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Climate change talks: Splits laid bare as leaders work on pact

PARIS — As talks on a universal climate pact enter the crucial last stretch in Paris this week, ministers from 195 countries last night took turns to speak on the urgency of reaching an agreement that is applicable to all parties.

A woman takes a picture of a globe at the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Photo: AP

A woman takes a picture of a globe at the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Photo: AP

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PARIS — As talks on a universal climate pact enter the crucial last stretch in Paris this week, ministers from 195 countries last night took turns to speak on the urgency of reaching an agreement that is applicable to all parties.

But the divisions were once again laid bare in the statements of foreign and environment ministers who joined the talks outside Paris after lower-level negotiators had delivered a draft agreement over the weekend with crunch issues left unresolved.

“The objectives and requirements are clear. We need a universal climate agreement,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius when opening the high level segment of the climate talks that aim to curb emissions to limit the rise in average global temperatures to less than 2 C over preindustrial levels.

Delivering Singapore’s national statement later in the day, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli echoed calls for universal participation in the new agreement.

“We should not underestimate the potential of a universal agreement that binds all parties of the Convention (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – UNFCCC) to undertake climate action,” he said.

Noting that more than 180 countries have submitted post-2020 pledges (also known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions - INDCs) to cut emissions, he said that “we must now match these pledges with a global agreement that promotes the ability to raise ambition over time and bring our world closer towards climate safety.”

The Minister said that as a responsible global citizen, “Singapore is committed to play our part in the global fight against climate change”, adding that the Republic has pledged in its INDC to reduce Emissions Intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around the same time.

Despite Singapore being a small emitter (contributing only 0.11 per cent of global emissions), “we continue to deepen and widen our South-South contributions in technical cooperation, sharing our sustainable development experiences,” said Mr Masagos, adding that Singapore has trained almost 11,000 officials from developing countries in climate change issues.

When kicking off the high level segment of the climate talks, Mr Fabius characterised the proceedings this week as a “week of hope” made possible by the hard work of the negotiators to narrow down the options in the draft agreement and strong political will expressed by leaders to deal with climate change.

But several contentious issues still need to be resolved, including the responsibilities of developed and developing countries.

South African Ambassador Nozipho J Mxakato-Diseko, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, yesterday called for “substantial upscaling” of financial support and “clarity on the level of financial support” from developed countries to help developing countries cope with climate change.

India and other major developing countries insist on their right to use some fossil fuels to advance their economies and argue the developed countries are historically responsible for raising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“India is here to ensure that rich countries pay back their debt for overdraft that they have drawn on the carbon space,” Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said.

Speaking to Singaporean journalists after delivering the national statement, Mr Masagos said that the climate accord “is not an easy agreement to arrive at.”

“It is not just about numbers being committed but also about obligations. I foresee tough negotiations in the next two to three days.” he said.

“Globally and together, every country has got its own interests to protect but every country though, understands how important this is for the future of their survival and also for their children.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, who is leading the Singapore delegation at the Paris talks, wrote on Facebook last night: “Since touching down in Paris on Sunday, we have been immersed in an intensive series of meetings. Still significant gaps, but there is a positive spirit in finding ‘landing zones’ that we can agree on. It’s going to be a long week.”

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