A lot is at stake this year regarding what the climate holds for us in the future. The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, more widely known as COP26, gathered world leaders to decide on climate actions that will shape our climate and its impacts on our societies. While scientists from the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) could not join the physical event happening in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021, they have contributed in many other ways. Let’s find out how.
Recommendations to policymakers about how to reduce disaster risk and use nature-based climate solutions in ASEAN
EOS partnered with universities in the UK and Singapore to produce a series of reports as part of a project between the British High Commission and the COP26 Universities.
- need to understand the causes of disaster and address the vulnerabilities of the region,
- set up support systems to help the poor and marginalized who will be hit the hardest by climate change, and
- consider all disaster risk reduction strategies (including nature-based solutions) on equal footing to select the most appropriate in the long-term.
There is indeed much to gain from nature-based solutions, whether it is to reduce disaster risk or mitigate climate change.
Using nature-based solutions to mitigate climate change was the theme of another report EOS contributed to. The report 'Nature-based Solutions for Climate Change Mitigation: Challenges and Opportunities for the ASEAN Region', led by the Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions in Singapore and the University of Nottingham in the UK, highlights the benefits of nature-based solutions such as mangroves and salt marshes for Southeast Asia. These solutions are widely available in the region and by sequestering carbon, reducing haze, protecting biodiversity and shorelines from erosion, they help us achieve our climate targets. Their use is however currently limited and the report calls for a policy push to invest in them.
Amplifying our voices in the media
With the increased focus on climate change and its impact on societies, EOS scientists continued to share their expertise on issues related to climate change and disaster risk. Below is a selection of commentaries published in Singaporean and international outlets, which provide insights about the issues discussed at COP26:
Associate Professor Xianfeng Wang during an interview on COP26 with Lianhe Zaobao (Source: ZB Online)
- In 'Are Southeast Asian nations meeting their climate commitments?’ published in Deutsche Welle and Tribun (in Bahasa Indonesia), Professor Benjamin Horton, Director of EOS, reports on the hazards from droughts and sea-level rise and highlights that "future sea-level rise will affect populations, economies and infrastructure of every coastal nation."
- In 'COP26关我什么事?' (What is COP26 to me?) published in ZB Online, Associate Professor Wang Xianfeng briefly explains what COP26 is and the significance of having these meetings, where world leaders gather to discuss aspects of climate change and what countermeasures to adopt. On Singapore, Prof Wang says that carbon emission per capita is rather significant and is ranked in the top 30 globally, and "as a small country, there aren’t many approaches we can adopt (to mitigate climate change) due to limited resources."
- The Zaobao article '美国研究:全球若升温3摄氏度 滨海湾花园等处或被淹' (US study: If global temperature rises by 3 degrees Celsius, Gardens by the Bay and other places may be flooded) reported that current carbon emissions trajectories would cause flooding in 50 major cities including several parts of Singapore. Of this, Prof Benjamin Horton said, "The total amount of greenhouse gases Singapore produces is not large, but is still threatened by climate change. In particular, a third of the country may be flooded by the end of the century." He added, "Singapore’s survival depends on the world and I think Singapore needs to take the lead to unite the world."
- The article from Open Access Government titled ‘ASEAN risks losing 35% GDP by 2050 from climate change’ summarised the COP26 report led by EOS and the University of Glasgow. It cites EOS scientists about the importance of increasing resilience at the sub-national, national and regional levels, and the need for a suite of policies, including livelihood support, effective emergency relief and social protection to reduce disaster risk in the region.
- In the opinion piece by Prof Horton and Dr Chardot for The Straits Times titled 'COP26: Why we must do all we can to meet the 1.5 deg C target', they discussed the importance of capping global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius and the consequences of breaching this limit. "An increase of 1.5 deg C means temperatures on land could rise by 3 deg C to 4.5 deg C in central and eastern North America, Central and Southern Europe, as well as Asia. Exceptionally hot days will become the norm, and extreme heatwaves are projected to affect around 14 per cent of the earth's population. At a 2 deg C increase, that figure rises to 37 per cent with one billion people enduring extreme heat stress," they wrote.
Our oceans: key players in our fight against climate change
Following the success of the documentary Climate Impact Asia, EOS has been busy preparing its new four-part series Changing Ocean Asia. A trailer for this new series, which you can view below, was played at several events at COP26.