2 April 2020
Japan and Singapore Submit 2020 NDCs
Yokohama, Japan / Viviane Okubo on Unsplash
story highlights

Japan and Singapore join four other Paris Agreement parties that have submitted 2020 nationally determined contributions on climate change action.

Singapore's submission highlights early mitigation actions, updating its first NDC with an economy-wide absolute GHG emissions limitation target and the inclusion of nitrogen trifluoride under its GHG coverage.

Japan emphasizes technological and energy efficiency improving measures.

Japan and Singapore have submitted their 2020 nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The 2015 Paris Agreement decision requested parties to communicate every five-years either a new NDC, or an update on their existing one, depending on the respective NDC timeframe. Parties decided that their NDCs would reflect each country’s highest possible ambition, and new NDCs would have to represent a progression from the previous ones.

Since both Japan’s and Singapore’s NDCs have a ten-year timeframe with 2030 as target year, in March 2020 they submitted an update on their first NDCs. Their communication on actions and achievements to date reveal both their approaches and ongoing activities, as well as how they consider their NDCs ambitious and fair in light of their respective national circumstances.

Singapore’s 2020 NDC submission emphasizes that its “updated NDC” reflects the following enhancements:

  • An expansion of greenhouse gas (GHG) coverage to include nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a chemical with a high global warming potential that is released in some high-tech industries, such as electronics manufacturing; and
  • An economy-wide absolute GHG emissions limitation target, in place of the previous intensity target, with a clear peak emission level at 65 MtCO2e around 2030 to achieve a 36% reduction in Emissions Intensity from 2005 levels by 2030.

Reviewing its achievements so far, Singapore highlights that in 2019 it introduced an economy-wide carbon tax, which applies to direct emissions from facilities producing 25 ktCO2e or more GHG emissions in a year, without exemption. This covers 80% of Singapore’s carbon emissions and provides an economy-wide price signal to incentivize and facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Singapore’s high population density mean that the risks of nuclear energy outweigh the potential benefits. The NDC describes the country as “alternative energy disadvantaged,” noting that limited land area, relatively flat land, low wind speeds, and lack of geothermal resources present challenges for deploying solar power on a large scale. Still, Singapore is moving ahead to spur the deployment of solar PV through continued investment in “research development and demonstration” in order to reduce cost, improve efficiency, and enable innovative modes of deployment. Singapore reports that it is on track to achieve 350 megawatt-peak in 2020, and aims to achieve at least 2 gigawatt-peak by 2030. This would meet about 4% of Singapore’s current annual electricity needs, and 10% of daily peak electricity demand today.

Singapore notes that took early and ambitious policy measures to reduce GHG emissions, and these account for many of the gains to date: 

  • Singapore switched from fuel oil to natural gas, so that in 2019 about 95% of its electricity was generated from natural gas, compared to 18% in 2000;
  • Energy is already priced at market cost without any subsidy to incentivize households and businesses to  use energy prudently; and
  • Singapore was among the first to impose a vehicle quota system to cap vehicle growth, and the only country to set a zero-growth rate for cars and motorcycles.

Singapore is also implementing concrete measures that focus on: 

  • For the transport sector: phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles and promoting the adoption of greener vehicles; making public and shared transport and active mobility the preferred mode of travel; and enhancing the environmental friendliness of its transport infrastructure;
  • For the buildings sector: mandating minimum energy performance standards; and supporting the research and adoption of cost-effective, energy-efficient, and renewable energy solutions; and
  • For industry: enhancing grant schemes to help companies improve their energy efficiency, and supporting the achievement of systems-level efficiency gains across the sector.

Singapore also provides information on adaptation efforts to address its vulnerabilities as a low-lying island state. These include: investing in research; protecting against sea-level rise; managing water and minimizing floods; keeping essential services running well and buildings and infrastructure safe; strengthening resilience in public health and protecting biodiversity; and ensuring a resilient food supply.

Japan’s 2020 NDC submission does not include an adaptation component, but rather focuses on the country’s mitigation efforts. The document emphasizes that Japan has reduced its GHG emissions by over 8% during fiscal years (FY) 2014 to 2017, while the preliminary figures for FY 2018 indicate approximately 12% cumulative reductions. Japan will continue to aim for a reduction of 26% by FY 2030 compared to FY 2013 (25.4% reduction compared to FY 2005), and pursue further efforts both in the medium-term and long-term to reduce GHG emissions beyond this level.

Japan’s NDC reflects the country’s emphasis on technological and energy efficiency improving measures in relevant production and consumption sectors. These include iron and steel, cement, pulp, and chemical industries as well as commercial, residential, and transport sectors. With regard to the “land use, land-use change, and forestry” sector (LULUCF), Japan promotes forestry industry measures, as well as forest and soil management to increase carbon stock.

Japan notes annual progress reviews of its Plan for Global Warming Countermeasures, and states that the review of its reduction target will be carried out with a revision of the energy mix. With regards to energy conversion, Japan informs of: expanding renewable energy introduction; utilizing nuclear power generation whose safety is confirmed; and pursuing high efficiency in thermal power generation.

Having faced a drastic change in its energy circumstances due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station, Japan decided on a new Strategic Energy Plan as a starting point for reviewing and rebuilding the country’s energy strategy from scratch. Japan’s Long-term Strategy under the Paris Agreement, which it submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat in 2019, aims to accomplish a “decarbonized society” as early as possible and as close as possible to 2050. As explained in Japan’s 2020 NDC, the strategy foresees:  “disruptive innovations,” such as artificial photosynthesis and other carbon capture, use and storage technologies;  and the realization of a hydrogen society. The long-term strategy further informs of the following considerations:

  • The Japanese energy sector faces a lack of domestic fossil resources such as oil, natural gas, and coal, and is not equipped with international pipelines or interconnections;
  • There are concerns about Japan’s international competitiveness in terms of high energy costs resulting from increased fossil fuels procurement following the shutdown of domestic nuclear power plants;
  • Japan will engage with new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) supplying countries, noting growing LNG exports from the U.S. as well as Russia’s abundant resource potential in the Arctic Circle; and
  • Decarbonization of gas itself with moderate social costs will be sought using existing LNG / city gas infrastructure and consumer-side equipment.

The submissions from Japan and Singapore bring the total number of 2020 NDCs received to only six of 188 Paris Agreement parties (given the US notification to withdraw by 4 November 2020). Collectively the six countries represent only 2.8% of global emissions, based on data calculations by the World Resources Institute’s Climate Watch. Some insiders have expressed disappointment that most countries missed the informal NDC submission deadline in February 2020.

Based on the Paris Agreement, parties’ efforts are not only communicated in their NDCs but are also subject to various types of review, including: a review of implementation through the Agreement’s enhanced transparency framework; a review of compliance through an implementation and compliance mechanism; and a review of overall progress through a global stocktaking process every five years. It is through this iterative process of submitting and reviewing NDCs that parties to the Paris Agreement envisaged that international community will eventually achieve the Agreement’s long-term objectives.

 The first global stocktake occurs in 2023. It is expected to address mitigation, adaptation, and finance.

By Beate Antonich, Thematic Expert for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy

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