Successful global climate agreement must be universal, legally binding, durable - DPM Teo

DPM Teo Chee Hean said that Singapore has called for a legally binding agreement to be reached at the United Nations climate summit.
DPM Teo Chee Hean said that Singapore has called for a legally binding agreement to be reached at the United Nations climate summit.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Singapore has called for a universal, legally binding, and long-lasting global agreement to be reached at the United Nations climate summit, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Friday.

He was speaking ahead of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), which will be held from Nov 30 to Dec 11 in Paris.

He added, however, that Singapore may need to review its own position on climate change if the agreement is not achieved.

DPM Teo, who is also the chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, said: "We're looking for a universal agreement -it is important that every country is in (on this)-and we want to have an agreement that is legally binding, so there are obligations on all countries.

"We also want an agreement that is durable, that will stand the test of time. This is a long-term agreement, where we are looking at climate-friendly actions to be taken by all countries and that will go on to 2100."

He was speaking on the sidelines of the National Climate Change Competition, at which he was giving out prizes to the winners of short films on global warming.

COP21 aims to achieve the first-ever global agreement on climate that will limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels. The existing Kyoto Protocol governs only emissions from developed countries.

Singapore will be represented at the conference by a delegation led by Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and Environment and Water Resources Minister Mr Masagos Zulkifli.

DPM Teo said that Singapore had "played a facilitative role" in the climate negotiations over the past few years. "We have been able to keep in contact with all the different groups - the developed countries ,the small island nations, the developing countries - and tried to help bridge the differences between these countries."

He stressed that Singapore aims to reduce its emissions intensity, which is currently among the lowest 20 per cent in the world, by 36 per cent from 2005 levels in the next 15 years.

This, he acknowledged, would be difficult for Singapore as alternative energy options here are limited, leaving it reliant on fossil fuels. "It is a big challenge for us and a big commitment for us to make."

Should the conference fail to reach a successful agreement, however, Singapore may need to review its position. DPM Teo said that some measures "need to be done in tandem with other countries".

These, he said, include incentivising industries and building owners to reduce energy consumption and increase their carbon efficiency. "We may need to overcome the initial investment needed to do this, to get them to do certain things which may go beyond what they are prepared to do on their own. But it only makes sense - for example, for industries - if everybody in the world does the same thing."

Singapore has already made "difficult choices" that allows it to account for only 0.11 per cent of global carbon emissions, he pointed out. For instance, the Government does not subsidise energy to encourage judicious consumption and implemented the world's first urban traffic congestion pricing scheme in the 1970s.

The National Climate Change Competition this year saw more than 170 entries from schools, institutions of higher learning and members of the public.

Participants created short films to raise awareness of climate change and what people could do to address the issue.

Among the winning submissions was the animated film Earth Story by digital artists and former Nanyang Polytechnic animation students Chan Min Yu, Chua Zun Feng and Fida' Ulya Mustapah.

Ms Fida, 21, said the team put the film together across three months, taking a few hours out after work daily to design the art and effects.

"We want viewers to know they have to constantly reuse, reduce and recycle," she said.

oliviaho@sph.com.sg