Climate tax eyed to cut greenhouse gas

Days before the celebration of Earth Day on April 22, the vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations on Sunday called on the leadership of the 17th Congress to help reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) footprint by passing a law imposing a “climate tax” on carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Nacionalista Party Rep. Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte Jr. of Camarines Sur said the Philippines should follow Singapore, which is set to become the first Southeast Asian country to implement decisive measures against climate change by charging S$10 to S$20 per ton of emission of CO2 and five other GHGs starting in 2019.

The lawmaker, citing reports, said Singapore Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said revenues from the tax would help fund industry measures to reduce GHG  emissions.

“We can follow Singapore’s lead while, at the same time, ensuring that our version of the carbon tax, or what I like to call ‘climate tax’, won’t raise production costs to levels that would imperil our global competitiveness,” he said.
Villafuerte is the author of House Bill (HB) 4939, or the Piso Para sa Kalikasan Act.

The bill seeks to impose a climate or carbon tax on electricity—equivalent to P1 per 1 kilogram of CO2 emission—on the monthly electricity bills of residential or household consumers.

The measure said consumers will be exempted from paying this proposed climate tax if their monthly consumption does not exceed 60 kilowatt-hours (kWh) each or if the electricity they consume comes from renewable- energy (RE) sources. Villafuerte said the country needs this climate tax to ensure that Philippine communities most vulnerable to climate change are equipped to fend off its disastrous effects.

He said the bill’s purpose is two-pronged: “It is a revenue-generating measure and, at the same time, a tool to help protect and preserve the environment.”

The lawmaker said Congress has more reason to act on HB 4939 now that the government has officially acceded to the Paris Agreement.

Villafuerte said the Philippines is now preparing to join other countries across the globe in celebrating Earth Day on April 22, which was made more significant this year with the timely signing by President Duterte of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, as well as the Senate’s concurrence with this landmark accord.

Meanwhile, the proposed “climate” or carbon tax is the first of
its kind in the Philippines, and is meant to help the country meet its commitment under the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations to undertake measures that would reduce GHG emissions by 70 percent.

He said the Philippines is “ground zero for climate disaster” and has been classified by the World Bank as one of the countries most vulnerable to natural disasters caused by climate change.

“Abrupt climate change is not only imminent; it is here. It is consequently necessary to make a significant contribution to the global effort to stabilize GHG concentrations in the atmosphere,” he added.

He said the country must “adopt aggressive measures” to address the crisis in GHG emissions, of which CO2 is one of the most dangerous.

Villafuerte said CO2 emissions from electricity and heat production have doubled in the Philippines from 25.83 percent of total fuel combustion in 1972 to 49.74 percent in 2013.

Under HB 4739, collections from the proposed climate tax shall be used exclusively for programs that: assist communities in adapting to climate change and managing/reducing disaster risks; improve the resiliency of critical infrastructure; protect environmental quality and wildlife; meet international commitments made by the Philippines to assist with climate-change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management; and other programs and/or commitments related to the foregoing purposes and necessary to attain the objectives of this act.

Villafuerte said a swift congressional approval of HB 4739 will send a loud and clear signal to the global community of the country’s strong commitment to international climate policy and the Congress’s affirmation of the people’s right to a balanced and healthy ecology, as well as the State’s paramount duty to safeguard such right for the present and future generations. He recalled that the Philippines and other countries most vulnerable to climate change have sought $100 billion in additional funding from global financial institutions to help protect themselves from the destructive effects of global warming, such as droughts, rising sea levels, devastating storms and other extreme weather events.