Study Session #1 – UNFCCC 101: Paris Agreement and its relevance to Malaysia

Our 1st Study Session of the year was held by En. Ridzwan from MEWA. It was a fruitful session indeed and some of the members have shared their feedback as a short summary of 2-3 paragraphs on what they have gained during the Study Session. 

En Ridzwan’s session was very comprehensive in the sense that there was a detailed exploration on the history and mechanism of the UNFCCC and PA. Not only that, he also touched on how Malaysia’s Climate Change Policies might look like post-2020, which to me, was the most important takeaway during his session. With the restructuring of MESTECC to MOSTI, as well as the confusion that came along with it, I thought that it was imperative that we were informed of what the current Ministry had planned in terms of climate change and environmental policies. 

En Ridzwan highlighted that to support the implementation of Malaysia’s NDCs, Rancangan Malaysia Ke-12 (RMK12) and Rancangan Malaysia Ke-13 (RMK13) would be crucial. RMK12 is meant to be implemented from the year 2021-2025 and would include items such as: the Development of the National Climate Change Act, the National Adaptation Plan, Enhancing Mitigation Modeling and Climate Change Projection, and, Enhancing Capacity and Technical Experts on Climate Change. Personally, I am excited by the prospect of Malaysia having its own National Adaptation Plan as it is important for us to plan and anticipate for future weather events that will affect the livelihoods of our people.

– By Alyaa

MYD’s first study session with En. Ridzwan was extremely fruitful. He helped us understand the UNFCCC’s structure and negotiation process by simplifying the technicalities. It was very appropriate for those who are just beginning to understand the international climate negotiations. The session started off with the basic structure, followed by the very significant timeline of the climate negotiations; from the Kyoto Protocol and all its amendments, to the Paris Agreement right up to the future negotiations (SBs-52 Bonn until COP 29 and beyond). 

Furthermore, the session not only taught us how the process works, but also where it may be improved. We now understand the major points of the Paris Agreement which needs to be seriously considered, namely implementation plans for Article 6 and a common time frame for the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). En. Ridzwan also shared several other important negotiations which need considerable attention such as Implementation of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture and financial support for loss & damage to name a couple. From this understanding, we as a youth climate organization which purpose is to advocate for climate policies can shift our focus to these pressing topics in order to attain maximum and relevant impact.

Towards the end of the session En. Ridzwan shed some light on the negotiations’ impact on Malaysia. Among the impacts, he presented Malaysia’s commitment as a country, which mainly required the procurement of significant documents on a timely basis such as the Biennial Transparency Report (BTR) and National Inventory Report (NIR), which needs to be produced every 2 years. Following this, he noted Malaysia’s limitations in producing these reports which include the lack of capabilities for gathering necessary data. Lastly, he shared Malaysia’s plans under RANCANGAN MALAYSIA KE-12 (RMK-12), (of which it should be noted are uncertain due to the change in government) for the next decade on climate change which includes the Development of National Climate Change Act among others. Knowing this, there is no better time to advocate for pressing issues to be adopted in Malaysia’s climate policy.

By Janak

I am extremely thankful that En Ridzwan has agreed to spend his weekend with us to share his experiences with climate negotiation and the importance of the soon to be fully enforced Paris Agreement. En Ridzwan’s session was informative but not too heavy. He managed to conduct it with a friendly tone and was very responsive to our questions. I found his sharing of the proposed Rancangan Malaysia Ke-12 (RMK-12) to be the most exciting. He explained how the National Climate Change Act development, enhancement on capacity, and the introduction of economic instruments are within the proposed enhancement for the upcoming RMK.

As someone who is relatively new to the topic of climate negotiations, En Ridzwan’s session managed to give me an extremely optimistic prospect to look forward to. It was very enlightening to hear him speak on how the Ministry has been heavily involved in climate negotiations. It may be disheartening to hear about how certain projects have been put on a temporary halt due to the transition of governments. However, hearing how the Ministry is being restructured with the possibility of an increase in the workforce goes to show that climate work is given weight by the current government. I look forward to watching the country progress towards a greener direction.

However, I was also extremely intrigued by the mention of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement which concerns the carbon credit trading market. The general idea is that countries who struggle to meet their Nationally Determined Contributions can purchase carbon credits from other countries to remain within their carbon emission reduction target. In exchange, the money paid can be used by the latter country to further improve infrastructure on reducing carbon emission. But the negotiation on this point has been unsuccessful for two consecutive years in the Conferences of Parties (COP) held respectively in Katowice and Madrid. Given the carbon market’s bad track record on human rights violations, it made me wonder about the feasibility of such a market. After all, the most affected by climate change are always the most oppressed community. A balance to it can be and should be found. 

– By Zhee Qi

The MYD Study Session with Mr Ridzwan was eye-opening. I learnt a lot about the origins of the Paris Agreement as a whole, as well as Malaysia’s future plans in line with the climate crisis.

A topic that certainly piqued my interest was the Internationally Transferable Mitigation Outcomes (ITMO) under Article 6. This voluntary multilateral trading system certainly seems like an upgrade from the Clean Development Mechanism implemented under the Kyoto Protocol. 

Mr Ridzwan suggested that Malaysia should switch to a service-based economy to be a high-income developing country. I disagree with his view. Switching to a tertiary economic structure would push the manufacturing burden to other countries. This would not reduce the global carbon demand.

A point Mr Ridzwan raised that is undeniable is the lack of manpower and resources in Malaysia. We need more experts and funding to support adaptation and mitigation measures at state and federal levels. However, as things stand, the National Climate Change Act in works seems promising. Let us see what the future holds for adaptation and mitigation in Malaysia.

– By Alka

Nobody doubts that Paris Agreements, its history, and implementations can be such a heavy topic at times. Studying its history and relevance to countries would be a huge task to do. But it is not the case on the first MYD Study Sessions of the year where En. Ridzwan of MEWA delivered a fun and engaging lecture about the topic. The way En.Ridzwan delivered the topic showed his vast experience and expertise on the topic.

From the session, I realized that climate negotiations are not all about saving the planet by keeping greenhouse gases emission low or keeping the world temperature well below 2℃. Economic agenda still plays a vital role in influencing nations’ take on the negotiations. I realized this when En. Ridzwan explained how carbon credit was a failure when the European Union established their own carbon credit market (EU Emissions Trading System), and how developed countries are reluctant to push the agenda because they think the agreements are not fair due to the developing countries mainly just “sit back and relax” without the obligations to put any financial nor technological commitments as En. Ridzwan explained it. I hope that in the near future cooperation between developed and developing countries can be improved and the gap between them narrowed. Time is against us.

It was refreshing when En. Ridzwan mentioned that Malaysia aims to become the leader in climate change mitigation and adaptation particularly in Southeast Asia. With the implementation of Rancangan Malaysia Ke-12 and Ke-13 (RMK12 and RMK13), we do not know what the future might hold for Malaysia and it’s climate change ambition, but things are optimistic. What could be a better time to advocate critical issues in Malaysia’s climate policy than now?

– By Naufal

Speaker Biography 

Name – Muhammad Ridzwan Ali

Professional career –  Administrative  Diplomatic Officer, Govt of Malaysia (10 years in service and counting).

Current position – Senior Assistance Secretary, Climate Change Policy & Negoiation Unit, Climate Change Division, KASA.

Years involved in Climate Change Policy &
 Negotiations – 7 years

Higher education – BSC (HONS) Conservation Biology, UMS (2008)