5 things Singapore youths should know about the Paris Agreement
Delegates from all over the world have gathered at Glasgow to discuss efforts to limit global climate change
Delegates from all over the world — including a group from Singapore led by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu — have gathered at the COP26 summit in Glasgow to discuss and possibly agree on policies to limit the effects of global climate change.
At the centre of the COP26, which ends on Nov 12, is the Paris Agreement.
The agreement aims to “limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.” With recent reports by experts sharing that the world will likely reach the 1.5 degrees Celcius limit by the early 2030s, all eyes are now on the delegates in Glasgow to agree on pivotal responses that will affect generations to come.
Here are five things that Singapore’s youths should know about the Paris Agreement.
What is the Paris Agreement?
The agreement was first negotiated at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference near Paris, France, before being open for signatures in 2016. Since then, 192 countries have ratified the agreement, promising to work towards limiting the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius. The agreement is part of the world’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Although the Agreement’s goals were set out early, it was only in 2018 at the COP24 when countries settled on the means of the agreement with the Paris Rulebook. Each country will determine and offer its own Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) — their plans to cut down on emissions — at the COP26, where it will be calculated and determined if the combined sum will be enough.
What are the criticisms of the Paris Agreement?
Despite the importance of global efforts to limit the effects of global warming, countries hasn’t been too urgent about their responses. As with just about every international convention and treaty, signing the Paris Agreement signals commitment, but not necessarily of compliance since the Agreement does not have any mechanisms to keep countries in check.
Instead, international agreements often require the backing of big players on the world stage — who, unfortunately for us, haven’t been keen to do so. The NDCs submitted by China, India, and Russia have been determined to be either “highly insufficient” or “critically insufficient”.
The main challenge with global climate change efforts is that it is often either impossible or improbable for developing countries to meet emissions targets given how fossil-fuel-backed industrialisation remains an important and cost-efficient engine for economic progress. Yet, it is these countries that will bear the brunt of the consequences of a warming climate as they are the least equipped to do so. In the meantime, comparatively prosperous countries can afford to make the switch to more eco-friendly means.
This is where foreign aid can play an important role. However, the domestic politics of developed nations can jeopardise this. The Biden administration has tabled a promise to deliver US$10 billion a year in economic aid to the developing world. Still, it wasn’t too long ago when the US backed out of the Paris Agreement, and promises of aid can be walked back depending on the political climate.
In essence, national interest and politics often take priority over global interests. And with the economic squeeze felt by citizens due to the pandemic, most probably won’t be excited about the economic costs of environmental efforts or about their government giving away money to other countries.
What are Singapore’s efforts?
Singapore has chosen an Emissions Intensity reduction target of 36 per cent, where peak emissions could stabilise at 65 MtCO2e (or metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) by 2030 and halve emissions from its peak to 33 MtCO2e by 2050, with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions as soon as viable in the second half of the century. As a comparison, emissions from the UK’s agricultural and land sectors alone are expected to reach 53 MtCO2e by 2030.
Singapore has committed to phasing out the use of unabated coal by 2050 at the COP26, and aims to use low carbon-energy sources across its economy. Learn more about our country’s efforts here.
What does the Paris Agreement mean for you?
If the goals of the Paris Agreement were to be met, it could mean huge but necessary changes to our lifestyle and comforts. The price of fast fashion, for example, might go up if brands eliminate cost-efficient coal to power their supply chains. Higher carbon tax, even with enhanced U-save rebates, might be a hit to wallets.
However, these might be necessary prices to pay for our future generations to even survive.
Due to our high population density, lack of land, and geographical limitations, massive efforts to reduce carbon footprint, such as pursuing wind, hydroelectric, or nuclear energy, is near impossible. Although the Singapore government has committed close to S$1 billion for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, all Singaporeans will have an important role to play in limiting global climate change.
How you can help?
For being leaders of tomorrow, the onus is on youths to galvanise for change.
A joint statement, co-authored by six youth-led organisations, has drawn up 18 recommendations for Singapore’s leaders “to boldly accelerate climate action, to redefine our relationships with nature, and to bring everyday Singaporeans, especially the younger generations, into the conversation.” The full statement is available here.
Youthopia is home to several articles and guides on how every youth can participate in this generation-defining challenge, such as ways to be more sustainable during the pandemic, and how eating less meat can help with reducing carbon footprint.