TL;DR – Make our planet great again.
President Trump announced on Thursday 1 June that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
Wait, what’s this Paris accord thing?
Do you feel that the weather is a bit hotter these days than what you remembered in the past? Well, you aren’t imagining things. The world is getting hotter. The average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8°C since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.
What’s causing the rise in global temperatures? The bulk of scientific studies suggest that it’s a result of human activity. And that’s what the Paris accord is about. It’s about trying to change human activity on a global scale so that we can slow down the rise in global temperatures.
Specifically, the Paris accord has the following objectives:
- Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
- Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
- Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
Under the accord, countries who are in the accord will set nationally determined contributions (NDCs). These are targets set by individual countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions as well as any other measures to slow down the rise in global temperatures. The contributions should be reported every five years and are to be registered by a secretariat in the United Nations in charge of looking into issues regarding climate change.
But is this accord even useful?
The Paris accord is non-binding. That means if a country decides not to do anything to meet its NDC, that country won’t be punished in any real way. If anything, there is only a “name and shame” system. So it’s not easy for the Paris accord to have a significant impact on climate change.
And that is one of the reasons that Trump gave for wanting to withdraw from the Paris accord. He said:
“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny tiny amount”
According to White House documents seen by Reuters, that claim was attributed to research conducted by MIT. But here’s the thing. Trump got it wrong. The study, titled “How much of a difference will the Paris Agreement make?”, showed that if countries abided by what they have pledged, global warming would slow by between 0.6ºC and 1.1ºC by 2100.
Why is that important? Erwan Monier, one of the study’s authors, said:
“If we don’t do anything, we might shoot over 5 degrees (of increase in global temperature) or more and that would be catastrophic.”
It might be the end of our life as we know it. That’s why it’s so important to get as many countries onboard the Paris accord as possible.
So is Singapore part of this Paris accord?
Yes we are. And, despite Trump announcing that he’ll get USA to withdraw, we are still committed to the Paris accord.
The National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) said this in a statement:
“As a low-lying, island city-state, Singapore is particularly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change and we have a deep interest in global efforts to address potential disruptions to natural ecosystems and human societies. As a small country, we have also staunchly supported the rules-based multilateral system, and upheld the critical role of diplomacy in solving problems on the global commons.”
The NCCS also added that Singapore will continue contributing to the global effort to address climate change.
But Singapore’s just a little red dot… what can we do?
Yes, we can! We may not contribute much greenhouse gases directly, but a lot of the things we do can influence practices of larger contributors of greenhouse gases. For example, it has emerged that two Singaporean banks, DBS and OCBC, have been financing palm oil firms accused of environmentally damaging and unsustainable practices in Indonesia.
DBS and OCBC were, in some ways, partially responsible for the terrible haze we had to suffer. That needs to change. And apparently, the banks have put in place measures to move in the right direction.
DBS Bank said it recently updated its approach to the palm oil sector. It will require palm oil companies seeking loans to demonstrate that they are committed to policies of not causing deforestation, not burning of peat land and non-exploitation, or other equivalents that are increasingly adopted by the palm oil sector.
Similarly, OCBC said it assesses borrowers on internal Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) requirements. These requirements include areas such as pollution prevention, biodiversity and legally protected areas, occupational health and safety.
Together, we can make the planet great again
It takes concerted effort from everyone. We are all in this together. We need to do this for our children, and our children’s children. Now with USA withdrawing from the Paris accord, it’s more important now than ever before that each and everyone of us pull our weight.
We need to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
This might be the singular most important thing that our generation does. And if we can pull this off, then we will be able to do what French President Marcron said in response to Trump’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris accord:
“Because we are fully committed, because wherever we live, whoever we are, we all share the same responsibility: Make our planet great again.”