COS Cuts for Ministry of Environment and Water Resources
Whole of Government Approach to YOCA
Minister Masagos declared 2018 the Year of Climate Action. The public was invited to “pledge now” to fight climate change. Schools and organisations were invited to join in. Green groups were invited to work alongside the government to organise events and activities to raise awareness on climate change. This represented a strong effort by the Ministry to meet Singapore’s Paris commitments.
However, recently due to public feedback I raised a Parliamentary Question on the MTI’s decision on a coal gasification plant on Jurong Island. The public felt that the government does not seem coordinated on our climate change commitments.
As such, I would like to ask to what extent the Year of Climate Action is a Whole-of-Government initiative with alignment from the other Ministries? Has MEWR set certain targets to be fulfilled by each Ministry?
Furthermore, how are the various actions and initiatives under Year of Climate Action measured in terms of impacts?
I would like to assure Mr Louis Ng that the Government is coordinated in tackling climate change. As climate change cuts across various disciplines, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change chaired by DPM Teo, and supported by the National Climate Change Secretariat ensures Whole-of Government coordination. All public sector agencies are committed to taking climate action, in 2018 and beyond. Last year, we launched the Public Sector Sustainability Plan, setting out longer-term targets to save electricity and water, and green our buildings. We will do more by expanding our targets to include waste reduction and solar energy adoption.
Implementation of the Carbon Tax
I am heartened by the Ministry’s bold action to implement the carbon tax, encouraging companies to consider environmental – and not just financial – costs in their business decisions. The carbon tax is undoubtedly a milestone and important pillar in our climate action.
Since its announcement, details on the carbon tax may not be fully understood by the public. As such, can the Ministry share how the carbon tax will be implemented?
Our carbon tax price of $5 per tonne is significantly lower than that of other legislations. I understand our pro-business stance but this may not accurately reflect the price paid by the environment. Could the Ministry share how they settled on that figure?
Furthermore, how did the Ministry opt for a Fixed Price Credit Based system instead of a simple tax or an Emission Trading System?
Mr Louis Ng asked how we decided on the starting tax rate of $5 per tonne, which we intend to raise it to $10 to $15 by 2030. We aim to strike a balance between providing sufficient incentive for companies and Singaporeans to reduce their carbon emissions, and giving them enough time to adjust. Our carbon tax will be applied uniformly without exemptions. Other overseas jurisdictions may have significant exemptions for particular sectors. This would lower the effective tax rate. Hence, our starting tax rate cannot be directly compared with those in other jurisdictions.
The carbon tax will apply to larger direct emitters – companies emitting 25 kilo-tonnes or more of GHG emissions a year. Around 40 companies which account for about 80% of Singapore’s GHG emissions will be affected.
We will introduce a fixed-price credits-based (FPCB) system where companies will purchase and surrender credits to pay the carbon tax. The FPCB system is akin to a carbon tax, but allows us and companies to build capability to operate in a linked market with other carbon pricing jurisdictions if we decide to do so.
Coping with a Low-Carbon Economy
With the impending implementation of the Carbon Tax and our move towards a low-carbon economy, companies may be concerned about difficulties in making the transition and increased business costs.
The myth that a sustainable development is bad for a country’s economy should be dispelled. It is estimated that meeting our climate change targets would generate additional investments worth $40 trillion globally by 2050. Decoupling emissions from growth provides a golden opportunity to stimulate economic growth by boosting research and innovation, and creating new jobs. In any case, all of us including businesses have a moral duty to safeguard the environment for the benefit of current and future generations.
To ensure the benefits of a low-carbon economy can be fully reaped at all levels, how is the government intending to help companies in Singapore prepare for the carbon tax and transition towards sustainable development?
Ms Cheng Li Hui asked about the tax revenue while Mr Louis Ng asked about Government’s support measures. The Minister for Finance has said he is prepared to spend more than what we collect in carbon tax in the first five years to support worthwhile projects. We will share more details later.
I have previously raised the issue of the safe recycling or disposal of our growing volume of e-waste.
I understand that 60,000 tonnes of e-waste is generated in Singapore each year and this number will only rise in coming years. This is a problem that needs to be addressed urgently as e-waste pose both health and environmental problems.
I am glad that companies have stepped forward to promote the recycling of e-waste but that is clearly not going to solve the problem.
The Ministry mentioned last year that it is looking into a national e-waste management system. Can the Ministry provide an update on the plans to manage e-waste and whether it can urgently establish a programme to ensure that e-waste is recycled or disposed off safely.
MEWR will implement a mandatory e-waste management system by 2021 to ensure that electrical and electronic products are disposed of in an environmentally friendly way, and allow for safe recovery of useful resources. For a start, this system will cover 5 main categories of products, namely ICT equipment like mobile phones and computers, solar panels, batteries, lamps, and certain large household appliances like refrigerators, air-conditioners, washing machines and dryers. Together, these products make up close to 90% of e-waste in Singapore and generally pose more harm to the environment if not properly treated.
Our e-waste management system will adopt the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach, which is also implemented in other countries like Sweden and South Korea. NEA will set collection targets for manufacturers and importers to take back a proportion of the products they put on the market. They will be required to work with NEA-licensed Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs), which will organise the collection, transport and proper treatment of e-waste, and help the manufacturers and importers achieve their targets.
For example, PROs will work with large electrical and electronic retailers to set up in-store e-waste collection points. All retailers must also provide free one-for-one take-back service for their products. Dr Chia asked about recycling larger e-waste items. Apart from the take-back service provided by retailers, Town Councils also provide bulky waste disposal services, which will ensure collected e-waste is properly recycled.
We will set collection targets in consultation with the industry and review them before implementing a penalty framework eventually. The EU started with an overall collection target of 4kg per capita in 2003. After 13 years, the target reached 45% of all electronic products sold on market by weight. We will study the practices in other countries to design a cost-effective system. By aggregating e-waste and enabling more efficient collection and processing, there will be greater value captured from e-waste, which is one of the more valuable waste streams. This will help offset the cost of operating the e-waste system.
We will consult relevant stakeholders to work out legislation and implementation details.
Some companies have already taken the initiative to implement voluntary e-waste management programmes. For instance, StarHub runs the RENEW programme in partnership with DHL and TES-AMM. I am pleased to see retailers like Courts, Gain City and Harvey Norman coming on board the RENEW programme. There will soon be e-waste collection bins in some of their outlets.
The mandatory e-waste system will help both the environment and the economy. EPR systems have generated new business opportunities and jobs in the e-waste management and recycling industries in other countries. In France, more than 3,000 e-waste recycling jobs were created since EPR was implemented in 2005. We will integrate and support smaller industry players so they can benefit from our national system, including karang guni men who provide collection services.