Does the 1992 UNFCCC give a free pass on carbon emissions for heavy polluting countries?

Photo source : ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Pte Ltd

For references to figure estimates refer to earlier article Green New Deal for Singapore

When it comes to selling the case for more ambitious climate action in the Green New Deal, what should be the respose to the statement (paraphrased)

Singapore has limited sources of alternative energy and this is recognized by the UNFCCC?

Does the 1992 UNFCCC in Article 4.8 (h) and Article 4.10 give a free pass to not commit to scientific targets on carbon emissions reduction (-45% by 2030) for those countries which benefit financially from heavy carbon polluting companies in their economy?

If one were to follow-up on the messaging by Climate Change SG to the mitigation plan, one would eventually be directed to the website of, which has a page “why we don’t use 100% renewable energy in Singapore”. On this page (last udate Dec 30 2019) it refers to the UNFCCC with the statement

our alternative energy disadvantage is officially recognized by the UNFCCC

The first observation from the game changer page is the omission of carbon capture, a technology heavily studied by the NCCS and which the IPCC and other authoritative bodies have declared as necessary in the 1.5C and 2.0C scenarios. Carbon capture may not be an alternative energy source, but it is a low carbon energy source which is the ultimate intention of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement to limit global warming, so this omission from official publications by Climate Change SG and NCCS continues to be suspicious.

So what is in the 1992 Article 4.8 (h) and Article 4.10 and how is this consistient with any realistic pathway to 1.5C that the IPCC reported in 2018? If indeed this is the intention, which states could claim such a priviledge? OPEC members such as Saudi Arabia and Iran? or any country with some oil and gas and petrochemicals industry United States, Brunei and Singapore.

What metric would be used to justify such an exemption?

How much of Singapore’s GDP and workforce can be attributed directly to the petrochemicals industry on Jurong and Bukom, and how much emissions comes from this sector?

Singapore doesn’t own any oil and gas reserves, so its only way of monetizing the industry is via petrochemical and refining conversion and inport/export as a trade hub. Estimates from available data suggests <7% of GDP (20–25% of GDP from all of industry) and 50,000 workers or <1% of the 3.7 mil workforce. By comparison, petrochemicals contributes around 3% of GDP in the US and 19% total for industry. For Saudi Arabia the figure is closer to 50% for oil and gas exports contribution to GDP and <4% contribution from petrochemicals. How much of Singapore’s emissions comes from the petrochemical sector? Based on testimony by the Ministry in Parliament 75% of industrial emission, or 45% of total emissions. These emissions can be attributed primarily to 3 companies — ExxonMobil, Shell and PetroChina.

How much exactly would it cost to implement low carbon solutions to Singapore in compliance with the IPCC 1.5C target of -45% by 2030?

Ultimately there is more work to be done on this to get better estimates, using the available information from various publicly available reports 80% of Singapore’s emissions in industry and power generation could be removed by applying existing carbon capture technology (no new R&D needed) at a cost of S $55–105/ton which would translate to direct costs estimated at S$15–30 billion over 30 years, or approximately 0.1–0.2% of annual GDP. Who pays for this cost is debatable, and were a carbon tax to be implmented at IMF guidance in this range much of that cost could come from the private sector.

How does 0.1–0.2% of annual GDP compare to what countries are expected to pay for mitigation?

According ot the Stern Review, the estimated cost of mitigation is 1–4% of GDP and many other more recent reports have published figures in a similar range.

What does Article 4.8 (h) of the UNFCCC say about economies with a high mix of fossil fuels and petrochemicals?

4.8 In the implementation of the commitments in this Article, the Parties shall give full consideration to what actions are necessary under the Convention, including actions related to funding, insurance and the transfer of technology, to meet the 15 specific needs and concerns of developing country Parties arising from the adverse effects of climate change and/or the impact of the implementation of response measures, especially on: …

(h) Countries whose economies are highly dependent on income generated from the production, processing and export, and/or on consumption of fossil fuels and associated energy-intensive products

4.10 The Parties shall, in accordance with Article 10, take into consideration in the implementation of the commitments of the Convention the situation of Parties, particularly developing country Parties, with economies that are vulnerable to the adverse effects of the implementation of measures to respond to climate change. This applies notably to Parties with economies that are highly dependent on income generated from the production, processing and export, and/or consumption of fossil fuels and associated energy-intensive products and/or the use of fossil fuels for which such Parties have serious difficulties in switching to alternatives.



Applied research, engineering, and projects for solutions to sustainable cities. SG Green New Deal

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Taylor Hickem

Applied research, engineering, and projects for solutions to sustainable cities. SG Green New Deal