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Parliament declares climate change a global emergency

Parliament declares climate change a global emergency

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 02 Feb 2021
Author: Rei Kurohi

The private members' motion to accelerate and deepen Singapore's efforts against climate change was moved by six PAP MPs.

The Workers' Party (WP) has called on Parliament to declare a climate emergency, and for Singapore to take bolder action to combat climate change.

Speaking during yesterday's debate on a motion on climate change moved by People's Action Party (PAP) MPs, the WP's Mr Dennis Tan (Hougang) also called for civil society to be expressly included in the Government's climate change response.

The private member's motion to accelerate and deepen the Republic's efforts against climate change was moved by six PAP MPs - Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), Ms Cheryl Chan (East Coast GRC), Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC), Ms Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC), Ms Hany Soh (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) and Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC).

Near the end of the almost six-hour debate, Ms Chan proposed a further amendment to Mr Tan's first amendment, replacing the phrase "a climate emergency" with the declaration "that climate change is a global emergency and a threat to mankind", which Mr Tan accepted.

MPs then voted on and passed the amended motion, which 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."

In explaining his proposed changes, Mr Tan said declaring a climate emergency "will send a clear signal to Singaporeans and the world that our nation is committed to seriously addressing one of the most long-term threats we face in the 21st century".

"With major investments in adaptation strategies forthcoming and because the full force of climate change has not been felt by Singaporeans yet and may thus seem intangible today, it will be important to foster public buy-in and support for these efforts," said Mr Tan.

"Hence, before it is too late for the world to limit warming to 1.5 deg C and for us in Singapore to plan our adaptation strategies robustly, a crucial first step is to recognise climate change as the emergency that it is."

Other WP MPs who joined the debate raised other suggestions on how Singapore can do more to tackle climate change.

Mr Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC) said Singapore needs to set more ambitious targets for growing the proportion of renewable sources in its energy mix.

He noted that solar energy is expected to contribute only 3 per cent of Singapore's electricity needs, even if the country meets its solar deployment targets.

"Are we genuinely pushing the boundaries, or simply setting benchmarks we can easily hit?" he asked.

Mr Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) suggested moving forward the timeline for several programmes to rebuild Singapore's economy in the wake of Covid-19, such as the Government's plan to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040.

This could be brought forward to 2030, he said, noting that Norway is on track to do so by 2025 while Britain and Germany aim to do so by 2030.

And acknowledging a climate emergency recognises that it affects people unequally, said Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC).

"The effects of climate change would be borne disproportionately by those of lesser means - those with less resources to move house, to air-condition their homes, to filter their air and afford medical treatment," he said. "This is true globally, and within Singapore."

Associate Professor Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) noted some limitations of Singapore's carbon tax system, which was introduced in 2019.

He said the current rate of $5 a tonne and the projected rate of $10 to $15 a tonne by 2030 fall far below actual rates imposed elsewhere, citing an estimate by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development which puts the effective rate among 41 major economies at US$65 (S$87).

"A higher carbon tax, applied more broadly across the economy, will help usher in the necessary shifts by embedding the costs of carbon emissions directly into input prices," said Prof Lim.

On his call to include civil society in the motion, Mr Tan said academics, non-governmental organisations and activists have played and will continue to play a pivotal role in guiding Singapore's response to climate change.

He said: "They are surveyors of our ecosystems and stewards of our environment... It is due to their decades of commitment - not without significant pushback from the state in the past - that we have such areas as Sungei Buloh and Chek Jawa intact."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.


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