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The future is looking a little less bleak five years on from the historic Paris climate agreement.
In the most recent Climate Ambition Summit 2020, held on the accord’s anniversary (12 December) and co-hosted by France, the United Kingdom, and the UN, world leaders gathered virtually to celebrate progress and chart new efforts for ongoing global climate action.
With more than 170 countries and numerous companies, states and cities pledged to the cause (and Biden slated to have the U.S. rejoin officially), the pact has started to bear fruit, with greenhouse emissions and projected temperature rises now smaller than they once were.
Tell me more
First ratified in 2015, the Paris climate agreement was the first legally binding treaty bringing all nations into a common cause – to officially undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.
The goal was simple – to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. This would be achieved by having countries commit to significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with the long-term aim to reach global peaking of emissions (i.e. decarbonisation of economies) as soon as possible to achieve a climate-neutral world by 2050.
Current progress according to scientists
In the past five years, we’ve progressed from being on path to 3.6 degrees Celsius of warming (6.5 degrees Fahrenheit) to approximately 2.9 degrees of warming (5.2 Fahrenheit), according to Climate Action Tracker, an independent group of scientists who evaluate emission pledges and translate them into global temperature projections for policymakers.
If all 127 nations pledging to go to net-zero carbon emissions meet their goals, warming could be further slashed to a mere 2.1 degrees (3.8 degrees Fahrenheit). This is a heartening prediction, given that it’s close to that of the original goal.
During the summit, UN and government officials credited a shift towards a “green industrial revolution” and activism from youths such as Greta Thunberg and Selina Neirok Leem, as part of the reason for the positive developments in climate action.
However, says UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “Getting countries to turn promises into action remains a challenge, as does fixing the rules for the global trade in carbon emissions that will be key to reducing emissions efficiently and tackling inequality”. In an email to the Associated Press, Guterres explained he was “alarmed by the growing evidence of accelerating climate destruction and injustice”, but remained optimistic about the growing coalition to achieve net zero emissions and the resilience of the Paris agreement.
How Singapore has contributed
As one of the first 30 countries to enter and ratify the Paris climate agreement, Singapore has actively supported and participated in climate change negotiations since 2015. In our first pledge, Singapore said it would reduce carbon emissions by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.
Today, about 95 per cent of our electricity is generated from natural gas – the cleanest fossil fuel – with a plan to ramp up on solar panels to transition to renewable energy sources. While Singapore contributes around 0.11 per cent of global carbon emissions, Singapore is the first country in Southeast Asia to implement a carbon tax, with the tax revenue collected being reinvested to support emission reduction projects and energy efficiency schemes.
Singapore is also among the first to cap vehicle growth in order to manage vehicular emissions, on top of implementing concrete measures in the transport sector. These include improving the public transportation network to make it the preferred mode of travel, as well as establishing better infrastructure for electric vehicles.
What Singapore has recently committed to
As part of the Paris climate agreement, all countries are expected to up their climate action policies every five years. This is done either by submitting a new nationally determined contribution (NDC), or updating an existing one.
On 31 March 2020, Singapore submitted our enhanced NDC, which pledges Singapore to an absolute target to peak emissions at 65 MTCO2e (million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) by 2030. By 2050, Singapore aspires to halve our emissions from its peak to 33 MTCO2e, with the ultimate goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions within the second half of the century.
To contribute to global efforts for climate change, Singapore will also continue to provide capacity-building to fellow developing countries. These initiatives, such as the Climate Action Package (CAP) in 2018, support neighbouring ASEAN member states in meeting their climate pledges by offering expertise on topics ranging from climate science to flood management.