It was the 26th of July 2018 and the Malaysian Youth Delegation met YB Yeo Bee Yin, the Minister for Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) in the Parliament. To know more about how the meeting fared, the members of MYD18 share their reflections.
Were we excited before the meeting?
But let’s hear from our members if they felt the same post-meet!
Can we really relate to the Paris Agreement?
Tan Cai May
Today the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) met with Yang Berhormat Yeo Bee Yin, the Minister of the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change. It was a great step forwards for the Malaysian Youth Delegation, but I found myself with more questions coming out from the meeting. At the core of it all, I felt the urgent need to revisit the purpose of international treaties, conventions, agreements, protocols and all of that, what is it that makes the collection of seemingly vague plans work in a complex world?
As an NGO, MYD’s main purpose is to provide a platform for Malaysian youth to talk about climate action within the context of UNFCCC negotiations and our country’s policy implementation process. The meeting with YB Yeo made me feel small, in the context of being a member of a youth-led organization, trying to figure out the complexities and realities behind taking climate action in the Malaysian society. In terms of UNFCCC’s efforts to facilitate measures taken against climate change, YB Yeo brought up the argument that real efforts of climate mitigation and adaptation take place on the grassroots level. Whatever was going on the international arena has always been a little too disconnected from what is happening on the ground. As she talked about Malaysia’s Paris Agreement ambitious commitments (and how she perceived that Malaysia’s monitoring numbers did not seem to add up), I saw the gap between the international pressure to deliver and actually making concrete progress. “There are only three ways we can go about this” she said. “It’s business as usual where we are meeting it but just on the surface (with) no hard figures, or we don’t hit our targets at all. Or we could have really aggressive actions.” She paused. “I have not decided which route we should take yet, we really need the data.”
She has a point. The international community are still gearing their way towards hammering down the agreement details; there is a need to progress on solid mechanisms in place for collaboration, technological transfer and capacity building in negotiations, and improve on the accountability beyond NDCs and self-reporting. Under the international climate regime, most countries have a realist outlook and they are not wrong for having so. YB Yeo mentioned that when interest groups demand for immediate climate action (i.e. decreasing fuel subsidies for lack of a better example), we do not go into the details of how much external benefits can be reaped in the long run as opposed to the temporary social costs that the rakyat has to bear. Politics come into play when pursuing a pro-climate action agenda. But how much should we risk in long term climate mitigation benefits for political stability?
It’s not so much of the realist argument for Malaysia in the international context, because we are not affected by mutual distrust. We (aka the Malaysian state) are not so much neo-mercantilist as we are protective of the rakyat internally. However, I believe that participating in the UNFCCC constituency has greater benefits beyond the high-level political handshaking. Liberal-institutionalist approach by means of co-operation have worked in the past to create effective environmental changes. Flashing back to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, the international community agreed to banning ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), motivated by the common desire for ecological protection. The move practically put a stop to the destruction of the ozone layer (and prevented subsequent UV-related disasters). The protocol would not have come into effect without large-scale collaboration to phase out CFCs and exchanged technological knowledge through shared management plans and the development of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). In fact, its cooperative legacy has given enough confidence that the international community are talking about phasing out HFCs under the proposed Kigali Amendment in effort to mitigate climate change.
However, I have to note that the stakes are different for the Paris Agreements goals of keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius by 2050. The Paris Agreements have started a new phase of the international climate regime, because the agreements depend on co-accountability, in a “naming and shaming” practice, strongly embedded in the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR). The new regime is birthed under the collective recognition of the importance of addressing climate change for a sustainable future, where the 179 parties have agreed to do something about it. Constructivism talks about shifting identities and interests based upon interactions with one another, and calling for and implementing collective action. But the Paris Agreements are still in midst of establishing collective action. It is challenging to establish trust on the international scale for cooperation, but I think it is even more onerous to have states implement and see through their commitments. I have faith that YB Yeo will be able to bridge the gap between negotiations on the international scale and relate back down to what she can deliver within the capacities of her Ministry. She stressed that for now, establishing the correct database will be the focus of her Ministry’s climate action plan. I hope to see that there will be action beyond measuring Malaysia’s carbon emissions, and proceed to the stage of translating international calls to action within Malaysia
Is climate change not a priority?
Nur Syahirah Khanum
#MalaysiaBaru is committed to making the people happy but not necessarily doing the right thing.
Malaysia’s chances to natural disaster such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions are not as high as those of our neighbours such as the Philippines and Indonesia. Regardless, we have to realise that our country’s coastline is prone to massive floods especially during the monsoon season. Considering these notorious floods Malaysia experiences every year and the hotter-than-usual days, these are the effects of climate change.
