KUALA LUMPUR, 18 July 2020 – The Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) organised its third study session this year on 11 July 2020, discussing climate mitigation and adaptation in Malaysia. The session was guided by Evelyn Teh, a Senior Researcher on Climate Change at the Third World Network (TWN). She assists the TWN team in producing climate talk reports for negotiators, think tanks and civil societies at the UNFCCC. She is a core team member in Malaysia’s 2020 NDC update task force, and a working group member on ‘Environment, Climate Change and Disaster Risk’ for the 12th Malaysian Plan (12MP). Evelyn has been trained in environmental policy and impact assessment, urbanisation and social studies.

Evelyn Teh Senior Researcher on Climate Change at the Third World Network (TWN), presenting her slides to the Malaysian Youth Delegation audience over Zoom

We must either prepare for the best case scenario from a more sustainable future, or be prepared to live with the worst case scenario from a business as usual future.”

Evelyn Teh, TWN

The session was kicked off by stating the importance of drastic measures to reduce GHG emissions which must be achieved within the next 12 years to keep temperatures within 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels. Evelyn noted that legislative measures become integral in restricting, regulating, and facilitating a holistic and climate-centric approach for economic and social development.

Evelyn goes on to highlight that It is important to understand how law works to help us connect the dots on why some laws are stuck, why are some laws so old, why are some laws existing but not implemented on the ground. This understanding can help us better tackle and call for implementation of climate change into Malaysian law. To name some important basics mentioned by Evelyn, Policy is not legally binding but can lead to new laws, an Act is a piece of legislation that is a basis for forming a Law and a Law is an implemented Act. Implementation of climate change policies depend on how mainstreamed climate change planning is across various ministries, including state departments and agencies. During the session, various acts and policies were analyzed and critiqued to identify potential areas of improvement. 

The Renewable Energy Act 2011 provides the establishment and implementation of a special tariff system to catalyze the generation of renewable energy and to provide for related matters. It was noted that it only identifies electricity as energy. Attention is not focused on recovery of usable heat as an important sustainable energy source for industrial, commercial and residential applications. This causes a missed opportunity to harness other forms of energy which can potentially decrease our GHG emissions.

The National Land Public Transport Master Plan was formulated to drive regulatory and industry reform for the transport sector with an aim to increase the public transport modal share for urban areas from 16% in 2011 to 40% in 2030. Currently taking into account every urban area, the public transport model share is not too good, for example in Penang it is only 3% .Despite these plans, Malaysia is still expanding the industry based on non-sustainable models. Last year alone the government spnet RM1.89 billion in fuel subsidies and private cars are affordable (average of 1.1 Million new registrations per year between 2010 – 2019). So imagine 1.1 Million new vehicles on the road every year – to manage this surge, the Malaysian solution was to build more roads, but it only paves way for exacerbating GHG emissions. 

Legislation for the agricultural sector in Malaysia is guided by the National Agro Food Policy (2011 – 2020) and the National Commodity Policy (2011 – 2020). Their sole purpose is to increase food production and export of industrial commodities. The concept of a self-sustaining index is non-existent in these policies. There is a dangerous imbalanced focus and investment on cash crops: Palm oil, cocoa, pepper, coffee, tea, various fruits including durian, and coconuts have caused extensive deforestation, monoculture and increased emissions from unsustainable farming practices driven by the need for high production. The policies’ heavy dependence on imported foods and lack of a holistic environmental view when it comes to expanding the sector is a worrying sign for Malaysia’s food security. 

The session also mentioned potential flaws in the industrial sector, highlighting the cement industry, construction and urban planning, waste management and the environmental quality assessments. In general, environmental accountability, emission standards and control is poorly regulated. Evelyn shared that the  Environmental Impact Assessment, managed by the Department of Environment or Environmental Quality Act, does not consider the carbon footprint and emissions impact of any assessed project. There are no provisions in the EQA or the EIA Guidelines where it makes a distinctive requirement for projects to mitigate its carbon footprint or place any emphasis on projects to have climate adaptive features. Furthermore, Methane is not considered as an air pollutant alongside nitrous oxides and sulphur oxides.

Evelyn ended the session by noting that addressing climate change is a highly complex, multifaceted, challenging attempt to undo business as usual but it is necessary. We must either prepare for the best case scenario from a more sustainable future, or be prepared to live with the worst case scenario from a business as usual future.

Some of the members from The Malaysian Youth Delegation and Evelyn Teh during the 3rd Study Session over Zoom.

Written by: Janak Preet Kaur