KATOWICE, Poland - With almost 200 nations agreeing to adopt a global action plan to tackle global warming, Singapore will have greater certainty about the world's commitment to dealing with climate change, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said on Saturday (Dec 15) night.
This is especially important for Singapore which is a vulnerable, low-lying island, he told The Straits Times in Katowice, Poland, after the action plan, or the Katowice Rulebook, was adopted following a marathon two-week conference.
Asked what it means for Singapore, Mr Masagos said: "There is certainty that all countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement will now actually start to report on their climate pledges, and there is a clear rule of how that will be done, with no more suspicion or ambiguity about what it means."
Under the plan, countries are given guidance on how to keep global warming well below 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels, which was set out in the Paris Agreement drawn up three years ago, and to aim for 1.5 deg C, if possible.
The Paris pact had outlined a broad architecture in which all nations pledge to do their part to combat global warming based on their own national plans.
These would include reducing emissions from burning fossil fuels, preventing deforestation or speeding up investment in renewable energy.
The Katowice Rulebook provides greater clarity of how countries can take steps to meet these national climate pledges.
Under the current United Nations framework, developed and developing countries have different transparency mechanisms for the measurement, reporting and verification of these pledges.
But the Katowice Rulebook includes a new Enhanced Transparency Framework, which would subject all parties to the same reporting, measurement and verification standards.
However, developing countries will get the necessary support to do so, in terms of finance and capacity-building, for example.
Such a framework will provide the basis for countries to ratchet up their pledges every five years. This increase in collective ambition to curb global emissions was a key feature of the Paris Agreement.
"Come 2050, there is the expectation that more ambitious commitments need to be made by everybody, and this spirit is captured well in the rules.
"Not only must we be delivering on our commitment, we are now also on the path to be more ambitious, to avoid what the IPCC report has cautioned us against," said Mr Masagos.
He was referring to an October report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that laid out the impacts of a 2 deg C warming scenario instead of a 1.5 deg C one.
The report found that the 0.5 deg C increase would significantly impact a country like Singapore, in terms of sea level rise and food security, among others.
Mr Masagos added in a Facebook post that the adoption of the rulebook was especially memorable for Singapore, which is wrapping up its Year of Climate Action.
But he said climate action is not just a year-long affair, adding: "We are already seeing more flash floods in Singapore as the climate has changed.
"It will be even more severe and frequent when the effects of climate change are at their ugliest. We must continue to press on to safeguard our country and planet for future generations."