Study Session #3 – How Climate-Sensitive are Malaysia’s Laws and Regulations?

Study Session #3 – How Climate-Sensitive are Malaysia’s Laws and Regulations?

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.”

 

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.

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

Written by: Janak Preet Kaur

 

The Need for a Green Economic Recovery

To date, the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to every continent except Antarctica. More than a global health crisis, the pandemic also represents a daunting socio-economic crisis that will leave deep, long lasting social, economic and political effects in every country worldwide. Governments around the world are taking unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the virus and support their economies which have been severely disrupted by the virus. While various economic recovery packages have been introduced, only a handful of decisions took into account measures that target post-carbon economic priorities. 

ASEAN is slow to go green

ASEAN countries adopted a regional agenda in 2015, known as the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, which sets out the path for an ASEAN community that is politically cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible and therefore has significant parallels with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Whilst advances have been made towards some Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia and the Pacific, the rate of progress is insufficient to meet any of the 17 SDGs by 2030. The Asian Development Bank estimates that ASEAN nations will need between USD2.8tn and USD3.1tn in infrastructure investment from 2016 to 2030, hence implying an annual average investment need of USD185bn to USD210bn. Since the launch of the ASEAN Green Bond Standards, ASEAN Social Bond Standards and ASEAN Sustainability Bond Standards in 2017 up to June 2020, a total of only USD 5.41bn in bonds have been issued under the standards from 4 member countries, with Malaysia in second in terms of bonds issued, at a total of USD1.43bn (52% Sustainability, 48% Green). The Philippines leads the pack at USD2.37bn (66% Green, 34% Sustainability) in green bonds.

The recent mobilization of fiscal and monetary measures among ASEAN Member States (AMS) to mitigate the economic impact are all national strategies in the midst of the negative effects of global trade tensions and the very real prospect of recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The stimulus packages introduced by the AMS entail several overarching key measures such as health systems, income support, taxes, leases, loans, and business upgrading. Despite the promising trend in fixing the economy, green stimulus packages are nowhere to be found in the region. While Malaysia’s own PENJANA package rightfully focuses on protecting jobs, FDI and SMEs, it could do with more green commitment. Scientists and researchers have been emphasizing this chance to start rebuilding the economy after COVID-19 in a greener direction. The capacity of Malaysia to deploy holistic stimulus packages portrays our capability to be the trailblazer for green packages in ASEAN.

Economic growth and green policies go together

Before getting into the details of a green economic recovery package, we must first address the elephant in the room. What about economic growth? For decades, it has been generally accepted that there is some sort of trade-off between economic growth and environmental sustainability. However, the idea that both economic growth and environmental sustainability can go hand in hand has been growing since the mid-2000s. There has been a recent study in the UK by Oxford University regarding the impact of a traditional COVID-19 economic recovery package compared to a ‘green’ economic recovery package, with results showing that a greener package can in fact be more beneficial to economic growth in regards to creating more jobs and a long term increase in cost savings. Furthermore, the discourse caused by the COVID-19 pandemic within economies of the world is the most opportune time to transition into a greener economic growth model.

Why would a greener package be better?

 

Firstly, let us address the misconception that green investments generate less returns. There is no clear evidence that green investments come at the expense of generating returns. In the IMF’s 2019 Global Financial Stability Report, researchers found that the performance of sustainable funds is comparable to that of conventional equity funds. The report estimates that more than 1,500 equity funds now have an “explicit sustainability mandate”, controlling nearly $600 billion in assets. However, this still only represents 2% of the total investment fund universe. Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), also known as the Oil Fund, was established in 1990 to invest the surplus revenues of the Norwegian petroleum sector. Owning over US$1 trillion in assets, it is the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. In 2019, GPFG committed to divest from firms that explore for oil and gas, leading to a £130m share price drop off several UK-listed firms.

With the cost of renewables coming down, it is also becoming increasingly attractive to invest in green tech through various financial structures. In fact, the supply and prices for renewables are more stable than for oil and gas, which recently traded at negative prices. Tesla’s stock price continues to skyrocket, while 2019 saw a total of 479 green bonds issued worldwide, up by a quarter compared to the previous year. Whether through equities, bonds, ETFs, or hedge funds, the demand for ESG investing is also on the rise. 

