Cuts by MP Louis Ng for Ministry of Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Committee of Supply debate 2020
Increase the use of solar energy
Young PAP held a Focus Group Discussion last month with 16 climate activists and drafted 24 recommendations. This included incentivising solar energy, which is the most viable clean energy source in Singapore.
In Nee Soon, 64% of the electricity for municipal fittings is from solar energy. We should all move towards being fully solar powered.
Will MEWR provide incentives to encourage solar deployment on rooftops and also provide consumers with rebates for electricity plans that use solar energy?
Can MEWR also deploy more floating solar panels at our reservoirs?
Increase the carbon tax
Climate change is an existential threat. I’m glad we have introduced the Carbon Tax to fight climate change.
However, the current $5 per tonne carbon tax rate is too low. The timeline for reviewing the rate is also too long. The Ministry plans to review the tax only by 2023 and increase it to only $10 to $15 by 2030.
The minimum rate required by 2020 to reach the Paris Agreement temperature target is estimated at $54.
Young PAP and climate activists hope we bring forward the 2023 deadline for the review, and increase the rate to more than $15 per tonne.
Be more transparent on carbon emissions data
MEWR has said it will not disclose the carbon tax contributions of companies because the tax was meant only as a price signal. But a tool can have multiple uses.
Releasing emissions data by company and facility is not a new idea. The EU publishes the emissions of 15,000 facilities. The UK requires its 2,000 listed companies to declare their emissions.
The German Institute of Economic Research has found that such company-level disclosures work, reducing emissions by 17% permanently.
What I’m proposing is a carefully targeted measure. We publish only the data of those that pay the tax. This means only the highest emitters will face pressure. It also means they can stop being published by cutting their emissions. A carrot and a stick.
MEWR says the Carbon Pricing Act does not allow release of the data. If that’s true, we can amend the Act.
The fight against climate change should be built on transparency. Young PAP and climate activists both agree. Will MEWR study the idea of releasing emissions data of taxable facilities and companies?
Green our private passenger car and light commercial vehicle fleet
It’s positive news that we have committed to having a fleet of local public buses that runs on cleaner energy by 2040. It is also good news that we intend to phase out internal combustion engines (ICE) and have vehicles run on cleaner energy by 2040.
But this will take time as we need to expand the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
In the meantime, we can steer Singapore towards an environmentally-friendly car society by improving the Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES). Currently, a hybrid car costs more, a lot more. Will the Ministry consider offering higher rebates under the current VES and increasing surcharges for vehicles with higher emissions?
I understand we are not in the business of making cars cheaper but we are in the business of protecting our environment. We can do this by urging people and steering them towards purchasing hybrid cars in the next 10 years again before the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles is ready.
It is also good news that we will be extending the VES to light commercial vehicles. Can MEWR provide more details about this?
Ban the use of hydrofluorocarbons
Hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs, commonly used in refrigerators and air-conditioners, are greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
NEA has put in place licensing controls for the import, export, and manufacture of 18 types of HFCs which took effect from 1 January 2019.
However, Singapore has not yet ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol which requires Parties to phase-down the production and consumption of HFCs.
Can the Ministry share whether Singapore will ratify the Kigali Amendment and share its plans to further reduce the use and emission of HFCs?
Report public service electricity, paper, travel and water usage
Temasek has taken a strong lead in tackling climate change and is urging everyone to join them.
As Mdm Ho Ching said a few months ago, “Some businesses have already planned for 100% renewable energy before or by 2050. Others are setting yearly goals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. For those of us who have not started, I propose that we take a simple first step, to report our electricity and transport usage by next financial year. This is very simple, whether you are big or small, it’s a very simple step to take. It’s a proxy for our indirect emissions. Once we track and measure, as all businesses know, we can start to scope our solutions to reduce emissions or reduce waste.”
Can each Ministry follow Temasek and take the very simple step of reporting its electricity, paper, travel and water usage?
Can the public service also follow Temasek and pledge to go carbon neutral by this year and like Temasek ensure that “Sustainability is not just one of our roles. It is at the core of everything we do.”
Ban the use of disposables at public service events
In Nee Soon East, we have launched our Zero Waste Masterplan. We saved 39,792 disposables (single-use plates, forks, spoons, bowls, cups) since the launch of our Masterplan in April last year. We no longer use disposables at Nee Soon East CC events. This year, we will expand this to all Nee Soon East RC events.
We saved so much. At the same it was shocking to me that we would have used so much in less than a year. If we can save so much in Nee Soon East, imagine how much we can save if more join us on this Say Yes to Waste Less Journey. I know that MEWR is already doing this. Will the entire public service commit to end the use of all disposables at all public service events?
Expand Project Wolbachia
Nee Soon East residents have benefitted from Project Wolbachia and it has led to a 90% drop in the mosquito population in Nee Soon East. It’s good news, but many residents still have concerns about this project.
Many ask me why we are releasing mosquitoes that will bite them. I tell them we are only releasing male mosquitoes and “Males don’t bite”.
The next concern is that the males will attract the females who will then bite them. I tell them don’t worry, it’s the males who look for the females.
Can MEWR share how we will be increasing awareness about Project Wolbachia and also whether there are further plans to expand this to other parts of Singapore so more people can benefit from it?
Introduce a Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
Food waste is a serious and growing problem. In 2018, 763,000 tonnes of food was wasted in Singapore, a 30% increase compared to 10 years ago.
At the same time, some Singaporeans struggle to have three meals a day.
Both problems can be alleviated if we introduce a Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. This piece of legislation would help encourage companies and organisations to donate healthy food that would otherwise go to waste. It will help both the environment and our people.
Will MEWR support a Private Member’s Bill for a Good Samaritan Food Donation Act?
Introduce a single-use bag charge
In response to Fairprice’s trial of reducing the use of plastic bags by charging customers 10 or 20 cents per transaction, PM said: “It is a sensible approach: to make people conscious of the plastic bags they use, but not to ban plastic bags altogether. Using fewer plastic bags alone will not solve climate change or save the earth, but every bit counts. And making us conscious of our habits, and consider better alternatives, has value in itself.”
I agree with PM. I’ve been calling for a plastic bag charge since 2018. Countries around the world have introduced a plastic bag charge, and it works. In England, there was a 90% reduction. It was estimated that every person was using 10 bags in the most recent year, compared with 140 bags in 2014 before the charge was introduced.
For a start and similar to England, will MEWR consider introducing a single-use bag charge and make it mandatory for large retailers and optional for smaller businesses and waive the charge for single-use bags for fresh food and meat items? This is for all single-use bags, not just plastic bags.