In regards, to the Paris agreement, Malaysia has defined their own contribution to address the climate change issue and according to our Nationally Determined Contribution, we are committed to reduce 45% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity by 2030. Under the new administration, this commitment might be altered in the near future with heightened ambition.
Recently, with the MYD team, I had the chance to meet the minister of Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment (MESTECC) Yeo Bee Yin. It was an enlightening meeting as I am starting to notice a pattern that emerged from various ministries from my brief exposure to the #MalaysiaBaru. Basically, the new cabinet is going through an expansive to-do list to reset their priorities. One thing for sure, their priority is to make the rakyat happy by fulfilling their basic needs. But of course, Malaysia wants more and as a progressing nation, we should have a set of aspirations that could direct us to progress.
As a youth advocating for climate change, it is slightly disheartening because the advocacy of climate change seems to not be a priority by the ministry. Democracy strives on participation of the public sphere, but participation will not happen when people are not aware nor bothered to do so. One way to make everyone learn that they are affected by climate change is to advocate for it as a government through introduction of necessary policies such as the carbon tax, or energy subsidy.
The lack of committed support among key decision makers on this particular issue is detrimental to the health of our planet and the lives of Malaysian citizens. Certainly, climate change is a whole-planet issue that is a burden to take on the shoulder. However, it can be broken down and addressed part by part and directed towards the bigger illustration of climate change to create an understanding and change of behaviour. After all, that is what the Paris pact attempts, to change behaviour through norm-building and consensus.
Saying “the government has many other priorities, and we have to choose carefully to allocate funds” will not create the norm that will drive behaviour change. In fact, it will train ourselves to think of it as the least problematic issue on the “priority list” and the behaviour change that will emerge within Malaysians is ignorance. We can learn from Bhutan with how they advocated for climate change through the project “Bhutan for Life”. Now, they are a carbon negative country. Yes, it does not directly make a huge dent in the efforts of mitigating climate change by reducing emissions in the atmosphere, however, it gives an avenue for nations to exemplify and explore possibilities to mitigate climate change.
Malaysia intends to be an economically robust nation with striving industries. However, without the proper execution, we will neglect the sustainability of these industries as well as the health of the planet. Good for Malaysia that we have a minister that is data and impact driven. At the meeting, Yeo Bee Yin reaffirmed that, in regards to climate change, she is committed to ensure legible mechanism of carbon accounting which will yield economic benefits for Malaysia. Currently she pressed that we do not have sufficient data to create a need for allocation of funds that will create impact. There are still a lot of studies and reviews that needs to be done to recognise the talent and the technology that will create a sustainable ecosystem. In her words, we will have to wait for her map to know the direction of Malaysia in the field of energy, science, technology, climate change and the environment.
It is more than just climate change
Liyana binti Yamin
Meeting the newly appointed Minister of Environment, Science and technology and Climate Change, YB Yeo Bee Yin today left me in a state of stillness thinking that I have to impact more people nevertheless and not be comfortable with the current state. My previous perspective has always revolved on following what the typical environmentalist would advocate for – which is for the sake of environment only. It is undeniable that humans have destroyed the environment negligently, but solving climate change will not happen overnight just because we say “Save the environment!” It is more than just climate change. We have people in the equation.
Now, knowing that YB Yeo is a realist, data driven kind of person with a back to the grassroot focus, I realised that grassroot solutions is also part of the important measure to be taken to educate people about climate agenda. Some with an English education background may be privileged to learn about climate change, but people from the rural areas may not have the same exposure as the urban areas. With the right level of investments and support, everyone should play a role in being inclusive of rural communities. It should be more than English to impact the grassroots. Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese language or Tamil should have been in the training series said YB.
Apart from that, another key point given by YB Yeo is to evaluate an environmental action. Do not simply ban something we dislike without proposing an alternative and think about the consequences. For instance, if we were to ban plastics, what would be the alternative for it and how will the citizens face the consequences without a plastic bag. There is so much more we can do for adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Strategically using the resource we currently have is essential to monitor our economic activities. Carbon accountings are part of her vision to keep track of what is happening to Malaysia. We should be more ambitious to ensure our impacts are measurable and targets are achievable. As it is, YB Yeo said that we have four global problem: energy, water, waste, and food security. Malaysia are prone to face a huge food security crisis as Malaysia currently imports food from abroad.
