Balakrishnan not optimistic on climate change agreement

Balakrishnan not optimistic on climate change agreement

BRATISLAVA (Slovakia) - As he headed to the United Nations climate change conference in Warsaw on Tuesday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was not optimistic about the prospects for agreement.

"I'm not going there with great hopes or high expectations," he said at the sidelines of a business forum here.

Asked if recent natural disasters such as Super Typhoon Haiyan might be an impetus for action, he said: "I think that will give an added sense of urgency and added dose of reality."

But to translate that into an actual, comprehensive, binding agreement among states will require a lot more work, said the minister who accompanied President Tony Tan Keng Yam on a state visit here.

The UN talks are meant to lay the groundwork for a 2015 deal to get countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming, which may in turn cause more extreme weather events like floods and droughts.

Global economic losses caused by such events have risen to nearly US$200 billion (S$249 billion) a year over the last decade - four times higher than in the 1980s - and look set to rise further as climate change worsens, the World Bank warned on Monday.

But fears of deadlock have arisen during the conference, which began last week. This did not surprise Dr Balakrishnan, who said that addressing climate change is essentially a political problem. "The political will is lacking."

As a small nation, Singapore's carbon emissions are practically negligible but it will do what it can to help, he said. "Our key objective is to make sure that Singapore's voice is heard, that we are a voice of reason... It's going to be a difficult few days ahead of us."

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