Last week, at an event coinciding with Earth Day (April 22), US President Joe Biden hosted a climate conference with other world leaders, urging them to cooperate in the global effort to tackle the climate crisis.
At the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, he committed his country to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2030, doubling the target it set under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Leaders of countries such as Brazil, Canada, India, Japan and the UK made new pledges or re-affirmed their earlier promises to help save the planet from environmental catastrophe.
Prior to the conference, the UK had already announced its own plans to reduce carbon emissions by 78 per cent of 1990 levels by 2035. This brings forward the previous target by 15 years.
The Prime Ministers of Japan and Canada also committed to significantly increase their earlier commitments to reducing carbon emissions and will target net zero emissions by 2050. Japan is the world’s fifth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide and Canada the eleventh.
Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, in a change from his previous stance, promised to end illegal deforestation in the country by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050. In addition, he made a request to the US to help fund the Amazon rainforest conservation efforts to the tune of USD one billion.
Despite not committing India to a new target, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did confirm the country’s vow to install 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030 which is five times the current capacity and two and a half times its Paris pledge.
Although Singapore, a tiny island state, is an insignificant polluter on a global scale, it was one of forty nations invited to the US summit. It is the leading Asian country on the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) Energy Transition Index (ETI) which measures progress towards a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable, and secure energy system. It was placed 21st globally.
Singapore plans to quadruple solar energy production by 2025, as well as to open one of the world’s largest floating solar energy systems that will offset 33,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
In February this year, five Singapore ministries jointly released a blueprint called ‘The Singapore Green Plan 2030’ which maps out the island nation’s path towards a more sustainable future over the next decade.
“The comprehensive plan will strengthen Singapore’s economic, climate and resource resilience, improve the living environment of Singaporeans, and bring new business and job opportunities,” the five ministries said in a joint statement.
Under the Green Plan, sustainability standards of buildings will be raised with support given to the development of eco-friendly buildings which incorporate cost-effective green technologies that promote energy efficiency.
To promote green commuting, the city’s rail network will be expanded by more than 50 per cent to 360 km. This is to reduce the reliance on personal automobiles in favour of public transport. Cycling paths will be tripled in length.
Singapore, which is already widely considered a green city, will have more vegetation planted along the streets and nature parks will be increased by over 50 per cent by 2030. The plan to expand greenery will reduce ambient temperatures in the city.
The fossil fuel industry is an important part of Singapore’s economy as it is a major petroleum refining hub and an important centre for global LNG (liquified natural gas). Despite this, it aims to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
Research is taking place to help Singapore harness low carbon alternatives like using hydrogen as a fuel. Programs will be rolled out to help Singapore firms develop capabilities in the area of clean energy. The island will also be turned into a sustainable tourist destination.
From 2030, only petrol-electric hybrid and electric vehicles can be sold in Singapore and by 2040, almost all vehicles on the road will be “green”.
Already, plans are in place to install over 60,000 EV (electric vehicle) charging points across the island by 2030, up from less than 500 charging points today. Import duty and road tax for electric vehicles have also been slashed to encourage their usage.
In the earlier mentioned WEF Energy Transition Index (ETI) which covers 115 countries, India was placed 87th. The ETI assesses the performance of each country’s energy systems across three dimensions – economic development and growth, environmental sustainability, and energy security and access indicators – and their readiness to transition to secure, sustainable, affordable, and inclusive energy systems.
In the report, India was lauded for targeting “improvements through subsidy reforms and rapidly scaling energy access, with a strong political commitment and regulatory environment for the energy transition”.
Instead of targeting just environmental and climate sustainability, India implemented a broad plan covering 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets in 2015 which came into effect in January 2016.
This is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the 193 member states at the United Nations General Assembly Summit which aims to build a more prosperous, more equal and more secure world by 2030.
The SDGs include diverse areas such as poverty, hunger, health and well-being, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy action, sustainable cities and communities, sustainable consumption and production, just to name a few.
India has not committed to a net-zero emission target. Instead, it has stuck to its Paris Agreement pledge to reduce its carbon emissions by 33 to 35 per cent from its 2005 levels by 2030 and is aiming to outperform those goals.
With roughly 65 per cent of India still living in rural areas, India is still in the midst of industrialising and its energy needs are quite different from that compared with the US, China, Russia or Japan, the countries that are closest to it in terms of carbon emissions.
To put things in perspective, although India generates about 70 per cent of its energy needs using coal, India’s per capita emissions are an eighth of those of the United States and less than a third of China’s.
“The scale of transition is going to be enormous for India, and there is a risk that in trying to reach net zero by 2050, we will end up constraining energy needs for the poor,” Navroz K Dubash, a professor at Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research, was quoted by Reuters as saying.