Reflecting back the meeting with YB Yeo, I felt that MYD has so much more to offer but our say was pruned away due to her inclination of justifying the needs of grassroot people. As if what I have been doing with MYD was pure waste of time. My spirit crushed. Thanks for the memorable impression, dear YB. Regardless, I still feel that MYD can improve better with a stronger vision. Hopefully, we learn from this mistake to be a stronger NGO in the future. Youth is the hope for the future, after all. Have faith, peeps!
I met Yeo Bee Yin
Jasmin Irisha Jim Ilham
She’s feisty. The Minister of Energy, Science and Technology, Environment and Climate Change is a force to be reckoned with. Equipped with beauty and brains, she is a data-driven person and speaks boldly based on verified facts and figures.
As a person who has been with MYD since 2016, my time has pretty much been invested in tracking climate change policies, organising training series for knowledge sharing and capacity building and communicating on the importance of climate change and youth involvement in climate change to people.
Previously, MYD has been engaging with the former government, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, relatively closely, having been participating at COP since COP21 in 2015. We were familiar with how they operated, their stance on climate change approach nationally and internationally, as well as the key people involved from the ministry, including the former minister himself.
This time round, we didn’t know what to expect. One thing for sure is that we were certainly excited that for the first time, Malaysia has a Climate Change Ministry. For the first time, we thought that there was hope that climate change is being put high up on the agenda, as it is now part of the Ministry, not just a department in a ministry.
It didn’t take long for the hope to be slowly crushed. Lol.
As YB walked in the meeting room, we introduced ourselves and ran through briefly our presentation slides. There was one particular slide that caught her attention – the Fuel Subsidy Statement, that was written by Mike. The discussion kicked off from there.
“Removing fuel subsidies will not help with the climate change agenda, for the simple reason that Malaysia is a small country. Reducing carbon emission in Malaysia will not help the world, or make a dent on what’s going to happen – climate change is irreversible.”
“If you call for the government to reduce the subsidy, that is not going to help you to reduce climate change.”
Instead of removing fuel subsidies, she said that the first step to help curb the carbon emission is to have proper carbon accounting and monitoring system. Yes, improving the public transportation is important – but what is more important is the living quality for the people. “How do we price energy correctly?” is a better question.
These are the four steps that the climate change division in MESTECC will be doing:
- Calculate carbon
- Do up a plan
- Monitor action
- Introduce an Energy Efficiency Act (Milestone)
When asked about her plans in the Ministry in terms of Climate Change, she answered to not expect much, since she’s merely been in office for three weeks. She pointed out that there are a lot of plans in her Ministry, and that all of the plans are loosely monitored without close monitoring. She emphasised on measurable impacts, and said that, “If you don’t have an impact, whatever you do at UNFCCC is nothing. Must come back with an action.”
We had a 1 hour session with the Minister, and the Minister spoke for a good 40 minutes. It is clear that there are a lot of things that needed to be ironed out in the Ministry. It is also clear that climate change is not high up on the agenda just yet.
As for MYD, perhaps we went in the meeting unprepared, perhaps we went in the meeting without an objective. It is time for us as an organisation to rethink and re-strategise our approach with the Ministry – to reinforce the importance of upholding our commitments made in the NDC to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. With the government and leadership in place, it is important for MYD to keep the promises made accountable, and contribute towards check and balance.
It wasn’t a good meeting and I felt a bit disheartened. But we are here to learn, and the next one will be better.
Challenges make us better
The Malaysian Youth Delegation recently went into a meeting with Yeo Bee Yin, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC) in the hopes of engaging the new minister. But what does it even mean to ‘engage’ someone, especially a minister, who has a ton on her plate and part of a government with a strong reform agenda? Do we even know what engaging someone is supposed to achieve? Maybe, maybe not.
A combination of not knowing what to expect, inexperience, a new way of doing things by the government and our lackadaisical attitude led us to go into the meeting underprepared. While not disastrous, it was hard to pull positives from our meeting. From the outset, the meeting was a case of misaligned expectations. YB Yeo expected questions and a dialogue with us, while we had prepared a presentation to show off what MYD has achieved in the past three years.
I think our complacency set in as MYD came off a pretty successful streak. As an organization run by volunteers with busy lives, we had achieved a lot over the course of a year. We had grown in size, published statements in the media, participated in YOUNGO and CAN, traveled to COP23 and organized with other youths.
The thing is, doing all of this was relatively easy. To achieve all of this, we just had to put in the time and the work. It’s almost as if we had forgotten how it feels to be challenged. During our meeting with YB Yeo, we were just not up to the challenge.
