Singapore's move to host climate meeting shows its commitment: Experts

Singapore is hosting a meeting of the United Nations climate science body for the first time this week, in a move experts say demonstrates the Republic'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".

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

About 80 experts from the IPCC are gathered at Resorts World Sentosa, where they will hammer out details on what an upcoming report on the state of the planet will include.

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 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 itself 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 Government could do more.

Under the Paris Agreement, there is a window of opportunity for Singapore to make more ambitious climate pledges by next year. Ms Low said 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.

"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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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2019, with the headline Singapore's move to host climate meeting shows its commitment: Experts. Subscribe