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PAP MPs’ push to build a sustainable Singapore

04 Feb 2021 5 min read

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The People’s Action Party Members of Parliament called on the Government to deepen and accelerate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change with the first parliamentary motion on sustainability.

Six MPs – Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC), Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC), Hany Soh (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC) – had filed the private member’s motion in Parliament on 1 Feb 2021 with key recommendations from our youth wing, Young PAP.

With all parties acknowledging the severity and importance of the issue, the motion that was passed stated: “That this House acknowledges that climate change is a global emergency and a threat to mankind and calls on the Government, in partnership with the private sector, civil society and the people of Singapore, to deepen and accelerate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to embrace sustainability in the development of Singapore.”

Here are 10 key recommendations that PAP MPs have proposed to build a sustainable Singapore: 

  • Incorporating sustainability into the Industry Transformation Map (ITM) scheme

Cheryl Chan proposed adding a pillar in the ITM with specific focus on sustainability. This could accelerate efforts for industries and public sector to outline types of future green jobs and align on skills required to be engaged in suitable roles for such emerging sectors; facilitate early or mid-career moves towards jobs focused on environmental sustainability and professionalising the Green Economy.

In response, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu said that the Government will build an ecosystem to support and equip our companies and people with the right skills to seize these opportunities.

  • Enhancing sustainability standards in public sector 

As the Government looks at a sustainable framework for procurement, Mr Ng noted that it should ensure that these higher standards are robust. To enhance standards, the Government could expand life cycle costing to more categories of products other than electrical appliances. Furthermore, government contracts should measure and set standards for carbon footprints and every ministry must publish a yearly Sustainability Report.

In response, Ms Fu said that the Government will be enhancing sustainability standards to leverage collective capabilities across the Government to improve resource efficiency.

  • Gradual raising of the carbon tax

Chairperson of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Sustainability and the Environment Louis Ng said Singapore’s current target of setting the tax at $10 to $15 per tonne by 2030, up from $5 today, is far too low.

To keep climate change at safe levels, the International Monetary Fund has said that Singapore’s rate needs to be no lower than $99 in 2030.

“Without a high enough carbon tax, even with all the other things we do, our emission level might remain high – far too high,” Mr Ng added.

Don Wee proposed raising the carbon tax gradually as Singapore deals with the impact of Covid-19 as a measured approach. To support small medium enterprises and low-income families, he suggested for the revenue from the carbon tax to be used to subsidise their utility bills.

Responding to the motion, Ms Fu said that the Government is committed to supporting our businesses and households transit to a low-carbon future, and it is prepared to spend more than what it collect in carbon tax revenue in the first five years on “worthwhile projects to achieve emissions reductions.”

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chairs the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, added that the carbon tax in Singapore is one of the most comprehensive in the world, covering about 80 per cent of emissions.

  • Providing solutions for offshore carbon offsets

Henry Kwek proposed that Singapore can help countries in the region and beyond cut their carbon emissions by offering well-run, trusted carbon offset solutions based throughout the world. Our government-linked companies and even our government, can buy these offsets so that we can go beyond our reduction target, he added.  

Mr Kwek also proposed for Singapore to become a leading and trusted professional services hub for emissions and carbon accounting to “create green-collar jobs that many young Singaporeans aspire for.”

In response, Ms Fu said Singapore will promote green growth by pursuing new opportunities in existing sectors and new sectors. 

  • Incentivising private developers to build publicly accessible charging points

Gan Thiam Poh proposed incentivising private developers in the form of grants, tax breaks or subsidies to build publicly accessible charging points for electric vehicles.

“This will alleviate the pressure on the government to build new charging points and also relieves congestion at the existing ones,” he added.

He also urged the government to ensure that sustainability will be a major consideration in the process of building charging points.

  • Enhancing the Green Mark scheme

Poh Li San proposed reviewing construction regulations and standards such as the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark scheme. The Green Mark scheme must encourage more use of recycled “green concrete”, “pre-cast concrete and low-carbon concrete. She also suggested adopting environmentally friendly design approaches, materials, and technologies and introducing an incentive system to offset the higher construction costs.

“The Green Mark Scheme can be our identity to embrace sustainability,” she added.

In response, Ms Fu said that the Government will continue to push for the adoption of super low energy buildings, and to support the development of energy-efficient and cost-effective green technologies.

  • Expanding climate education in school curricula

Nadia Samdin proposed reviewing the curriculum with sustainability as one of the core pillars of educational outcomes, “going beyond the objective, scientific knowledge about climate change” to discuss its economic and social dimensions.

She also stressed the importance of building responsible habits through a holistic approach so that it goes beyond a subject to a lifestyle.

Ms Fu said that the Government will continue to strengthen the learning experiences for students and mould the values of our future generations.

  • Adopting Climate Defence as the seventh pillar of Total Defence

Seah Kian Peng proposed adopting Climate Defence as the seventh pillar of Total Defence to demonstrate that Singapore can be trusted to adhere to the goals set under the Paris Climate Agreement. However, he cautioned that it cannot be the old “green” message in new bottles.

“Aside from behavioural nudges, there must be resolution towards new laws and regulations; there must be a willingness to make the market work for the environment, there must be more will, more attention, and more resources.”

  • Setting up data-sharing mechanisms within and across industries

Mr Gan also proposed setting up data-sharing mechanisms within and across industries, particularly for key industrial sectors. He explained that such frameworks could benefit climate change significantly by increasing efficiency and reducing consumption of resources.

  • Enforcing greater accountability and consistent standards of carbon emissions

Ms Chan also proposed that companies publish an annual environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) report based on a standardised reporting framework, beginning with larger and public listed companies.

“With a more standardised and quantified approach, we as a nation will be better positioned to continuously review, assess the adequacy of our target carbon footprint and adjust to changing global situations,” she added. 

PAP Government to launch Singapore Green Plan 2030

Addressing the debate on the motion, Ms Fu told Parliament that Singapore will ramp up its sustainability drive, with agencies across ministries setting “ambitious and concrete targets” under a new initiative called the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

Thanking the MPs for their suggestions, she reiterated that the Government has every intent to partner the private sector and Singaporeans to deepen and accelerate efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, and to embrace sustainability.

“Sustainability is not just about doing more, but doing more together, in an inclusive way, with all our stakeholders on board…We firmly believe that in Singapore, we will co-create a sustainable future for present and future generations.”

Cover Image: NParks Annual Report