Idea of carbon tax to change mindsets, hit large energy users hard

SINGAPORE: Reactions to the announcement of an upcoming carbon tax system for Singapore have been generally positive, with stakeholders and observers calling the move timely and one that will transform Singapore’s economy for the better.

The system, when implemented from 2019, will target direct large emitters of greenhouse gases, rather than individual electricity users such as households. While the Government said it has started industry consultation and will also reach out to the public, it is looking at a tax rate of between S$10 and S$20 per tonne of emissions.

Speaking after the Budget address in Parliament, Member of Parliament (MP) for Sembawang GRC Vikram Nair told Channel NewsAsia that the best way of solving environmental problems is to link them to economic incentives.

He said when companies consider maintaining their profitability in future, they would have to take into account measures to reduce emissions. “(With carbon tax,) there will be a cost imposed to companies’ polluting in line with their emissions, which will mean that the cost of pollution goes up so it becomes a cost they have to take into account,” Mr Nair said.

In his Budget address, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said the implementation of the scheme may spur the creation of new opportunities in the clean energy sector for example.

The Singapore Environment Council (SEC) echoed this point, saying a carbon tax regime could boost Singapore’s economy. “Singapore should aspire to be a global leader in the research and development of renewable technologies as this will boost our economy by creating jobs and attracting investments,” said Ms Isabella Loh, chairman of SEC.

Executive director for the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore, Kavita Gandhi, said the timeline for imposing the scheme from 2019 is “sustainable”. “The large emitters are already on the path due to the Energy Conservation Act and other initiatives to stimulate efficiencies. (The carbon tax scheme) will further enhance such measures being undertaken,” she added.

According to the National Climate Change Secretariat, there are between 30 and 40 large direct emitters of greenhouse gases.

PETROCHEMICAL COMPANIES REACT

In a statement, Shell Singapore said it has long supported a “strong and stable Government-led carbon price”. “Properly implemented, a Government-led carbon pricing mechanism stimulates technologies for the part of the economy that can decarbonise quickly; while providing time for other sectors that will take longer.”

ExxonMobil Asia Pacific said that while a uniform price of carbon applied consistently across the economy is a sensible approach to reducing emissions, a carbon tax regime that is added to the refining and petrochemical industry in Singapore would impact Singapore’s competitiveness as an export manufacturing centre.

Still, it said it is committed to working with the Government in subsequent consultations, and in finding a balance between providing affordable energy, addressing the risks posed by greenhouse gases while ensuring Singapore’s long-term competitiveness.

Chief sustainability officer of City Developments Limited (CDL), Esther An, said the introduction of the new carbon pricing system is “timely as the world steps up towards a low-carbon economy”.

The property developer said it included a carbon pricing system into its strategic sustainability plan from as early as 2015. “CDL recognises the importance of future-proofing our business and continues to proactively manage climate-related risks, which comprise both physical risks to buildings and potential financial risks such as carbon pricing and taxation.”

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/

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