Budget debate: Go further to encourage switch to electric vehicles, tackle climate change, say MPs

Apart from phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles, Mr Heng also announced that the Republic would be expanding public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - The Government should go further to encourage more drivers to switch to cleaner electric vehicles as it takes steps to address climate change, Mr Yee Chia Hsing (Chua Chu Kang GRC) told Parliament.

He argued that measures announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in last week's Budget did not go far enough, and bolder steps were needed if the Government is to meet its stated goal of phasing out all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.

Mr Yee was among four MPs that rose to spoke in support of the Government's efforts to tackle climate change on Wednesday (Feb 26).

He pointed out that the Government's intention to issue rebates on the Additional Registration Fee (ARF) of fully electric cars and taxis appear generous but "may not be sufficient".

Mr Heng had announced a 45 per cent rebate on the ARF of such vehicles, capped at $20,000, as part of measures to address climate change, a major limb of this year's Budget.

The scheme will run for three years starting from January 2021.

Mr Yee said that electric vehicles (EVs) sell at a significant premium compared with their conventional internal combustion engine models - as much as $90,000 in some cases - and the rebate offered was not a sufficient offset.

"Factoring the higher road tax for EVs, which will be introduced to compensate for the loss of fuel excise duties, I think EV adoption will be continue to be slow," he said.

He also said the Government should encourage car distributors to bring in more EV models, suggesting that there could be additional tax deduction for bringing in these models, and profits from the sales of these vehicles could also attract lower corporate tax. "Unless we can make the car distributors bring in more EV models, our push towards EV is doomed to fail," he said.

"In order to increase adoption of cars running on cleaner energy, we need to look at the whole value chain and not just from the car buyer's perspective."

The Government is betting big on EVs to tackle climate change. Apart from phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles, Mr Heng also announced that the Republic would be expanding public charging infrastructure for EVs.

Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) said the goals laid out by Mr Heng were a "bold vision", but asked what was the Government's basis for its "significant bet on EVs" when countries like Japan and South Korea seem to be favouring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Other measures unveiled by Mr Heng include setting up a new coastal and flood protection fund to protect Singapore from rising sea levels.

The efforts to tackle climate change also drew support from two other MPs.

Professor Yaacob Ibrahim (Jalan Besar GRC) said Singapore could "take the global lead" in tackling issues like climate change. But Prof Yaacob, who was environment minister from 2004 to 2011, also said that these efforts would require significant trust in government as they involve "spending valuable state resources on matters which will affect future generations but does not bring immediate benefits".

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Mr Lim Swee Say (East Coast GRC), who was environment minister from 2001 to 2004, said Singapore had been a pioneer in wastewater recycling with NEWater, and must now make sustainable living part of every Singaporean's life.

"From more use of reusable bags to more widespread use of environmentally-friendly cars, separation of waste for recycling, returning of trays at F&B outlets, and so on, I hope we will strive to be a leading nation in social behaviour, to improve our environmental performance and sustainability," he said.

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