Judging small, rich island nations purely on their wealth and emissions is unfair in climate change negotiations, Singapore's climate envoy said on Saturday, as pressure builds on more countries to curb carbon pollution.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, the U.N.'s main weapon to fight climate change, only 37 industrialized nations are committed to curbs on greenhouse gas pollution between 2008-2012.
But the U.N. list in Kyoto's parent pact that defines rich and developing nations dates from 1992 and wealthy nations such as Argentina, Singapore, South Korea and Malta are still deemed to be developing states under the U.N.'s climate treaties.
Under Kyoto, developing nations are exempt from any binding emissions curbs but recent studies show poorer states now contribute more than half of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions.
Australia and the European Union say the 1992 list is out of date and doesn't reflect economic reality.
They said it should be updated to make sure rich nations outside of Kyoto commit to binding curbs as part of a broader climate pact likely to be agreed at end of the year in the Danish capital Copenhagen.
Singapore's chief climate change negotiator, Chew Tai Soo, said Singapore was responsible for 0.3 percent of greenhouse emissions but faced pressure because it was rich and had high per-capita emissions.
Singapore is one of the world's wealthiest nations with 2007 per-capita GDP of S$52,994 (US$35,163), according to government figures. Greenhouse gas emissions are the same as many European countries at about 11 tonnes per person, compared with 20 tonnes for the United States and 4 for China.
Per-capita GDP and per-capita emissions have often been mentioned as a convenient way of assessing climate change responsibilities. This approach is flawed as it does not take into account the unique considerations and capabilities of different countries.
It penalizes small countries with small populations without taking into account their limitations, he told a sustainability conference in Singapore.
In a submission to the United Nations last November, Australia said the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto's parent pact, let many advanced economies off the hook on carbon reduction obligations.
Since the Convention was adopted in 1992 no work has been done to better differentiate the responsibilities of Parties, the submission said, adding the two annex lists of countries in the Kyoto Protocol were now out of date.
My reaction to the Australian proposal was not terribly happy because of its failure to take into account various other factors, Chew said in an answer to a question from Reuters.
He said Singapore covered an area a fifth the size of Long Island in New York, was densely populated, lacked natural resources and its agricultural sector was virtually non-existent.
With such economic restraints, we have no food security and are heavily dependent on trade and commerce for survival.
He also said the country, because of its small size, had limited ability to switch to alternative energy technologies but was investing in research and development of solar and other clean-energy areas.
A decision to use natural gas in its power stations had also slashed carbon emissions.
But critics point to booming sales of cars, rapid population growth and a vast petro-chemical industry as off-setting some of the benefits.
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)