In fact, governments now have an even stronger incentive to invest green to mitigate climate change. While private investors only seek maximum returns, governments have the responsibility to ensure the welfare of its current and future citizens. There are wide-ranging catastrophic consequences to climate change, from the sinking of capital cities to extreme weather conditions that will wreak havoc on communities all over the world. Since governments are already being forced to inject economic stimulus to sustain economies through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they should be using this opportunity to target environmentally friendly policies. This will help slow the rate of climate change and lower our global carbon footprint. 

Malaysia can lead ASEAN in adopting more progressive green policies

 A common theme seen across green COVID-19 economic stimulus around the world is increased priority on renewable energy. Countries like Luxembourg, Norway, Lithuania and South Korea offered various forms of support for installations of renewable energy sources in households, industrial or public buildings. In Malaysia, ongoing initiatives and incentives in the renewable energy sector include feed-in tariff programme, extension of green investment tax allowance and green income tax exemption until 2023, Green Technology Financing Scheme 2.0 and competitive open tenders for large scale solar (LSS) plants. In fact, the ongoing fourth round of LSS bidding process – LSS@MenTARI – which offers up to 1,000 MWac represents the largest tender to date since the LSS programme commenced in 2016. The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA) expects LSS@MenTARI to generate 12,000 job opportunities as 1MW of solar can create 12 jobs. While the aforementioned measures contribute towards Malaysia’s aspiration of 20% renewable energy capacity mix by 2025, more comprehensive and ambitious plans need to be implemented in order to escalate the pace of renewable energy adoption in Malaysia’s energy mix which is still reliant on fossil fuels.

Another potential industry that Malaysia could delve into is the market for hybrid and electric-vehicles (EV). This industry is gaining traction fast, with a few countries such as Germany planning to upgrade their city infrastructure with charging stations to facilitate the shift to EVs, and include incentives for EVs in their COVID-19 stimulus package.The total sales for EV in Malaysia are far cry from the volume in the advanced market due to the exorbitant price tag and limited charging stations across the country. By incorporating policies for the EV industry in the stimulus package, large investment in advanced technologies could allow Malaysia to prioritise the development and manufacturing of EV and enhance the infrastructure and support for the vehicles. This will set precedent to the region and allow a green economy to flourish through the creation of green jobs.

To conclude, green policies and investments are the way forward in moving towards a resilient economy in a post-COVID world. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this is the most opportune time to rebuild Malaysia’s economy in a green direction. We strongly urge the government to incorporate environmental considerations in Malaysia’s next stimulus package, be it in response to COVID-19 or recession, creating a sustainable future for both Malaysia, and the world.

References

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC SDG PROGRESS REPORT (2019) UNESCAP. Available at: https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/Executive_Summary_Asia-Pacific_SDG_Progress_Report2019.pdf.

Building back better: Green COVID-19 recovery packages will boost economic growth and stop climate change (2020) University of Oxford. Available at: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2020-05-05-building-back-better-green-covid-19-recovery-packages-will-boost-economic-growth-and.

Davies, R. (2019) Norway’s $1tn wealth fund to divest from oil and gas exploration, The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/mar/08/norways-1tn-wealth-fund-to-divest-from-oil-and-gas-exploration.

Gek, S. K. (2020) Views on the PENJANA Stimulus Package, Deloitte. Available at: https://www2.deloitte.com/my/en/pages/tax/articles/penjana-stimulus-package.html.

Lakritz, T. (2019) These 11 sinking cities could disappear by 2100, World Economic Forum. Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/09/11-sinking-cities-that-could-soon-be-underwater/.

Meckling, J. and Allan, B. B. (2020) ‘The evolution of ideas in global climate policy’, Nature Climate Change, 10(5), pp. 434–438. doi: 10.1038/s41558-020-0739-7.

Meeting Asia’s Infrastructure Needs (2017) Asian Development Bank. Available at: https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/227496/special-report-infrastructure.pdf.

NST Business (2020) Malaysia can be electric car hub, New Straits Times. Available at: https://www.nst.com.my/business/2020/02/567302/malaysia-can-be-electric-car-hub.

ROADMAP FOR ASEAN SUSTAINABLE CAPITAL MARKETS (2020) ASEAN Capital Markets Forum. Available at: https://www.theacmf.org/images/downloads/pdf/ACMF_Roadmap_high.resolution.pdf.

