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Singapore, a Southeast Asian city-state with high per-capita emissions, will head to global climate talks next week with a pledge to cut carbon pollution by 16 percent versus projected business-as-usual levels by 2020.
This “stretch target” is based on the level of greenhouse gas emissions that Singapore would produce by 2020 if no proactive measures to cut them were taken, but relies on a legal deal being reached after the U.N. talks in Copenhagen, ministers said.
“Ours is a substantial commitment that will require a major effort, bearing in mind our severe constraints,” the Business Times quoted the government’s Coordinating Minister for National Security, S Jayakumar, as telling local media on Wednesday.
Singapore aims to spur economic growth by increasing its 4.8 million population and attracting further manufacturing investments will make cutting absolute emissions difficult, a problem faced by many fast-growing developing nations.
China and other big developing nations rejected core targets for a climate deal such as halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 just days before the Copenhagen talks start, diplomats said on Wednesday.
The dispute underscores a rich-poor rift that has haunted the two-year talks to agree a new global climate deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2013 and dampens hopes of rescuing the December 7-18 Copenhagen summit.
A legally binding target is already out of reach for the U.N. talks, with only a political deal possible.
Wealthy Singapore, with one of the world’s highest living standards in terms of GDP per capita, has come under fire from environmentalists who point to its energy-intensive economy.
Singapore, together with South Korea, is classed as a developing country under Kyoto, and therefore has no targets to cut emissions between 2008 and 2012.
But the U.N.’s climate panel has recommended that developing nations reduce emissions by 15 to 30 percent below business-as-usual trajectories by 2020.
“We think this is a good first start. I think Singapore can do more,” said Amy Ho, managing director for conservation group WWF Singapore.
“We would ask Singapore to aim higher and move towards the upper band, closer to 30 percent.”
The president of neighbouring Indonesia said in September that the government would work on policies to achieve a 26 percent reduction in emissions from business as usual by 2020, and up to 41 percent with financing from rich nations.
Jayakumar said that other countries needed to put forward significant targets to cut carbon emissions.
He said Singapore’s emissions accounted for less than 0.2 percent of the world’s total. However, as an oil refining and manufacturing hub, its per-capita emissions are high, similar to that of European nations.
The country, a low-lying group of islands at risk of rising sea levels, seeks to cut emissions through increased use of public transport, improved fuel efficiency, biofuels and electric vehicles.
This could benefit local subway operator SMRT and bus operator ComfortDelGro. The government, together with property developers such as Southeast Asia’s biggest CapitaLand, are looking to design greener buildings.
National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said that given the country’s small size and dense population, 16 percent was a “stretch target” but achievable, the Straits Times newspaper said. Mah said Singaporeans might need to change lifestyles.