Singapore hosting meeting of UN climate body shows commitment to climate change: Experts

Professor Jim Skea of the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London (right) with Professor Mark Howden, director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - The Republic is hosting a meeting of the United Nations climate science body for the first time this week, in a move experts say demonstrates Singapore's commitment to tackling climate change.

Professor Jim Skea of the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London said countries volunteering to host a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) normally attached "quite a big importance to the issue of climate change and is concerned about climate change action".

"So I think the fact that Singapore offered probably symbolises Singapore's awakening interest in the issue of climate change," said Prof Skea, who is also co-chair of an IPCC working group that looks at ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

About 80 experts from the IPCC are gathered at Resorts World Sentosa's convention centre, where they will, over the next two days, hammer out details on what an upcoming report on the state of the planet will include.

The Synthesis Report for the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) is due in 2022, and will provide governments with the most updated scientific information relevant to climate change that can be used to guide policies and inform business and the public.

The report will also draw on three special reports that the IPCC released over the past year, ranging from the different impacts of a 1.5 deg C versus a 2 deg C warming scenario, as well as the impacts of climate change on land use, the oceans and the cryosphere - the frozen parts of the planet.

The meeting will also be carbon-neutral, with the IPCC and Singapore offsetting the carbon emissions from the meeting - in terms of flights and venues - after the event.

Ms Melissa Low, an observer of the international climate change negotiations at the National University of Singapore's Energy Studies Institute, said Singapore's narrative on climate change has been consistent.

It had demonstrated its commitment to tackling the issue from early on, submitting targets to curb emissions from as early as 2009. It did so again in 2015, ahead of its ratification of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

"Singapore hosting the IPCC for this meeting shows also the country's emphasis on science, especially in terms of how it plans to adapt to climate change and make it more resilient," said Ms Low.

Singapore is definitely committed to tackling climate change, but determining whether it is doing enough to curb emissions could boil down to individual judgment, she said, noting that some might feel the Singapore Government could do more to tackle emissions.

Under the Paris Agreement, there is a window of opportunity for Singapore to make more ambitious climate pledges by 2020. Ms Low said that while it remains to be seen if Singapore will do so, the Government could consider better communicating Singapore's position on the issue, such as its unique constraints.

"For example, to improve our food security in a time of climate change and meet the government's target of growing 30 per cent of Singapore's food locally, farming will have to be high-tech and intensive. This could contribute to higher emissions," she said.

Other than such trade-offs, there is also the issue of safeguarding jobs and the economy.

The petrochemical sector is a legacy industry in Singapore, said Ms Low, and its expansion might seem contradictory to the country's climate targets.

She said: "A better road map of the trajectory of this, such as how much it will expand by and if there are plans to create jobs in other sectors, could be communicated to the public."

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