Response to op-ed article on Today Online
Updated: Aug 15, 2021
We refer to the op-ed titled “In calling for action on climate crisis, it is not enough to say ‘listen to the science’,” published on Today Online (25th November 2019).
SG Climate Rally acknowledges the need for climate movements to listen to broader social concerns. As part of these efforts, we published a statement last week in support of the food delivery workers affected by the PMD ban. In our statement, we called for greater consultation with affected groups in our policymaking process, and for improved efforts in building the infrastructure for a car-lite society.
We recognise that climate policies, especially the carbon tax, have the potential to raise the living costs for ordinary citizens. Recent history has shown that poorly planned policies have sparked social unrest. In France, for example, President Macron’s decision to raise the tax on diesel pushed the living expenses for lower income groups beyond what they could afford, leading to the nationwide yellow vest protests. These protests underscore the need for governments to be accountable to their people and for questions of inequality to be considered when formulating policies.
However, we take issue with the author’s assertion that we have failed to pay attention to broader societal concerns. In particular, the author references our call to increase Singapore’s carbon tax beyond the current $5-per-ton rate, and suggests that “it is unclear whether these young protesters are prepared to bear the costs of these decisions”.
We advocate a higher carbon tax on the basis that it better accounts for the environmental costs of emitting greenhouse gases, which the current rate does not adequately reflect. With a higher carbon tax, polluters would be more incentivised to reduce their emissions. The reasoning behind the carbon tax is that polluters should pay, and not, as the author alleges with some condescension, “our parents”.
We are aware that carbon taxes have tended to be passed on to households and consumers. Electricity retailers such as Geneco have made clear that they intend to do so. However, it is not a given that these increased costs will necessarily make the average or lower income citizens worse off. Today, Singapore’s industries are responsible for 60% of our total emissions, most of which originate from the oil and gas sector. The majority of carbon tax revenues will come from them. With the right policies, the tax revenues generated can be redistributed to ordinary citizens in an equitable manner, and can also be used to fund green initiatives.
Our Calls to Action have been crafted to embrace the broader societal concerns which the author has raised. They are reflected in a range of measures, including ensuring a just transition for workers in the oil and gas industry, and holding regular consultations with citizens from all groups in society. By reducing our Calls to Action to a simple increase in Singapore’s carbon tax, the author paints a selective and misleading picture of SG Climate Rally's cause.
Our full Calls to Action are available here: tinyurl.com/SGCRCTA. If you have any queries, feedback, or suggestions, please feel free to contact us.
For a better world, SG Climate Rally