At COP26, S'pore urges developed countries to deliver strong support package for developing nations

GLASGOW – Singapore called on developed countries to make good their promise to channel funds to help developing nations deal with climate change, even as the Republic committed to doing its part to tackling the global crisis.

“COP26 must deliver a strong support package for developing countries,” said Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on Tuesday (Nov 9).

“This will enable developing countries to implement effective adaptation strategies and achieve their climate pledges, so that we can collectively fulfil the Paris Agreement’s goals,” she said as she delivered Singapore’s national statement to world leaders gathered at the conference.

Ms Fu urged developed countries to fulfil their commitment to mobilise US$100 billion per year in climate finance to support the climate actions of developing countries.

Rich countries have missed a 2009 commitment to jointly transfer US$100 billion (S$134 billion) each year by 2020 to help poorer nations. In 2018, wealthy countries contributed only about US$80 billion.

The mobilisation of climate finance for developing nations is a major point of contention at COP26.

Also being negotiated is the increase in climate finance from rich nations from 2025, with the funding quantum and how the money can be mobilised to be agreed by 2024.

Poorer nations have said that any climate finance available needs to be split 50/50 between adaptation and steps to cut emissions, or mitigation. Only about 20 per cent of climate cash at present goes to adaptation efforts.

Adaptation efforts can reduce climate impacts on societies, and include things such as the building of sea walls to keep sea level rise at bay or the development of drainage infrastructure to cope with heavier rainfall.

Said Ms Fu: “Looking ahead, we must address the long-standing imbalance between mitigation and adaptation financing. This is particularly important for many vulnerable low-lying small island developing states for which rising sea levels already threaten lives and livelihoods.”

Ms Fu said Singapore looks forward to constructive deliberations over the new collective quantified goal on climate finance.

She added: “We hope that the lessons gained from the US$100 billion goal can be applied to the (new goal) to achieve a post-2025 climate finance goal that is mutually agreed and in line with the Paris Agreement.”

The Paris Agreement adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015 set out targets to limit global warming to well below 2 deg C – preferably 1.5 deg C – above pre-industrial levels. This threshold will help the world avoid harsher climate impacts, which become more severe with every degree of warming, climate scientists have shown.

The COP26 climate meeting aims to flesh out an action plan on how this target can be achieved, with outstanding issues such as climate finance and a set of rules on global carbon markets to be hammered out.

Under the Agreement, all countries must commit to taking climate action, such as setting emissions-cutting targets, and adapting to climate impacts. But those who need more help to achieve their goals must explain the circumstances that bar them from doing more.

As a result, climate finance still mainly flows from rich, industrialised nations to developing ones. Industrialised countries are those listed under Annex I of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the parent convention of the Paris Agreement, and include the United States, Britain and Japan.

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While Singapore is not an Annex I country, the Republic contributes to the effort to help other nations in other ways.

Ms Fu said that through the Singapore Cooperation Programme and the country’s Climate Action Package, the Republic has shared its experiences with more than 132,000 government officials from over 180 countries, territories, and intergovernmental organisations in areas such as the green economy, sustainable development, urban planning, flood and water management, and disaster risk reduction.

Singapore also committed S$5 million over five years, from 2018 to 2022, through the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre to help build capabilities in weather forecasting and haze monitoring. Forest fires in South-east Asia contribute to the transboundary haze that plagues the region almost every year.

Ms Fu added: “Together with Japan and the World Bank, we jointly established the South-east Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility in Singapore to enable Asean countries to access disaster risk financing solutions and increase financial resilience to climate and disaster risks.”

At COP26, another important area under negotiation, in which Singapore plays a key role, is the global trade in carbon credits.

The discussions on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement will determine if countries can trade carbon credits to meet their national climate plans, and also establish rules on who gets the emissions savings if one nation pays to set up a green initiative – say a wind farm instead of a coal plant – in another country.

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But this is an issue fraught with challenges and competing national agendas so carbon market negotiations remain a major unresolved area under the so-called Paris Rulebook, which guides nations on how to implement the Paris Agreement.

Major points of contention that remain include how to prevent double counting of carbon credits, and the use of legacy credits from an earlier UN scheme called the Clean Development Mechanism.

But if designed well, carbon markets could unlock billions of dollars of emission reduction projects in poorer nations and represent a potentially significant flow of money to them.

Ms Fu is facilitating the ministerial consultations on Article 6 alongside Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Espen Barth Eide.

Ms Fu said: “Singapore will work with all parties in this final stretch to identify pragmatic solutions to achieve a credible and balanced package under this track that meets the needs of all parties, while safeguarding environmental integrity.”

In her speech, Ms Fu also outlined Singapore’s decarbonisation efforts, citing its plans to import renewable energy, plant trees, and ramp up the Republic’s ability to tap more sunshine by deploying solar panels in a greater number of places, even on water.

But she conceded that the speed of deeper cuts to its carbon footprint is limited by the maturity of emerging low-carbon technology, such as carbon capture and low-carbon hydrogen.

While more than 130 nations have pledged to have their emissions reach net-zero by 2050, meaning they absorb as much greenhouse gases as they release, Singapore’s plan is to reach this target in the second half of the century.

Its goal has been sharply criticised at home and internationally, with climate research consortium Climate Action Tracker labelling the Republic’s climate targets as being “critically insufficient” – the worst rating on a five-point scale.

Ms Fu said Singapore will review and enhance its climate goals when international collaborations and new enabling technologies materialise.

“International collaboration, in areas such as carbon markets and regional power grids, is crucial for Singapore to achieve our decarbonisation goals,” she said.

For instance, regional power grids can help to accelerate the investments in and development of low carbon energy in the region, and enhance electricity security and resilience for connected countries, she said.

Calling for nations to come to an agreement to put the Paris Agreement into action, Ms Fu said: “The completion of the Paris Rulebook will see us shifting from negotiations to concrete implementation and collaboration. It is time for us to put an end to this chapter that has gone on for six years.”

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