UN climate change talks

Singapore asked to help bridge divisions on thorny issue

It will listen to differing views on mitigation and help the countries reach a consensus

The presidency of UN climate talks being hosted by Poland has asked Singapore to play a lead role in resolving a key topic of contention among countries trying to hammer out a deal to limit global warming.

As co-facilitator with Norway on the thorny issue of mitigation, Singapore's role is to listen to the views of the various countries and bridge divisions between them so a consensus can be reached, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (Mewr) told The Straits Times.

The climate talks in the southern Polish city of Katowice aim to agree upon a set of rules, or a rulebook, that will allow the 2015 Paris Agreement - a framework for keeping global warming to well below 2 deg C - to go into force by 2020.

At the end of the 2015 Paris climate conference, nations were set a three-year deadline to agree on the complex set of rules, and will seek to finalise a robust rulebook by the end of this week. But negotiations to seal a deal at the Katowice talks, called COP24, have hit a few bumps on the road, as nations struggle to agree on a few key points, one of which is mitigation.

Mitigation refers to how countries can reduce their emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Discussions on mitigation have been stonewalled as nations disagree on issues such as when they should start reporting their emissions data - whether it should begin in 2022, 2023 or 2024 - and what information they would need to include in their climate pledges, called nationally determined contributions.

REINFORCES REPUBLIC'S REPUTATION

This is significant for Singapore as it reinforces our reputation internationally as a constructive delegation that supports multilateral solutions to global problems such as climate change.

A SPOKESMAN FOR THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES

Said Ms Melissa Low, a research fellow at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore, who is taking part in COP24: "Establishing a set of guidelines on nationally determined contributions is important to give countries clarity on what information they would need to submit to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change for their next and subsequent climate targets."

A Mewr spokesman said: "As co-facilitator, our role is to listen to the concerns and views of different parties on the crunch issues on mitigation and to put up proposals for the consideration of the Polish COP presidency that can help to bridge divisions and bring parties closer together."

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, will be co-facilitating the discussions with Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment Ola Elvestuen.

Mewr said Singapore's selectionreflected its active role in the ongoing climate talksover the past 11 days, and as an "honest broker who can bring constructive solutions to the table".

Added the spokesman: "This is significant for Singapore as it reinforces our reputation internationally as a constructive delegation that supports multilateral solutions to global problems such as climate change."

This is not the first time that Singapore has played an outsized role at the international climate talks.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was also asked to play a similar role during COP21 in Paris and at COP18 in Doha when he was minister for the environment and water resources.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore asked to help bridge divisions on thorny issue '. Print Edition | Subscribe