Schulze, E. (2019) ‘Sustainable’ investors match the performance of regular investors, new IMF research finds, CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/10/imf-research-finds-esg-sustainable-investment-funds-dont-underperform.html.

Smith, E. (2020) The numbers suggest the green investing ‘mega trend’ is here to stay, CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/14/esg-investing-numbers-suggest-green-investing-mega-trend-is-here.html.

Wehrmann, B. and Wettengel, J. (2020) Germany gives energy transition mild boost with economic stimulus programme, Clean Energy Wire. Available at: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/germany-gives-energy-transition-some-extra-boost-economic-stimulus-programme.

Written by: Abdul Rahim Ismail, Chew Ai Hui, Justin Liew Jin Soong, Robin Goon Wooi Yeang

Study Session #2 – Climate Mitigation and Adaptation in Malaysia

Study Session #2 – Climate Mitigation and Adaptation in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, 27 June 2020 – The Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) organised its second study session this year on 14 June 2020, discussing climate mitigation and adaptation in Malaysia. To deepen the members’ understanding on the topic, MYD invited Professor Dr Joy Jacqueline Pereira, Principal Fellow at the Southeast Asia Disaster Prevention Research Initiative of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (SEADPRI-UKM) to share her knowledge and expertise. She is also the Vice-Chair of Working Group II (on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report.

Professor Dr Joy Jacqueline Pereira, Principal Fellow at Southeast Asia Disaster Prevention Research Initiative of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (SEADPRI-UKM)

“Despite our increasing capacity to adapt as technology advances, the risk of extreme outcomes is generally expected to increase more than we can adapt, and for some outcomes such as heat-related death, worsening poverty and crop failure, there is no adaptation to a 4 degree world.”

Prof. Joy started the  session by explaining the terminology used in climate change discussion and the importance of clearly defining it. For instance, she stressed that there are both natural and anthropogenic (originating from human activity) contributions to climate change, and that getting this right is crucial for negotiations, as there is an element of compensation involved. Only when climate change is also attributed to human activity, rather than natural variability alone, will this element of attribution  come into place. Terminology is also important because of the multidisciplinary nature of the IPCC; a standardized vocabulary ensures that everyone has the same understanding and can communicate accurately.

Going deeper into the issue, Prof. Joy explored the concepts of climate extremes and attribution of extreme events. While there is evidence that the extremes of some climate variables such as temperature have shifted as a result of human activity, the attribution of single extreme weather events to anthropogenic climate change remains challenging. This is an important gap to address since attribution is key in obtaining compensation for damages resulting from extreme events.

She then shared observations of past extreme events and the future projections of climate extremes in Asia and specifically Southeast Asia. One of the highlights from what Prof. Joy shared was that our potential for adaptation could in some cases decrease as global warming and climate change worsens. Despite our increasing capacity to adapt as technology advances, the risk of extreme outcomes is generally expected to increase more than we can adapt, and for some outcomes such as heat-related death, worsening poverty and crop failure, there is no adaptation to a 4 degree world. This brings about a sense of urgency for mitigation and adaptation, as the longer we delay, the lesser is our ability to adapt.

Mitigation and Adaptation in the Local Context

Furthermore Prof. Joy highlighted that the majority of disasters that affect Southeast Asia are climate-driven, such as floods, landslides, storms and drought. According to the Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies, climate-related threats account for 30% of total projected gross domestic product (GDP) damage across cities in the region, where total GDP-at-risk can be as high as 5%. She also shared examples of climate-driven disasters in Malaysia and local initiatives in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) such as her experiences from her collaboration with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund (NUOF) on Kuala Lumpur’s susceptibility to landslides and her project with the Selangor State Government promoting social entrepreneurship in DRR. 

Challenges

Throughout the session, Prof. Joy shared a number of challenges for mitigation and adaptation efforts in Malaysia, such as the lack of peer-reviewed literature. Most of the  scientific work that originates from governmental bodies has not undergone a peer review process, which raises doubts on its reliability. For example, how would observers know that rainfall projections are reliable? How can one base policy decisions on them with confidence without any form of independent verification? In contrast, Indonesia in its Third National Communication on Climate Change, used climate models based on information drawn primarily from peer-reviewed scientific literature and conducted participatory action-oriented pilot studies which took into account local-level climate change impact analyses and inputs from a wide range of stakeholders.

