Getting large carbon emitters to pay $5 for every tonne of greenhouse gases they generate is a "fair" way to start a compliance regime, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said yesterday.
From next year till 2023, all facilities producing 25,000 tonnes or more of greenhouse gas emissions a year will be taxed $5 per tonne of emissions - significantly lower than the $10 to $20 per tonne envisioned last year.
However, the Government will review the tax rate in 2023, and eventually increase the carbon tax to between $10 and $15 per tonne by 2030.
Mr Masagos called the starting $5 per tonne a "fair amount", which gives the affected 30 to 40 companies - which contribute 80 per cent of Singapore's greenhouse gas emissions - time to "adjust and also get used to the compliance regime".
He said: "They will need time to change their processes and improve their emissions."
He added that the transition period will allow the affected companies - mainly from the petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors - to be better placed to comply with the higher tax rates to be imposed by 2030.
Mr Masagos was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Bukit View Secondary School, where he launched a new green classroom comprising various eco-friendly features, including a green wall - covered in plants - and motion-activated fans.
A carbon tax is a common tool used to control the amount of earth-warming greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
About 67 countries and jurisdictions, including China, the European Union and Japan, have implemented or announced plans to implement such a scheme. They aim to encourage companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency.
Households here could see their total electricity and gas expenses increase by 1 per cent on average due to the carbon tax, which will be offset by additional Utilities-Save rebates.
Asked how companies can be made accountable, Mr Masagos said it is necessary to pass a carbon tax Act which will require companies to submit data on their greenhouse gas emissions, and which will impose stricter requirements on large emitters such as an audit report that confirms their data.
"By doing so we will have a better grasp of how much each of these industries and companies emit and, therefore, have an idea of how we can then nudge (them) to do better," he said.
The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources said there are no plans to make individual company emissions data public.