Countries big and small must do more to mitigate climate change: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the US Chamber of Commerce Global Forum on Economic Recovery on May 19, 2021.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the US Chamber of Commerce Global Forum on Economic Recovery on May 19, 2021.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

SINGAPORE - While it is important that the United States has rejoined the Paris Agreement, countries big and small must go further to mitigate climate change, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"First of all, we should carry out what has been agreed in Paris. The fact that the US has come back and will do its part is a big plus. Because if the US is not part of this, everybody else will say, 'Why should I do my part? The US is free-riding.' But if the US is back, there is a possibility of doing what is in the Paris Agreement," he said.

"But honestly speaking, all the scientists believe that even if we did everything that is in the Paris Agreement, it will not be enough. And you have to go further, in a fair way, with the big emitters making big adjustments, and the other countries, big and small, each doing their part."

PM Lee said this includes Singapore, which is not just small, but also has an alternative energy disadvantage as it does not have hydro, geothermal or nuclear power.

"But we do have some sunshine and we will make the best of that, although the sunshine alone will not be enough."

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order for the US to rejoin the landmark climate change agreement following his inauguration in January, and hosted a virtual climate leaders' summit in April.

Going beyond the agreement, the next occasion will be the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Britain at the end of this year, said PM Lee, expressing hope that countries will come with proposals to take things forward.

Singapore will be there too, he added.

"We hope to help advance the negotiations, and to help Britain as president of the meeting, and make it a success. Everything is at stake, because it is not just 1 or 2 deg C, but what that means for sea levels, for storms and droughts, for coastal cities and low-lying areas.

"And for war and peace, because climate change means large social and economic disruptions, migrations and human conflict. You can adjust to them over centuries, but if it happens within a few decades, you are putting humanity under stress."