Another challenge is the lack of transparency and willingness to make data accessible to the public. For example, in the KL  landslide susceptibility project, DBKL is not prepared to make the findings accessible to the public, apparently due to concerns that the community would not be able to handle the information effectively and that real estate prices could be adversely affected. Prof. Joy believes that open access would be beneficial for the public as the data could enable the community to be better prepared.

Moving Forward

Disaster risk reduction is going to be increasingly challenging with climate change, hence mitigation and adaptation efforts need to be context-specific, as each region has unique vulnerabilities and exposure to hazards. However, such efforts need to also be coherent with other aspects, as they are multidisciplinary and inevitably interlinked. Additionally, transparency and international collaboration are crucial for climate action. Everyone needs to collaborate to bring about cross-sectoral changes on an unprecedented scale, involving innovational, technological, and behavioural changes.

Towards the end of the session, the question and answer session brought in interactive discussions between Prof. Joy and MYD members. Prof. Joy challenged youth groups like MYD to be actively involved in this effort by building synergies and partnerships, communicating the sciences to a wider audience, and engaging with various stakeholders on climate action. Prof. Joy ended the session by reminding the members to be enablers; that is, to be proactive in  bringing about positive change and action.

The Malaysian Youth Delegation and Prof. Joy during the 2nd Study Session over Zoom.

Edited by: Fathi Rayyan

Applying Lessons from COVID-19 to Climate Policies

Introduction

The world is at a standstill due to the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic. In Malaysia, we are seeing small victories in a slow decrease of daily cases with a relatively high recovery rate of 80% (Ministry of Health, 2020) as businesses cautiously return to operation. However, it still remains that COVID-19 continues to claim thousands of lives, push healthcare infrastructures to breaking points and debilitate the global economy. As the crisis rages on, governments around the world are under scrutiny for their lack of national priority and adequate preparation, weak policies preceding the outbreak and lacklustre responses.

Unfortunately, a parallel can be drawn between the current situation and climate change issues. In this article, we will elaborate on how the Malaysian government can improve its climate change approach by examining the lessons learned from this devastating pandemic.

 

 

Effective Leadership Requires A Clear National Priority

Currently, the national priority of every country is to act quickly and decisively on managing the COVID-19 crisis. Regardless of their respective styles of government, we are seeing a rare but not impossible exercise of political will translating directly into policy and substantive action, albeit to varying degrees of success. Here, we provide a comparative analysis of different countries to explore the governing practices and political styles that could more effectively address a crisis and can be emulated in the context of climate policy.

Despite views that a strong centralised management is preferable in dealing with a pandemic, there have been more promising results when a delicate balance is struck between central federal power and regional state power. This is because sub-national authorities are able to finetune approaches according to the specific needs of their localities, learn lessons from successful neighboring states and even ward off potentially misguided decisions made by the federal government. For example, the model in Germany yielded favourable results as Angela Merkel’s strong presence in the central government still allowed for important decisions to be made by local governments. As such, it may be advisable for countries to encourage cooperation between regional and central governments on the issue of climate change to find viable, tailored and effective solutions.

Furthermore, available data has shown that whether a government is democratic or autocratic does not determine their success in handling a crisis. This can be seen in the juxtaposition of China’s success in keeping its number of new cases down in a relatively short time period and Iran’s inability to produce similar results. In addition, there have been varying degrees of success across the democratic countries, from South Korea and Germany to the United States and Italy.

Meanwhile, bureaucratic agility and evidence-based governance have proved to be essential in managing the pandemic. This is most evident in the relatively successful Taiwanese and South Korean models, where evidence-based procedures were proactively and preemptively constructed. These procedures featured a strong emphasis on data transparency, information sharing vis-à-vis rapid implementation of contact tracing technologies and rigorous briefings by the government. Malaysia should consider applying this scientific and technology-based approach to anticipate and handle a climate crisis.

Drawing a parallel to climate change, the Paris Agreement allows its signatories across the world a large margin of flexibility when providing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on fighting climate change. NDCs are decided by national governments based on their own capacities and priorities. Therefore, this is an opportunity for Malaysian government to prioritise and follow up the climate agenda with clear strategies and actionable solutions, just as they are doing during the COVID-19 disaster.

