Less than a year ago, 197 countries came together to craft a promise to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5°C. A month before its first anniversary and four years earlier than expected, the Paris Agreement officially entered into force on 4 November 2016. The 22nd Conference of Parties (CoP22) in Marrakech, which concluded yesterday, was a key step in the chain reaction needed to roll out the agreement.
This “law of the planet” comes at a crucial time as stories of the harsh realities of climate change increase in number and intensity. We are breaking global temperature records, islands are sinking and species are disappearing into extinction. The Paris Agreement’s promise to keep our temperature increase under 1.5°C therefore becomes urgent and critical. This is true for the livelihoods of millions of people and biodiversity around the world, particularly those in poorer countries that are unable to effectively tackle climate change.
Our current reality is grim. We are on track towards a 3°C world, with the global average temperature having already risen by 1°C since the Industrial Revolution.
As a low-lying island, Singapore is vulnerable to rising sea levels and other effects of climate change. A temperature increase of 1.5°C to 2.5°C could put the biodiversity in Singapore at risk, as this alters our ecosystem’s natural processes such as soil formation, nutrient storage and pollution absorption. It could also threaten people’s health, and our food and water security.
To make the promises of the Paris Agreement a reality, countries need to start taking measures to reduce emissions in order to meet temperature targets. Countries will need to rethink traditional approaches to economic and urban growth. Developing economies need to shift from fossil fuel-led growth to renewables-led growth.
Currently, 111 of 197 parties have ratified the agreement. It is also critical that the remaining countries do the same in order for commitments to become international law for all countries. Singapore ratified the agreement in September this year, having released a climate action plan in July. In our region, Malaysia, Philippines and Japan – who has one of the biggest share of global emissions – have yet to ratify.
Equally important is the technology transfer, financial support and capacity building from developed countries to those adapting to climate change.
Singapore intends to reduce its emissions intensity by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030. As we work towards a 1.5°C world, we hope Singapore’s commitments and climate action plans will take us closer to this future.