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Congress not keen on carbon tax

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star
Congress not keen on carbon tax
In a briefing on the sidelines of the Disaster and Climate Emergency Policy Forum on Thursday, House ways and means committee chair Rep. Joey Salceda said lawmakers in the Lower Chamber may likely be cold to the measure.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Lawmakers may not be inclined to pass any measure that will impose a carbon tax as this can make electricity more expensive even amid worsening impacts of climate change.

In a briefing on the sidelines of the Disaster and Climate Emergency Policy Forum on Thursday, House ways and means committee chair Rep. Joey Salceda said lawmakers in the Lower Chamber may likely be cold to the measure.

“That would be difficult to pass. Congress will not pass that,” Salceda said.

Last month, the Department of Finance (DOF) commenced the study on the viability of a carbon tax in a bid to both generate much-needed revenues and address environmental concerns.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said a carbon tax could be one of the measures that the administration may consider “if feasible.”

However, Salceda said that imposing a carbon tax would make electricity more expensive, especially with global prices of coal at $400 per metric ton.

“If I tax carbon now, I’m taxing 55 percent of the source of energy in this country. And that is a violation because the Philippines has the right to affordable energy,” Salceda said.

“In simple language, we have a right to coal. Actually, the Philippines has a right to coal. Developing countries like us should not be deprived of affordable electricity,” he said.

But Salceda also acknowledged that this is not a responsible thing to do, given the impacts of climate change. Thus, there is a need to shift to renewable energy for cheaper energy prices.

He said the country needs a surplus supply for renewable energy and this can be done by focusing on the renewable energy expansion program.

The government has been emphasizing the need to bring down the country’s dependence on energy imports by developing renewable energy and indigenous sources.

Data showed that only 29 percent of the country’s current energy mix comes from renewables. The Department of Energy (DOE) would like to bring it up to 35 percent by 2030 or to 50 percent by 2040, as outlined in the Renewable Energy Roadmap.

Even Climate Change Commission head Robert Borje has argued that the Philippines cannot just quit coal and shift to renewables, emphasizing the need for a just transition.

“We want to go through that process and we want the process to be accelerated,” Borje said.

Right now, the DOF is in the process of assessing the current situation in the country as well as the structure of the economy.

The study is expected to take a few months and next year would be more a reasonable time to complete it.

A tax on carbon emissions was part of the previous government’s fiscal consolidation and resource mobilization plan.

Under the plan, the proposed carbon tax may be implemented by 2025.

Global efforts to slap taxes on carbon remain small. Many countries, including the Philippines, have yet to ride on the carbon tax.

The Asia-Pacific is both highly exposed to climate risk and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, considering that the region is home to a majority of the world’s population and has been the main driver of global growth in decades.

But imposing a carbon tax may not always be the best and most preferred choice, considering each country’s circumstances, such as in the Philippines where power rates are among the costliest in the region.

The DOE itself had earlier said the Philippines was not ready for a carbon tax as this would make the country uncompetitive in terms of power rates.

DISASTER AND CLIMATE EMERGENCY

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