 

Preparation is Key

Generally, the countries that were prepared and equipped to provide large-scale healthcare services, with established institutions and comprehensive patient access systems, experienced a far less devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and were in a better position to respond effectively to the crisis. This can be seen in countries, such as Taiwan, South Korea, Germany and Malaysia, which have sufficient national capacity to accommodate their goals of universal healthcare. As climate change may be just as devastating a crisis as COVID-19, we ask whether Malaysia is equally prepared to tackle climate change in terms of policy and institutional establishment.

Malaysia experiences a multitude of climate change impacts within the dimensions of agriculture, forestry, biodiversity, water resources, coastal and marine resources, public health, infrastructure and housing and energy. It is crucial for Malaysia to take appropriate steps to prepare for a climate crisis. To bring this point closer to home, this article will present case studies on agriculture, food security and flooding in Malaysia to illustrate that the government needs more effort to face current and future climate issues.

Agriculture and Food Security

Covid-19 affects overarching stakeholders of the food supply value chain and it covers all the processes which connect farm production to the final consumer as countries have taken proactive measures such as home confinement, lockdown and borders’ closure. Farmers working across borders or had to travel further are restricted to go to work despite agriculture being deemed essential. Farmers are facing disruptions in sudden decline of demand as people’s spending capacity in this uncertainty period owing to reduced income and job losses. For example, the Cambodian Farmer Federation Association of Agriculture Producers (CFAP) mentioned that the farmers in Cambodia are facing several hiccups to market the local produce in the absence of collectors that act as the major means of transportation (World Farmers’ Organisation, 2020).

Food insecurity has severely threatened the livelihoods of 820 million or about one in every nine people around the world even before Covid-19 (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, 2019). In this pandemic scenario, without timely and effective policies, a slight shortage of food supply will trigger a massive impact to the vulnerable segments of population including migrants, the displaced, and those in conflict areas who are already grappling with hunger and other crises (FAO, 2020). The period between March and May is particularly fertile for various fruits and vegetables. Covid-19 has limited the amount of marketable produce and it leads to food wastage by leaving surplus perishable items dumped at farms (Food Forward, 2020).

Homogeneously, the agricultural sector in the worsened climate will jeopardize non-traditional food security. As the agricultural ecosystem heavily depends on good climate, the changes lead to the disruptions on agricultural climate elements especially on temperature, precipitation, and sunlight with further implication to the arable and hydrology sectors. In arable sectors, climate change affects the seasons, quality and shift of areas suitable for cultivation (Kim, 2014). Current literature proves that the expected reduction in crop yields because of climate change will impact the  agriculture sector significantly. Vaghefi et al.(2011) stated that RM162.53 million will be lost annually in the Malaysian rice industry with a 2°C increase in temperature. An analysis of 28 years of data shows that the increase of 1°C and 1mm in rainfall would decrease the yield of paddy between 43% and 61% (Ali and Ali, 2009). Even though Malaysia is a rapidly developing country, it has not yet reached self-sufficiency in the production of food to be able to sustain its population in the climate change worsened future (Alam, 2014).

In 2015, Malaysia’s Agriculture and Agro-Based Ministry recorded RM299 million loss in several states in the agricultural sector due to the damage of produce, infrastructure, and assets. Another post-flood study focusing on Kelantan in 2015 found agricultural losses incurred by farmers at 5% level of significance for almost all the reported crops, livestock, and agricultural assets (A. Jega, 2018).

Flooding in Malaysia

Climate change induces more severe and frequent weather events, such as monsoon rainfalls. Malaysia as a country with two monsoonal seasons might experience increasing frequency and magnitude of rain-induced flooding at river and coastal areas.. While the Integrated Shoreline Management Plan (ISMP) has been developed for coastal states to minimise flood risk and implement adaptation strategies, it has yet to be implemented throughout Malaysia(Mokhtar et al., 2019).

Malaysia’s economic activities are centred in dense areas which are vulnerable to flooding. Malaysia increasingly continues to build on vulnerable flood plains, without proper planning and flood risk assessments (Yeganeh and Sabri 2014). At this current point, the Malaysian government has to invest in building resilient communities and infrastructure. Strategies that have been recommended by scientists include the relocation of high-risk coastline cities, reducing paved areas, adding green roofs and using more absorptive pavement materials (Tan, 2020)

Furthermore, flooding is a threat to public health. A case study conducted in Malaysia also found a doubling of leptospirosis (a rare bacterial infection) cases post-flooding (Firdaus et al., 2018). With links to vector borne diseases, increased exposure to raw sewage and limited access to medical facilities, the World Health Organisation asserts that it is very likely that multiple epidemics will develop simultaneously during a flood crisis. Therefore, access to medical care systems in mitigating and adapting to floods must be considered.

