Climate change pact

Singapore can lead by example

Joggers run past as the skyline of Singapore's financial district is seen in the background in this April 21, 2014 file photo.
Joggers run past as the skyline of Singapore's financial district is seen in the background in this April 21, 2014 file photo.PHOTO: REUTERS

The Paris climate change agreement has been hailed by world leaders as a historic deal ("Historic deal may signal end of fossil fuel era"; Monday).

However, there were no specific quantitative targets or timeline announced with it.

Only time will tell when the numeric global targets would be derived and agreed upon. Individual nations have yet to furnish their specific targets and initiatives.

Implementation of these individual and collective goals would be even more challenging.

Would future citizens of the world concur to carry out all the agreed targets and initiatives, for example?

Would punitive action like sanctions be taken, should any member nation fail to achieve its targets?

Our role to influence big economies like the United States, China, Japan, India and the European nations in the implementation stages would be very limited. What we can do is to do our due part well in our own country and lead by example.

How do we include safeguards into future agreements to resolve non-fulfilment of individual nations and to prevent possible conflicts among nations?

Singapore has played a big role in helping to seal the Paris agreement. But what should our role be in subsequent phases?

Our role to influence big economies like the United States, China, Japan, India and the European nations in the implementation stages would be very limited. What we can do is to do our due part well in our own country and lead by example.

We have to start discussing and debating among ourselves the targets and the timeline we should set for Singapore in the coming years. We have to assess the various impacts of the recommended changes.

For example, our economy is quite export-oriented and we produce a lot of carbon in certain industries that cater mainly for foreign markets, such as petroleum refinery and aviation, seaport and airport services.

Is there any understanding reached on how to split and reallocate the carbon back to countries that import and consume these products or services?

Another example: What is our plan on reducing the population growth of petroleum-driven cars and when would we set a zero growth for it?

Also, we should set out plans to speed up our development in clean energy and acquire an advantageous head start.

With no natural resources, Singapore cannot stay as an onlooker or follower.

Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore can lead by example'. Print Edition | Subscribe