SINGAPORE — To do more to limit global warming, Singapore can reduce the use of natural gas for its energy needs, boost the efficiency of buildings and transportation, and share environmental solutions with counterparts in South-east Asia, experts in the field said.
Their comments came in the wake of a new report by a United Nations body that said there would have to be “unprecedented” changes to the way people generate and consume energy, use land and live, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Responding to the same report published on Monday (Oct 8), Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) said that it would update the country’s climate projections no earlier than 2021.
The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from South Korea — where scientists and government representatives were, for the past week, considering what could happen to the planet and its population when temperatures warm by 1.5°C.
Scientists agreed that, more than ever, every bit of warming mattered. Current pledges by governments would at best yield warming of 3°C by the end of the century.
Asked if Singapore would relook its pledge as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, MEWR said that the special report does not change Singapore’s assessment from its Second National Climate Change Study developed in 2015.
The 2015 study was based on the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, which accounted for future scenarios including warming of 1.5°C to 2°C and more, a ministry spokesperson said.
Based on this study, there is an elevated risk that Singapore will experience more extreme temperatures in a 2°C world, compared to a 1.5°C world.
“The special report does not change this assessment,” the spokesperson said.
“As part of our Paris Agreement pledge, Singapore has committed to put in place a holistic range of mitigation measures across various sectors to reduce our emissions. This includes improving our industrial energy efficiency and greening our buildings. We also announced the implementation of a carbon tax from 2019,” he added.
“The IPCC’s sixth assessment report is due to be published in 2021. We will update Singapore’s climate projections after (it) is released.”
RENEWABLE ENERGY BETTER WAY TO GO
In the past week, officials from the ministry and the National Climate Change Secretariat were in South Korea for the IPCC meeting.
The delegation was supported by Assistant Professor Winston Chow from the National University of Singapore’s geography department. Asst Prof Chow is a lead author for the IPCC’s sixth assessment report.
For mitigation, the biggest impact for Singapore would be to move away from using natural gas for power generation, towards the greater use of renewable energy such as solar or wind, Asst Prof Chow said.
About 95 per cent of Singapore’s electricity is produced from natural gas.
He told TODAY that natural gas is “the cleanest fossil fuel, but a fossil fuel no less”.
Singapore does not have the luxury of other mitigation efforts such as afforestation or carbon capture and storage, which require large-scale areas to be effective, Asst Prof Chow said.
Apart from tapping renewable energy, there is still potential for buildings and transportation in Singapore to reduce energy demand by becoming more energy-efficient or by using low-emission fuels, he added.
PROVIDING EDUCATION, SHARING EXPERIENCE
Agreeing on the need to de-carbonise, Professor Benjamin Horton from Nanyang Technological University’s Asian School of the Environment said that “urban planning is much needed”.
Much of existing climate research is oriented around technologies — air quality, water, fuel cells and biofuels, for instance. “A focus on technology, though common, is too narrow for South-east Asia,” he said.
Prof Horton, who is a review editor of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, noted that Asia is rapidly catching up in understanding the causes of environmental problems and solutions. South-east Asian policymakers may be aware of the challenges facing the fragile ecosystems, but there are few places they can turn to for insight and advice.
“Of the 28 planning schools in South-east Asia, apparently none has a teaching programme on climate change. Education on planning for climate change is urgently required,” he added.
Singapore has experience in innovative urban planning and technological and urban governance models, Prof Horton said.
The Asian School of the Environment, which he chairs, aims to provide broad-based guidance on environmental policies in the region.
On the need to take action, Prof Horton said that the Paris Agreement must be upheld and strengthened. “Failure to radically cut global carbon emissions will mean disasters, such as the ones we have seen this summer, will become the new normal.”
Last month, Typhoon Mangkhut hit the Philippines, causing flooding and destruction. It is the world’s strongest storm by far since Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Such superstorms have led to more discussions among researchers on how climate change plays a role in their formation.
Prof Horton said: “No nation, whether it’s large or small, rich or poor, will be immune from the impacts of climate and environmental change. We are already experiencing it in Singapore, where we are seeing floods on sunny days, extreme rainfall, winds and temperatures.”
TIME TO WAKE UP
International environmental organisations called on nations to respond to the IPCC’s special report.
Dr Andrew Steer, president and chief executive of the World Resources Institute, said: “The IPCC report is a wake-up call for slumbering world leaders.”
The devastation that would come with today’s 3 to 4°C trajectory would be vastly greater, and it is the poor who will be most affected, he said.
Dr Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and former lead author of the IPCC, said that at the annual UN climate talks in Poland this December, countries should “commit to strengthen policies that cut global warming emissions, invest in measures to limit future climate risks, and do more to help communities cope with the climate impacts that are now unavoidable”.
“In addition, wealthier nations that bear greater responsibility for the global warming problem need to ramp up financial and technology support for actions by developing nations, to help create a better world for all of us.”
SINGAPORE’S PARIS AGREEMENT PLEDGE
- Under the global Paris climate agreement, Singapore has committed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of gross domestic product by 36 per cent come 2030 — down from 2005 levels.
- It is looking to stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around the target year of 2030.
- Last year, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that by 2020, 5,500 public housing blocks will have solar panels, tripling the deployment of solar energy to 350 megawatt-peak, up from 126 megawatt-peak.
- The plan is to have more than 1 gigawatt-peak after 2020, which will represent about 15 per cent of electrical power demand at peak during the day, Mr Teo said.
- The Paris agreement, which will take effect after 2020, aims to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.