPS standards, consumers will enjoy total energy savings of about $20 million annually.
We will raise the MEPS standards over time. We are also considering MEPS for more appliances, such as lighting. As we consider our options, we will keep in mind how consumers are affected, such as whether a sufficient range of brands and models will remain available for consumer choice.
MEWR has also made much effort to raise awareness about energy saving behaviour, and we will continue to do so. Campaigns such as the 10 per cent Energy Challenge aim to encourage households to adopt energy saving habits. Earlier this year, we held the Energy Challenge Month 2010, culminating in the Energy Challenge Fair (ECF) on 28 May - 6 June 2010.
Lowering our energy intensity and carbon emissions is not solely a Government effort, as we need everyone on board to make steady progress towards a more sustainable and climate friendly Singapore. It is important to remember that we are not doing this to satisfy an external commitment, but because Singaporeans first and foremost will enjoy the benefits.
Singapore’s climate change strategy must also prepare Singapore to be resilient to potential impacts.
MEWR and MND head the Resilience Working Group (RWG), which is studying Singapore’s physical vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The RWG will develop appropriate adaptation plans to ensure Singapore is able to cope with climate change. This is not a trivial task, as there are many aspects to vulnerability. Climate science is complex and still evolving. But work is already under way.
CLIMATE CHANGE STUDIES
The Government commissioned a Climate Change Study to examine Singapore’s vulnerabilities. Phase 1 was completed in 2009 and looked at the physical effects of climate change such as changes in sea level and temperature rise. The study indicated that by 2100, average temperatures could increase by 2.7 to 4.2 degrees, while average sea levels could increase by 0.24 to 0.65m. These figures are consistent with findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
We are now looking into the corresponding impacts on energy demand, heat stress, coastal land loss, flooding, water supply, public health, and biodiversity. Phase 2 of the Climate Change Study has been commissioned and will look at these secondary effects. We are also conducting a Risk Map study that identifies specific coastal areas at risk of inundation, as well as the associated expected damages. The study will commence by the end of this year, and is expected to be completed by 4Q 2013.
The climate system is a dynamic area of research, so study findings will be reviewed and updated as climate science evolves. Additional studies will be carried out in tandem with new advances in science. We see this as a continuing process of extending our knowledge and institutional capabilities. Over time, we will develop a strong core of expertise in climate science and modelling within Singapore, as well as collaborate with international experts to ensure that our understanding is both current and comprehensive.
PROGRESS ON ADAPTATION
Singapore has always taken a long-term approach to infrastructure planning. There are some measures already in place that would address the potential impacts of climate change in the short to medium term.
For example, since 1991, the PUB has required new reclamation projects to be built at least 1.25m above the highest recorded tide level. PUB has also been improving the drainage infrastructure in Singapore over the past 30 years, thus reducing the size of our flood prone areas. Our greening efforts have the added benefit of helping to lessen the localised impact of warmer temperatures and reduce the urban heat island effect. Our building codes specify that buildings must be able to withstand substantial wind forces.
We recognise the importance of preparedness. Based on the climate studies I earlier outlined, the RWG will be reviewing the sufficiency of Singapore’s existing infrastructural measures to potential climate change impacts. It will work towards development of an adaptation master plan.
Adaptation is an endeavor that will span decades and longer. Our focus now is to develop the necessary tools and capabilities to update and refine our adaptation strategy.