Singapore to Reduce Carbon Emissions by 16% Below 2020 Business-As-Usual Levels

Before the Copenhagen Conference

On 2 December 2009, the Singapore government announced that Singapore will reduce its carbon emissions by 16% below 2020 business-as-usual levels, provided that:

Singapore will only commit to this if there is a legally binding global deal that obliges all countries to cut emissions, and if other countries offer significant pledges

Senior Minister S. Jayakumar

This announcement was made in light of the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 (COP15) in Copenhagen, Denmark, which was held from December 7-18, 2009. Read more about the 16% cut and the government’s approach to COP15 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs news release.

After the Copenhagen Conference

The discussions at COP15 failed to produce a legally binding global agreement and instead resulted in a non-binding Copenhagen Accord. Nevertheless, the Singapore government said that:

When a global agreement on climate change is reached we will implement the additional measures to achieve the full 16 percent reduction below business as usual in 2020

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources

The next round of climate talks and discussions on a global agreement will be at COP16 in Mexico from November to December 2010. Meanwhile, the government announced that it would still cut emissions by between 7% to 11% below business-as-usual levels, which was planned as part of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint published in April 2009 (the 7% to 11% cut was not mentioned during the release of the blueprint). The full 16% cut will be implemented when a global agreement is reached in the future.

Our Thoughts on the 16% Cut

Singapore’s target means it will cut roughly 12 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020, said Dr Yaacob.

This is based on a projection that the country’s emissions would reach 75 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020 if no measures were taken.

Straits Times

Singapore’s absolute carbon emissions in 2007 is about 40 million tonnes and from the statement above, it seems that the government projected that carbon emissions will reach 75 million tonnes in 2020 on a business-as-usual scenario. If Singapore takes action to reduce its emissions by 16%, the cut is equivalent to 12 million tonnes, meaning that emissions would reach 63 million tonnes in 2020. This cut is just based on 2020 levels, which implies that there is no peak in emissions and a drop thereafter. What we would expect is a continuous increase in absolute carbon emissions till 2020.

Carbon Emissions from 1990 to 2020

The graph above shows the absolute carbon emissions from 1990 (22 Mt) to 2007 (40 Mt) based on available published data by the government. If we do a projection of the emissions from 2008 to 2020 based on an estimated 5% annual growth (BAU), we would reach 75 Mt, which is the business-as-usual scenario projected by the government.

If we do a projection of the emissions from 2008 to 2020 based on an estimated 3.6% annual growth (pledge), we would reach 63 Mt, which is the 16% cut committed or the we-will-take-action scenario projected by the government.

From 1990 to 2007, the average annual emissions growth is about 3.6%. We would expect a projection for business-as-usual scenarios for the future to use this number but the government uses a higher business-as-usual growth of 5%.

What we find strange is that when the government commits to the 16% cut by 2020, it is reducing the average annual growth in emissions from 2008 to 2020 from 5% to 3.6%, which is the same annual growth as what we have been doing over the past 17 years. In other words, if we continue business-as-usual from 2008 to 2020 without the 16% cut, we would still reach the projected 63 million tonnes in 2020 or the we-will-take-action scenario.

So, are we really reducing carbon emissions by 16% from 2020 BAU levels or are we just assuming a higher BAU level in 2020 and then committing to 16% cuts, which results in a level we would reached anyway if we don’t take any measures to reduce emissions?

Let us know what you think.

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