6 MPs file Singapore's first parliamentary motion on climate change

To help Singapore reach net zero emissions, the motion will propose to increase carbon tax rates and schedule reviews every five years.
To help Singapore reach net zero emissions, the motion will propose to increase carbon tax rates and schedule reviews every five years.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Six MPs have filed a motion on climate change - a first for Singapore - to be heard at the next parliamentary sitting on Monday (Feb 1).

Their private member's motion, which allows all MPs to take part in the ensuing debate, calls on the Government to partner the private sector and Singaporeans in bolstering efforts to mitigate climate change and embrace sustainable development.

They will put forth at least 10 recommendations, including regular reviews to increase the carbon tax, encouraging the setting up of more electric vehicle (EV) charging points in public, expanding climate education in schools and adding climate defence as a seventh pillar of total defence.

The six MPs, who sit on the government parliamentary committee (GPC) for sustainability and the environment, are Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), Ms Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC), Ms Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC), Ms Hany Soh (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC).

"We wanted topics that can bring about a fundamental change, a big multiplier effect," said Mr Ng, who chairs the GPC and will be speaking to open and close the motion.

"Climate change is an existential threat that we cannot ignore... time is not on our side."

He also stressed that it was not an either-or situation, and that Singapore's "strong economic progress can go hand-in-hand in fighting climate change".

The GPC crafted the motion with the People's Action Party's (PAP) youth wing, which over the past year organised consultations and focus group discussions with advocates, industry representatives from the likes of energy giant ExxonMobil and electric car-sharing service BlueSG, academics and the public.

The MPs noted that Singapore's current carbon tax rate is set at $5, with the intention to hit a maximum of $15 by 2030, and no plans beyond.

To help Singapore reach net zero emissions, and signal to consumers and businesses the country's decarbonisation priorities, the motion will propose to increase carbon tax rates and schedule reviews every five years. But only after Covid-19 and when the economy has had time to recover, said Mr Ng.

Said Mr Wee: "We would then need to look at how to support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and lower-income families, to ensure that they are not the ones ultimately paying for the increase."

To support the growth of EVs over the next decade, the motion will suggest new rules and incentives for commercial developers to build charging points - similar to the rebates and subsidies provided in Denmark, Norway and the United States.

In the education sphere, the MPs will propose incorporating climate change into the character and citizenship education (CCE) syllabus for primary and secondary schools; and providing more funding support for experiential learning and co-curricular activities.

Other proposals span the professionalising of the carbon accounting and reporting industry, adding an Industry Transformation Map for the sustainability sector, increasing standards for the public sector, amplifying the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark standards and increasing public access to emissions data of top-emitting private and public entities.

Aside from the six MPs tabling the motion, at least five others are expected to speak on the motion on Monday, along with newly-appointed Nominated MP Koh Lian Pin, a globally-recognised conservation scientist who will represent the environment sector.

Ms Soh plans to centre her speech on community efforts to shift to an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Mr Gan said: "I hope that everyone can do his or her part in saving the Earth and provide a better tomorrow for our children, grandchildren and future generations."