In the best case scenarios of climate change impact, global access to clean water is predicted to drop to 22-24% due to flooding (Arnell and Lloyd-Hughes 2014). This will have a disproportionate impact on native and rural communities as their existing access to clean water, medical care and emergency services are already limited. As flooding events worldwide are expected to increase by 66% over the next 30 years due to climate change (Pregnolato, 2017), it is clear that the Malaysian government needs to address this impact of climate change. The National Adaptation Plan must consider risk planning, healthcare infrastructure, emergency services and resource mobilisation.

 

 

Robust Policies and Strategies Leads to Effective Crisis Response and Management 

The lack of climate policies as robust as health emergency policies in Malaysia

Reflecting on Malaysia’s experience with SARS, MERS, and H1N1, the effectiveness of our COVID-19 response must be credited to the healthcare emergency policies. The Ministry of Health devised a health emergency work plan (MySED II 2017-2021) and a Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre in 2007 to prepare and respond to pandemics like COVID-19. However, when it comes to climate change, Malaysia has yet to formulate any action plan for climate mitigation, adaptation, or disaster risk management in line with Paris Agreement guidelines.

 

Call for strengthening climate commitment

At the international level, Malaysia is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, SDG 2030 Agenda and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction(SFDRR). However, we have not yet seen the same level of ambition reflected in our international and local climate commitments. Malaysia’s Nationally Determined Contributions(NDCs) to the UNFCCC was unambitious to contribute to a limited global warming of 1.5°C. Moreover, the topic of climate change and disaster risk management was only recently and vaguely mentioned as part of the 11th Malaysia Plan mid-term review.

The priority for Malaysia as a developing economy requires evidence-based mitigation and adaptation policies. Mitigation refers to the reduction or stabilisation of current levels of greenhouse gases, while adaptation refers to the reduction of  vulnerabilities and building resilience in light of current or expected climate change impacts.

Moving forward, Malaysia needs to urgently begin preparing the country to face climate change. Firstly, the government needs to draft implementable policies and specific mitigation and adaptation plans. Secondly, it needs to produce a legal framework to enforce climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. As the Climate Change Centre has been established, this is a great opportunity for Malaysia to convene experts to address pertinent climate change issues. This is a crucial avenue for long-term planning and inter-ministerial coordination. Since 2018, the previous government had expressed commitment to draft a National Climate Change Act. We hope that the government continues on with this effort to address climate change.

Conclusion

In the long run, Malaysia will need to implement more comprehensive climate change mitigation policies to cut emission rates, increase the capacity of carbon sinks and reduce levels of greenhouse gases.

The lessons learned from the collective experience of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic should be utilized by governments of all levels in shaping their policies to deal with the already-present symptoms of a bigger climate crisis.


References

Alam, M. M. et al. (2016) ‘Climate change and food security of the Malaysian east coast poor: a path modeling approach’, Journal of Economic Studies, 43(3), pp. 458–474. doi: 10.1108/JES-10-2014-0169.

Ali, R. & Ali, A.K. 2009. Estimating the Prospective Impacts of Global Warming on Malaysian Agriculture. Proceeding of 2nd National Conference on Agro-Environment 2009, MARDI, Malaysia, Mar 24-26.

Arnell, N.W., Lloyd-Hughes, B. The global-scale impacts of climate change on water resources and flooding under new climate and socio-economic scenarios. Climatic Change 122, 127–140 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-013-0948-4

COVID-19 (Latest Updates) (2020) Ministry of Health Malaysia. Available at: https://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2019-ncov-wuhan (Accessed: 18 May 2020).

FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. (2019). The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019. Safeguarding against economic slowdowns and downturns. Rome: FAO.

FAO. (2020). Q&A: COVID-19 Pandemic – impact on food and agriculture. (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) Retrieved June 4, 2020, from http://www.fao.org/2019-ncov/q-and-a/impact-on-food-and-agriculture/en/

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Written by: Bryan Yong Bo Ou, Saef Wan, Zue Wei Leong, Robin Goon Wooi Yeang, Justin Liew Jin Soong, Tan Win Sim, Rahim Ismail

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

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)