The Strait Times
WEALTHIER countries, such as Singapore, have a leadership role in cutting carbon emissions and encouraging Asia's developing nations to go green.
This is a key message in the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP's) latest Human Development Report.
The report warns that a window of only 10 years is left to reverse the effects of climate change - or about 2.6 billion of the world's poor will be hit by problems such as rising sea levels and melting Himalayan glaciers.
Scientists have blamed carbon dioxide emissions from industrialisation for raising average global temperatures.
The UNDP report is regarded as a Bible for crucial UN meetings on climate change in Bali starting next week, said Dr Richard Leete, UNDP representative for Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. The Bali meetings will look at global arrangements after 2012, when the current Kyoto Protocol expires.
The report sets out a framework of targets for developed countries to cut emissions by between 20 per cent and 30 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050.
Developing countries can allow emissions to grow until 2020 and then aim for a cut of 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050.
'Action is definitely needed. Politicians who don't heed the call will be held accountable through the ballot box,' Dr Leete warned.
Singapore accounts for 0.2 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, emitting an average of 12.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year - among the highest in the world. Emissions per person currently stand at 20.6 tonnes in the United States, 3.8 tonnes in China and 1.7 tonnes in Indonesia.
One of the speakers, National University of Singapore Associate Professor Natasha Hamilton-Hart, believes Singapore is lacking in credibility in two areas if it is to take the lead: its high emissions per capita; and, its status as a 'developing' nation under the Kyoto Protocol.
As a developing nation, Singapore does not have to meet emission-cutting targets. The Kyoto Protocol sets these targets - cutting emissions by 5 per cent from their 1990 levels by 2012 - only for developed countries.
Classifying Singapore as 'developing' is 'inaccurate', Prof Hamilton-Hart said. The Republic should not be given a 'free ride' and have the same benefits as developing nations.
Singapore has set a target to cut by 25 per cent its carbon intensity, or carbon dioxide emissions per gross domestic product dollar by 2012 from 1990 levels - not quite the same as an emissions cut, she noted.
Singapore has maintained that its export-
oriented economy and its status as a manufacturing hub for multinational corporations will unfairly rack up its fuel consumption.
Prof Hamilton-Hart, however, suggests that since Singapore gets the benefits of a healthy export trade, it must also take ownership of its emissions.
'Many countries can make the same claim. If everyone does, we'll never get an international agreement,' she told The Straits Times.
When contacted, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said the Kyoto Protocol was 'the final text' after negotiations, and it was 'inappropriate' for the agency to comment on Singapore's classification as a developing nation.
'Nevertheless, we will still play our part to address climate change, through improving our energy efficiency as well as developing clean energy technologies and solutions,' said the NEA.
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