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National efforts vital to tackle climate issues

Governments cannot solve the climate change challenge alone. A whole-of-nation effort is required. Businesses, in particular, play a key role.

The Expanded Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action was held in Singapore in July. Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli, are ninth and 10th from right respectively.

Above: The 2nd Partners for the Environment Forum, organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, brought together over 200 representatives from the 3P (People, Private, Public) sectors to discuss climate action efforts.

Visitors to the Clean and Green Carnival on Nov 3 had the opportunity to learn about taking climate action.

THE recent Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR1.5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted the grave impacts of climate change, should the world continue with a business-as-usual approach. While the consequences of 1 deg C of global warming are already evident, the report notes that the severity of the impact of climate change could be ameliorated if global warming is kept no greater than 1.5 deg C.

The international community has recognised climate change as a global challenge and has taken steps to address it.

Since the adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015 to limit global temperature increase below 2 deg C, a total of 183 parties have ratified the agreement and 179 parties, including all ASEAN countries, have submitted national pledges to take climate action. 

Countries are also working hard to finalise the implementation details, or what is called the "rulebook", for the Paris Agreement by the upcoming 24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Katowice, Poland this December.

This will provide a set of guidelines on how to implement the Paris Agreement transparently and fairly for all.

Countries will also conclude the year-long "Talanoa Dialogue", an inclusive dialogue launched by Fiji to find solutions for countries to increase their climate ambition.

While some progress has been made, it is clear that more needs to be done to reach the 1.5 deg C goal.


As a region with long coastlines and heavily-populated low-lying areas, South-east Asia is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels.

These impacts and vulnerabilities are projected to get worse.

As sea levels rise, the region will face increased risks of river flooding and coastal inundation. Studies also suggest that devastating storm events, such as the 2014 Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, may increase in frequency, putting many more lives in danger.

Livelihoods and food security will also be threatened with rising temperatures, with a large proportion of the South-east Asian workforce engaged in climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and forestry.

The SR1.5 warns that per capita crop production in South-east Asia will decline by one-third with global warming of 2 deg C by 2040, with further substantial reductions in crop yield if global warming exceeds 2 deg C.

ASEAN Member States (AMS) recognise this threat, and are committed to addressing climate change.

The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2025 sets out sustainable climate as a focus area essential for the achievement of a sustainable environment.

Collectively, ASEAN is taking concrete action through joint action plans, including the ASEAN Action Plan on Joint Response to Climate Change, the ASEAN Forging Ahead Together 2025, and the ASEAN-UN Action Plan on Environment and Climate Change 2016-2020. Under the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2016-2025, ASEAN exceeded its energy efficiency target, reducing energy intensity by more than 20 per cent in 2016 compared to 2005 levels, well ahead of its 2020 target.

On the technical front, the ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) was established in 2009 to provide AMS a platform to enhance regional cooperation in addressing the diverse impacts of climate change, through the implementation of the AWGCC Action Plan.

As the current chair of the AWGCC for the period of 2017 to 2019, Singapore works closely with AMS and development partners (such as international organisations, assistance agencies and bilateral partners) to secure resources and accelerate the implementation of projects formulated under the AWGCC Action Plan, which comprises 30 action lines across thematic areas such as adaptation, mitigation, and technology transfer. Each AMS has a leading role in at least one action line in the AWGCC Action Plan.

Singapore is currently leading a scoping study on cooperative Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) support, in collaboration with partners such as the UNFCCC and Japan's Ministry of Environment, as a foundation for a potential regional carbon market within ASEAN.

The ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC), hosted by the Meteorological Service Singapore, has also been undertaking regional capability-building initiatives to raise the effectiveness of national meteorological services in AMS.

In 2018, the ASMC invested S$5 million in a five-year Regional Capability Building Programme for the sharing of technical knowledge and skills, including the interpretation of climate change scenarios for formulating national climate change adaptation plans.


As the 2018 chair of ASEAN, Singapore had chosen the theme "Resilience and Innovation".

One of our objectives was to ensure that ASEAN remains united and resilient against the backdrop of increasing climate risks.

To galvanise regional climate action, Singapore convened the Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action (SAMCA) and Expanded SAMCA in July, to give both AMS and our Plus Three partners (China, Japan and South Korea) an informal forum for ministers to have a focused discussion on climate change.

At these meetings, AMS and the Plus Three countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and discussed ways to step up regional action to address climate change.

A summary of the meeting has been submitted as input to the UNFCCC's Talanoa Dialogue, to show the region's support for global efforts to address climate change.

Singapore has also been driving action at the city level. One of our key initiatives as ASEAN chair is the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN), a collaborative platform for AMS to work towards the goal of smart and sustainable development.

Since its launch, 26 cities from all 10 ASEAN countries have been named as pilot cities and are developing concrete action plans.

The Singapore Declaration on Environmental Sustainability was also signed by mayors and governors from ASEAN capitals on July 7 this year in Singapore.

This is a significant development as it represents a ground-up initiative by cities in ASEAN to take concrete action to build a sustainable environment.

To support AMS' climate plans and actions, Singapore launched the Climate Action Package in July 2018, to develop capacity in key areas such as climate change adaptation strategies, disaster risk management and green climate financing.

The Centre for Climate Research Singapore will also share its climate projection data and findings with ASEAN partners to advance the understanding of climate change impacts in South-east Asia.

In addition, Singapore is also supporting the South-east Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility, which will be ASEAN's first regional catastrophe risk pool.

As a responsible global citizen, Singapore is committed to supporting global and regional efforts to address climate change.

Even though our share of global emissions is only around 0.12 per cent, we are taking ambitious steps to reduce our carbon emissions.

We have pledged, under the Paris Agreement, to reduce our emissions intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise our emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.

This is a challenging target given our limited access to alternative sources of clean energy.

To complement the existing suite of carbon adaptation and mitigation measures, Singapore also became the first country in South-east Asia to implement a carbon tax.

The carbon tax, which will start from 2019 and apply uniformly without any exemptions, will incentivise the transition towards a low-carbon economy and adoption of low-carbon technologies.


Governments cannot solve the climate change challenge alone. A whole-of-nation effort is required. Businesses, in particular, play a key role.

One practical way they can do so is by incorporating environmental, social and governance principles into business decisions. They can also reduce emissions and lower operating costs in the long term by improving energy efficiency, and deploying low carbon technologies.

Various government grants and schemes are available to support companies in making this transition. With global opportunities in clean energy growing rapidly, companies can benefit by leveraging green growth opportunities in our region to innovate and transform.

To galvanise ground-up action, Singapore designated 2018 the Year of Climate Action.

More than 300,000 individuals, organisations, businesses and educational institutions have pledged to take climate action.

The need for global climate action is more urgent than ever. For ASEAN and our partners, the challenge of climate change is an opportunity to innovate and grow sustainably, build smart and efficient cities, and ensure that our region is future-ready and climate-resilient.

To effectively address climate change, we need all stakeholders to work closely together. Only through a concerted effort and close regional and international cooperation, can we limit global temperature rise and leave a sustainable planet for our future generations.

  • The writer is chief negotiator for climate change, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources


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