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Commentary: What COP27 means for Singapore’s climate ambition, and how the country can contribute to COP28

A historic milestone was struck at the eleventh hour after two weeks of high level and side events, key negotiations and press conferences at the COP27 climate talks in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm-el-Shiekh.

The COP27 sign is seen at the Green Zone at the UN climate summit in Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Nov17, 2022.
The COP27 sign is seen at the Green Zone at the UN climate summit in Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Nov17, 2022.
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A historic milestone was struck at the eleventh hour after two weeks of high-level events, key negotiations and press conferences at the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27) in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm-el-Shiekh.

After intense negotiations, a decision was made to establish a loss and damage fund — fulfilling a long-running request of developing countries for financial assistance over loss and damage.

The funds are required to rebuild and rescue the physical and social infrastructure of developing countries that have been ravaged by extreme weather, including floods and droughts, over the last couple of decades.

While this is a step in the right direction, it has to be noted that no agreement was made at COP27 on how the finance should be provided and where it should come from. Rules around donors, recipients of this fund and fund accessibility have yet to be ironed out.

Much work remains to be done in terms of operationalising and implementing this fund and to ensure that it’s sufficiently resourced and fit-for-purpose in serving communities and indigenous people, many of whom have suffered irreparable and irreversible losses of their lands and traditions due to climate change.

More importantly, the fund should be rules-based and grounded on the principle of common and differentiated responsibilities.

Of note, COP27, which saw the attendance of more than 100 head of states and 35,000 participants spanning numerous pavilions showcasing their work on climate change, marked the first environmental negotiation process to explicitly make reference to the human right to a clean and healthy planet.

Restoring damaged mangrove swamps and regrowing forests that have gone barren are existing measures that can be scaled up to help developing and poorer countries to become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

But poor countries often struggle to gain funding for these efforts and are left to feed off financial aid offered by institutions such as the World Bank.

SINGAPORE’S KEY ROLE

On contributing to the donor base for the new fund, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said on the sidelines of COP27 that Singapore believes in multilateralism, and will participate in “the right spirit of cooperation and collaboration”.

She said Singapore will need to discuss with parties about the modality of the fund as well as the terms of funding arrangement and play a role in this in a formal manner.

Indeed, Singapore can play a key role in shaping and contributing to the loss and damage fund.

Being a net importer of goods, Singapore must play its part in ensuring an equitable planet where human rights and climate justice are not compromised.

With a highly networked food supply chain, Singapore gets its food supply, indirectly or indirectly, from agricultural-based developing economies such as Pakistan, Ivory Coast and Sri Lanka.

A quick check would reveal that these three listed above have been subject to the realms of catastrophic weather conditions in the last three years.

This school of thought, where export-oriented economies are subject to the existential threat of climate change, can be extended to other industries. These include fast fashion and electronics and electrical equipment, whose supply chains are ravaged with climate and environmental risks.

MODELLING OF NEW FUND

While work around the loss and damage fund is formally expected to gather pace at COP28 in Dubai next year, Singapore remains well positioned to contribute expertise towards modelling of the fund and creating rules around fund accessibility and priority, given its track record in establishing sound fiscal and monetary policies over the years.

Being a financial and knowledge hub for the region, Singapore is also well-placed to represent the voices of Asia Pacific, and in particular, Asean member states on how the loss and damage fund should be structured and implemented for maximum benefit and positive climate impacts.

Over the years, Singapore has been playing an active role in climate change in the region by offering its technical and capability support to developing countries.

For example, Singapore has been providing aid via the Southeast Asia Disaster Risk Insurance Facility, which is a regional platform for financial resilience against climate shocks.

Climate change requires a collective ambition and effort not just regionally but globally.

The 2015 Paris agreement contained two temperature goals. The first was to keep the rise in global temperatures well below 2°C above pre-industrial efforts. The second was to pursue efforts to limit the global temperature rise by 1.5°C.

The science has seen shown that a 2°C rise is clearly unsafe for planet Earth.

Working towards a 1.5°C limit requires more urgency than ever and developing countries to play their part too, but many a times they lack the resources to contribute towards this collective global effort.

The promulgation of the loss and damage fund will go some way in levelling the playing effort for all nations to play their part in meeting this ambition.

HOW SINGAPORE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO COP28

While the key outcome of COP27 focused more on addressing the consequences of climate change via a loss and damage fund, the underlying causes of climate change were not addressed.

In particular, what was glaringly amiss was a clear commitment to phase down all fossil fuels, building upon the initial commitment made to phase down fossil fuels in COP26 in Glasgow last year, despite appetite from some countries like India and intense wrangling.

The final text of COP27 contained a provision to boost "low-emissions energy". However, this term is open to broad interpretation.

Wind, solar farms and even coal-fired power plants that are fitted with carbon capture and storage systems could be considered as low-emissions energy sources. Natural gas, a major fossil fuel source, which has lower emissions than coal could also be considered under this category.

To deliver on global climate ambitions, stronger language and greater commitment is required.

This means committing to phase down all types of fossil fuels within a defined timeline and tightening language around "low-emissions energy" by spelling out exclusions. It is paramount that these be addressed concretely and collectively in COP28.

Singapore can contribute to this goal by supporting its Asean peers in building expertise and capabilities around green energy, while continuing to diversify its own green energy portfolio, and be a voice for Asean at the next COP.

Singapore, for its part, has continued to support the phasing down of investments in coal and coal powered assets. Singapore is committed to decarbonise its energy and power sectors by seeking suitable renewal energy sources as alternatives.

Significant investments continue to be made in research and development of green energy, particularly the recent resources channelled towards the transportation of hydrogen.

While COP27 held a lot of promise and delivered on a loss and damage fund, there is certainly more room to shift the needle as the clock ticks on our 1.5°C ambition.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kavickumar Muruganathan is a sustainability professional and part-time lecturer at National University of Singapore on environmental economics and sustainable development.

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COP27 climate change

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