Parlimentary Reply by Senior Minister S Jayakumar to Parliamentary Question on Climate Change
Title: Climate Change (resources and arrangements)
1.Mr Cedric Foo Chee Keng asked the Prime Minister given the complex nature of the ongoing international negotiations and the need to consider sustainable domestic measures for adaptation and mitigation, whether existing resources and arrangements are adequate to deal with both external and domestic dimensions of climate change.
The Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Prime Minister’s Office (Prof. S Jayakumar)(for Prime Minister): For a small, low-lying, densely populated island state like Singapore, climate change obviously is a crucial issue. For this reason and because the issues are complex, and as alluded to by the Member in this question, and because the issues are interlinked across various policy areas, we have from the start taken a ‘whole-of-Government’ approach.
Accordingly, we set up the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change (IMCCC), which I chair, which comprises of Ministers from six Ministries – Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Ministry of National Development, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport. This Ministerial Committee is supported by an executive committee comprising the Permanent Secretaries of those Ministries and is headed by the Second Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs. We also have for the international negotiations, an inter-agency team, which is led by a Chief Negotiator. All these bodies are serviced by a dedicated National Climate Change Secretariat, which currently is located in Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Hitherto I would say that the Ministerial Committee has largely focused on formulating Singapore’s positions and strategy for the international negotiations. Domestically, our mitigation measures under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint were coordinated by Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, who were co-chairs of the Sustainable Development Policy Group (SPDG).
But Sir, we are entering a new phase. As we get closer to a possible global agreement on climate change, the focus will shift. It will shift to what we need to do domestically to fulfil our obligations. Singapore will have to introduce measures that go beyond the 7 per cent - 11 per cent below “Business as Usual” (BAU) under the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint. We have pledged to reduce our emission by 16 per cent below BAU in the event that a global agreement is reached. But, Sir, this is not a simple matter. We have to formulate climate change policies that strike the right balance between a regulatory, fiscal and other measures,and at the same time, enable us to sustain economic growth. Developing these policies and implementing them will need close coordination among the various agencies.
So while our current arrangements have so far worked well, I believe we need to gear ourselves more to deliver on our domestic commitments, as well as to tighten coordination between international negotiations and our domestic policies. We have therefore reviewed the matter and decided that it is best to have a single body which will oversee both these aspects of our climate change policies.
The Ministerial Committee which I referred to, will therefore be reorganised to deal with both aspects. It will now have two working groups to deal with the two main policy outcomes. The first, which will focus on our international negotiations strategy, will continue to be led by the Second Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But now, we have the second working group, which will focus on the formulation and implementation of all our domestic climate change mitigation measures, both fiscal and regulatory. It will be co-chaired by the Permanent Secretaries of Ministries of Trade & Industry and Finance.
Of course, there are some other issues which are not directly related to climate change, but are still very important aspects of sustainable development, such as water security, air quality, waste minimisation, biodiversity and sky rise greenery, to name a few examples. Those areas continue to be overseen by Ministry of Environment and Water Resources and Ministry of National Development, as the lead agencies for sustainable development.
I referred just now to the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), which has been located in Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In future, it will come under the Prime Minister’s Office. This is to reflect the important scope of policy matters to be coordinated including domestic economic, regulatory and fiscal measures as well as the ongoing international negotiations.
Furthermore, to strengthen the clout of the National Climate Change Secretariat, a Permanent Secretary will now be appointed to head the Secretariat. He will report directly to the Chairman of the Ministerial Committee, which is myself. The Permanent Secretary will coordinate the work of the two working groups which I mentioned earlier.
Sir, I believe that with these changes, namely the IMCCC reorganisation to deal with both aspects – domestic and international – to provide a coherence between the two, to have two working groups led by the respective Ministries, to relocate the Secretariat under the Prime Minister’s Office and to have a dedicated Permanent Secretary to oversee the Secretariat and the working groups. With these changes, we will have an appropriate framework in place to address the long-term challenges presented by climate change on both the international and domestic fronts.
As to the Member’s question on resources, let me say that the Government will ensure that the IMCCC, the Secretariat and the working groups have adequate resources to function optimally.
Mr Speaker: Mr Foo, a quick clarification.
Mr Cedric Foo Chee Keng (West Coast): Sir, I thank the Senior Minister for his reply. I have a supplementary question which is to ask the Senior Minister on his take of how the international climate change regime will evolve. How long would it take and in what form?
Prof. Jayakumar: I would say that there are two aspects which would have to be addressed – the process as well as the substance. On the process, I must say that immediately after COP 15 in Copenhagen, there was a hiatus and things were slow in re-starting. But there now seems to be a sense of urgency and the parties are going to meet fairly soon at negotiators-level in Bonn in April. The new Chairman of COP 16, the Mexican Government, is also showing seriousness and enthusiasm in consultating with various Members. In fact, our chief negotiator and the team were visiting Mexico for the past two weeks, with visits to New York and Washington. They had good talks to see how we can work together to advance the process. The United Nations Secretary-General is also showing some urgency in this. He has formed a high-level advisory group on one important aspect, that is the financing aspect. He has invited Singapore to be a Member of this high-level working group. Our representatives to that working group will be the Minister of Finance, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Second Minister of Finance, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua.
Other meetings have been planned including a meeting of Ministers in Petersburg, Germany, and the recent meeting held at Bali attended by Minister Yaacob, which was also useful. These are good developments which hopefully will kickstart the process and show an urgency in coming to an agreement. On the substantive aspect of what needs to be done as the process unfolds, there needs to be a bridging of differences between the parties, especially the major economies on both sides – the developing as well as the developed countries – on some key outstanding and unresolved issues, such as measurable, verifiable, reportable measures (MRV). It is well and good for countries to announce various target and emissions. But one vexing issue is ultimately: what will be the method for verifying compliance with each country’s announced measures? Another vexing issue, of course, is the issue of financing. There are these two aspects, I wish I have a crystal ball, but I am a bit more encouraged now than immediately after Copenhagen when the pieces were very slow in being picked up.