Singapore’s Budget 2017: How it impacts our environment

In Climate Change
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Singapore’s recent Budget 2017 unveiled a few pro-sustainability measures. Delving into these measures, we’ve broken them down for you from a conservation perspective and evaluated how effective these measures are in protecting our environment.

 

A FIRST STEP WITH CARBON TAX

Singapore has become the first country in Southeast Asia to impose a carbon tax on major emitters, as part of its commitment to the Paris Agreement. Targeted at major emitters, this tax will range from S$10 (US$7) – S$20 (US$14) per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emission (CO2e).

The environmental perspective:

We are living in a 3°C warming trajectory today, while the Paris Agreement is designed to limit global warming to 1.5°C. How far exactly will Singapore’s carbon tax take us?

According to IPCC and IEA, the global authorities on climate-related matters, the average carbon price that countries globally should impose by 2030, is US$80 – US$120 per tonne/CO2e! Only at these levels will the world be able to reach the goals of limiting the global temperature increase to 2°C. Even more efforts are needed to further reduce the warming to 1.5oC.

In addition, Singapore’s new carbon tax rates are still at the lower range compared to other developed countries. A recent report by World Bank outlines the following carbon tax rates across the world: Sweden (US$131/tCO2e), Switzerland (US$86/tCO2e), Norway (US$52/tCO2e), Denmark (US$26/tCO2e), France (US$25/tCO2e), Slovenia (US$19/tCO2e), Iceland (US$10/tCO2e) and Japan (US$3/tCO2e).

Price of existing carbon pricing initiative

Figure 1: World Bank (2016) “State and Trends of Carbon Pricing”.

Our take:

Getting carbon taxes right is key for countries towards meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement and motivating industries towards adopting cleaner options.

However, if we want to live in a 1.5°C world by 2030, a lot more has to be done by all countries – including Singapore. While introducing a carbon tax is a great move, we are only at the start.

 

WATER JUST BECAME MORE PRECIOUS

Young boy drinking from a water fountain outside in a park during the summer.
Young boy drinking from a water fountain outside in a park during the summer.

Singapore’s water tariffs are set to increase by about 30% by 2018, the first time in 17 years that water prices have been raised.

The environmental perspective:

It is worth noting that water prices have not increased in 17 years. And in the past 17 years, weather patterns and access to natural resources have changed dramatically due to global warming. An example is the uncertainty in water levels in Johor’s Linggiu Reservoir, which supplies half of Singapore’s water.

Taken from a global perspective, this water price hike merely reflects the realities of increasingly stressed water resources in a warmer world. IPCC has projected that for every degree of global warming, renewable water resources will decrease by at least 20% for an additional 7% of the global population. Currently, we are at 1°C above pre-industrial levels and already experiencing the impact. By 2025, it is estimated that half the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas.

Our take:

Having been buffered from most of the impacts of climate change to date, this sends a signal to the people of Singapore that global warming affects everyone, and we need to do our part to consume water resources wisely.

 

CLEANER AIR WITH GREEN VEHICLES

A new Vehicular Emissions Scheme will replace the Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS), which was implemented with the aim of encouraging use of vehicles with low carbon emissions. Starting from 2018, four more pollutants will be considered on top of carbon dioxide.

An electric vehicle at a recharging station on the street in Berkeley Square, London, UK.
An electric vehicle at a recharging station on the street in Berkeley Square, London, UK.

The environmental perspective:

Singapore’s GHG Emission Profile indicates that the transport sector is a significant source of emissions, accounting for 17% of Singapore’s annual emissions[1]. There is definitely room for us to do something about the vehicles we choose to drive!

The new scheme is a welcome move as it not only helps to reduce carbon emissions, but other pollutants as well. This ensures clean air and a healthier environmental overall in Singapore, and even reduces the urban heat island (UHI) effect.

Our take:

As the world transitions from reliance on pollutive fossil fuels, transport options such as Electric Vehicle (EVs) or hybrid cars are becoming more popular. It would be encouraging if Singapore can introduce climate-friendly vehicular policies to nudge people towards purchasing electric or hybrid vehicles rather than the traditional, highly-pollutive ones.

[1] National Climate Change Secretariat, 2016

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