SDP and WP more ambitious than PAP about tackling climate change, says climate activists
Following a report on the Government’s climate policies, climate activists behind the local environmental initiative Greenwatch have released scorecards on the Workers’ Party (WP) and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on Monday (June 29) morning.
While both parties scored higher than the Government, with the WP scoring +14 and the SDP scoring +16 on a scale of between -90 and +90, the group pointed out that the parties similarly fell short of having a clear vision for a post-fossil fuel Singapore. However, Greenwatch organiser Mr Kristian-Marc Paul noted that “it is worth acknowledging the WP and the SDP’s efforts, given their comparatively small party size, capacity and amount of resources.”
Greenwatch is a non-partisan initiative by young organisers behind two ground-up environmental movements in Singapore. They are SG Climate Rally, which led Singapore’s first physical climate rally involving more than 1,700 people at Hong Lim Park last year; and Speak For Climate, which started as an initiative to increase the transparency and accessibility of public consultations related to climate change policy.
The scorecards are part of Greenwatch’s broader effort to make the climate crisis a defining issue in this year’s General Elections (GE). The group intends for the scorecard to be a useful framework for political parties to ensure that their proposed policies address the many dimensions of climate change. For voters, the group hopes that the scorecards will aid them in understanding where each party stands on climate-related issues, so that they may be better informed at the polls.
Each scorecard contains 30 questions across 11 categories, with each assessed on a scale of -3 to +3. A positive score means that the party has met Greenwatch’s asks to a certain degree; a negative score means that there are doubts surrounding the party’s commitments, or that the commitment will lead to more carbon emissions; while a score of “Not Applicable” (NA) means that the party has not mentioned any concrete policy in that category.
The group had previously awarded the Government an overall score of 8, stating that the Government has not “walked the talk” despite declaring climate change as an existential issue for Singapore. Although the Government scored relatively well for its public transport and adaptation policies, it was penalised with a score of -3 for its active expansion of the petrochemical industry — the worst score given across all categories.
With the announcement of GE 2020, the Greenwatch team has since converted the Government’s scorecard into the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) scorecard. The group observes that the party was brief on its climate plans in its manifesto and appears to be resting on the Government’s track record to show that it can be trusted with climate policies going forward.
In comparison, the WP performed marginally better than the PAP, drawing an overall score of +14. According to Greenwatch’s scorecard, the WP did well in the nature and transport categories because its Members of Parliament (MPs) have consistently pushed the incumbent to do better on issues such as conservation, public transport affordability and electric vehicle infrastructure.
But Greenwatch also highlighted the WP’s silence on Singapore’s petrochemical industry. “As the only opposition party in Parliament, the Workers’ Party needs to make clear its position on the future of fossil fuels in Singapore,” said Ms Estella Ho, a Greenwatch organiser. “Otherwise, their silence may be interpreted as an endorsement of the incumbent’s policies.”
The WP performed the worst in the category on carbon pricing, drawing a score of -2 for its support for the current carbon tax, which Greenwatch had previously called out as “clearly too low”. The current tax rate is set at S$5 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted for industrial facilities that emit over 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), with plans to increase it to between S$10 and S$15 per tonne.
Despite expressing uncertainty about the effectiveness of such a low carbon tax rate, the WP has not argued against it. Greenwatch also notes that the WP has not been clear about its solutions for progressive carbon tax relief.
Meanwhile, the group’s scorecard on the SDP pointed out that the party has shown “the political will to tackle environmental issues”. According to the report, the SDP has called for Singapore to reduce its economic dependence on the petrochemical industry and to rapidly increase its access to renewable energy.
However, the group notes that the SDP often fell short when it came to providing details of their proposal. For example, although the SDP said it would “significantly upgrade” Singapore’s pledge under the Paris Agreement, no specific target was given. The report also cautioned the SDP against linking concerns about population with climate change due to the xenophobic sentiments that it could provoke.
“We commend the SDP for being the only party to have published a dedicated and extensive policy paper on the climate crisis,” Greenwatch organiser Mr Luke Levy said. “The next step for the party is to develop a coherent plan to bring Singapore toward net zero emissions by 2050.”
Moreover, both the WP and SDP scored well in the collective action category as compared to the PAP. Greenwatch states that this is due to the significant contributions both parties have made to the “advancement of democratic rights and freedoms” in Singapore, in particular their support for ground-up initiatives, greater room for public discourse and making government-gathered data transparent to the public and civil society groups. The two groups have also championed the expansion of social welfare policies, which drew them relatively higher scores in the equity category.
In the lead up to Polling Day, the Greenwatch team will be updating each party’s scorecard as new climate commitments are made by candidates. The group will also be releasing reports on other parties in the coming days.
To engage voters on climate issues, Greenwatch has recently launched Neighbourhood Greenwatch, an online community for climate-concerned Singaporeans to connect voters of the same constituency. The group hopes that voters will use Neighbourhood Greenwatch as a platform to coordinate activities that push their candidates for ambitious climate commitments as the parties begin campaigning.
Neighbourhood Greenwatch has since received over 450 sign-ups, with the largest pools of registrants hailing from electoral districts such as Aljunied, Bishan-Toa Payoh, East Coast, Holland-Bukit Timah, Jurong, Marine Parade, Pasir Ris-Punggol, Sengkang and Tanjong Pagar.
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