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Give firms carbon footprint calculator and time to adjust to higher carbon tax, MPs suggest in climate change debate

SINGAPORE — Imposing requirements on companies to identify risks of environmental violations within their supply chains, as well as a carbon footprint calculator for neighbourhood shopkeepers, were among proposals heard during a motion on climate change in Parliament on Wednesday (Jan 12).

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, speaking in Parliament on Jan 12, 2022.

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, speaking in Parliament on Jan 12, 2022.

  • Parliament debated a climate change motion for more than five hours on Jan 12
  • The private member’s motion is the second such motion filed by the Government Parliamentary Committee for Sustainability and the Environment
  • MPs gave suggestions on how to nudge businesses to adopt sustainable practices
  • Others expressed concerns that higher carbon taxes could increase operating costs for businesses
  • They proposed that these businesses be given ample time to adjust to the new rates

SINGAPORE — Imposing requirements on companies to identify risks of environmental violations within their supply chains, as well as a carbon footprint calculator for neighbourhood shopkeepers, were among proposals heard during a motion on climate change in Parliament on Wednesday (Jan 12).

The private member’s motion, which was filed by the Government Parliamentary Committee for Sustainability and the Environment, is the second such motion. The committee had first filed a similar one last February.

On Wednesday, a total of 19 Members of Parliament (MPs) from across both sides of the aisle spoke for more than five hours on how to support businesses and workers as Singapore transits to a green and more sustainable economy

Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister for Trade and Industry, as well Mr Koh Lian Pin, a Nominated MP and conservationist scientist, also spoke during the debate.

EMPOWERING CONSUMERS TO NUDGE BUSINESSES

Several MPs offered proposals on how businesses could be incentivised by consumers to adopt sustainable practices.

Ms Nadia Samdin of Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) suggested that there be a green loan and bond catalogue to recognise businesses that have undertaken significant sustainability efforts.

This would increase their visibility and encourage consumers to support them.

Giving an example of lobsters in tanks tagged with QR codes, Workers’ Party MP He Ting Ru suggested employing block chain technology to trace the origin of products so that companies and consumers may be alerted if they are from a sustainable source.

For example, the tag on lobsters could inform consumers of where the lobsters were caught and alert them if overfishing is occurring in that area, the Sengkang GRC MP said.

GOVERNMENT HELP FOR BUSINESSES TO GO GREEN

While MPs were supportive of raising the carbon tax to spur companies to adopt sustainable practices, several of them, including Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) and Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), expressed concern that the rise could result in higher overhead costs for companies.

Ms Foo called on the Government to give businesses ample lead time to adjust to the implementation of any new carbon tax rates, while Mr Saktiandi suggested that the Government establish a fixed formula for a carbon tax rate that evolves over a longer period of time, rather than reviewing the rates every three to four years.

Singapore’s carbon taxes are now set at S$5 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions but will be revised in 2024. The revised rates will be announced in the Budget next month.

Given that Singapore-based companies were reliant on global supply chains, Ms He of Sengkang GRC said that it was not enough for them to be held accountable to their direct actions within Singapore’s shores.

She asked the Government to consider placing requirements, either in the form of legislation or incentives, to push companies to proactively ensure that their supply chains adopt sustainable practices.

Mr Derrick Goh (Nee Soon GRC) proposed that neighbourhood shopkeepers and residents be given carbon footprint calculators so that they know how much carbon they produce and are galvanised to reduce their footprint.

HELPING WORKERS

Several MPs also highlighted the need to ensure that the Singapore workforce continues to train up and improve their skills, in order to capitalise on new job roles as the country moves towards a green economy.

Ms Poh Li San, deputy chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Sustainability and the Environment, proposed introducing modular courses at education institutions that equip students, including mid-career workers, with skills so that they may contribute to the green economy.

Ms Hany Soh, Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP, said that her Woodgrove division is collaborating with the Northwest Community Development Council to conduct a series of SkillsFuture workshops on sustainability to encourage residents to explore green career options.

“The increased exposure will hopefully lead to more supply of green talents to support sustainability in Singapore,” Ms Soh said.

MINISTERS RESPOND

In his speech, Mr Gan said that the impact of environmental regulations will differ for different sectors and will be most significant for the largest carbon-emitting ones such as the petrochemical industry.

To this end, the Government aims to equip workers with relevant skills such that they benefit from the green economy, he added.

For example, government agency Workforce Singapore is working with partners to explore setting up a Career Conversion Programme for sustainability professionals that will support workers who have to adapt to green jobs.

Thanking the MPs for their suggestions, Ms Fu said that her ministry will review its targets and raise Singapore’s climate ambition to ensure that its targets “are backed by the right strategies, policies and actions”.

She laid out ongoing efforts by the Government to adopt sustainable methods such as procurement measures in the public sector that encourage service providers and suppliers to be more sustainable.

Ms Fu acknowledged that there will be disruptions and trade-offs as Singapore shifts to a green economy, such as temporary cost increases for businesses and households, but “inaction will cost us even more dearly”.

Related topics

Parliament environment carbon footprint climate change business carbon tax

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