While it’s easy to focus on regrets from a negative outcome, it’s better to identify the opportunities to be better. What’s done is done. My process over the last 24 hours has been to give myself space to feel regret, think of what we didn’t do well, accept that things didn’t go well because of our complacency, and try to figure out how to solve this. If we truly want to make an impact on climate action, we need to be great problem solvers.
So, as always, I like to list down what to do next. We brush ourselves off, we collect our thoughts, and we push on with our plans as usual. And the next time we get the same opportunity, we will be better and more prepared.
How do we do that?
First, we need to be aligned on and sure of our objectives. We need to come into meetings with one voice. Everyone on the team needs to be on the same page, and we need to do this far enough in advance to give us time to prepare.
Second, we set the agenda of every meeting according to our objectives, even if the meeting is not arranged by us. This allows us to cover the issues we want to cover – anything else discussed is additional to that.
Third, we need to do way more research on the most pressing issues we want to discuss, as well as on the issues the other party is concerned about. I always believe that with knowledge and data comes confidence. With confidence, we can defend our opinions and challenge other opinions.
On a personal level, this meeting has made me realize how invested I am in the organization. I find solace in the fact that I’ve found something I enjoy so much that I’m willing to put in the work.
So, from here we push on to Bangkok, where we will attend SB48-2. We’ll be sure to go there with strong objectives, put the work in and come back with measurable outcomes.
The general conclusion with meeting with YB YBY was that it went less-than-perfect. Within the first 5 minutes there was already a discrepancy in expectation: YB YBY was expecting a dialogue rather than a presentation, and from her initial reactions seemed to enough about MYD to request skipping some of the slides. There is also the possibility that some of the content in the presentation (specifically the content related to Power Shift Malaysia) gave her the wrong initial impression of what MYD’s objective was when meeting YB YBY. A lot of the conversation turned to outreach and environmental awareness, which in vague terms is the overlapping areas of PSM and MYD. The lesson that I have learned from this is that MYD should present only the relevant parts it needs to. What was relevant was only gathered in hindsight.
Because there was a possible conflation between PSM and MYD, there is a chance that YB YBY now thinks MYD is a grassroots organization and outreach is our primary goal. This in turn has affected the chances the Ministry will provide MYD with badges for COP24. When the topic of MYD’s COP attendance came up, YB YBY gave no clear answer but did mention “giving other [organizations] a chance,” a statement which could be interpreted in many ways, many of which are not helpful to MYD’s goals of attending COP.
The topic of fuel subsidies and its reform/abolishment also came up. MYD’s statement was to end fuel subsidies and YB YBY’s response was that doing so would hurt the poorer citizens more than it would help save the environment. She mentioned that China and the US were the biggest emitters of CO2 in total and per capita, respectively, and that Malaysia’s change in fuel subsidy policies would affect very little of that. I would argue that such a mindset could lead to a Tragedy of the Commons problem with every other smaller country taking a similar stance, but such an argument would be beyond the purview of the conversation. As minister, it is YB YBY’s job to prioritize the citizen’s interest. It would also make sense to maintain the subsidy while the public transportation infrastructure is still being improved. Best case scenario would be that a well-functioning and efficient public transport system would render the fuel subsidy unnecessary.
The topic of public transport never came up but most of the other talking points that arose could be drawn tangentially to it. The idea of the fuel subsidy and a proper public transportation system are connected by one common denominator, which would be the poorer and more rural citizens of Malaysia. Fuel subsidies benefit the rich more than the poor because it makes an affordable resource cheaper, but its abolishment would hurt the poor more than the rich because the lack of alternatives for transportation make fuel a necessity. From that perspective it would make sense to maintain a subsidy until its abolishment would not have the same detrimental effect because of the change in circumstance.
As for Ministry’s role in fulfilling Malaysia’s NDCs in the UNFCCC, YB YBY claims that the Ministry needs to be “data-driven,” with whatever effects the Ministry achieves be both demonstrable and quantifiable rather than just the typical “ribbon-cutting” process of starting something, cutting a ribbon, and yelling ‘mission achieved’. What YB YBY means when the Ministry needs to be data-driven is that the math needs to be done within the Ministry for any of the progress to be quantifiable, and this would mean that carbon accounting would need to be a part of the ministry. Possible collaboration with other Ministry may be possible in the future but at the moment each other Ministry has their own fish to fry.
First time to the Parliament and meeting YB Yeo!
It was a super exciting day being my first time entering the Malaysian Houses of Parliament, as well as, meeting the Minister of Energy, Green Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment, YB Yeo Bee Yin. At about 2.00pm we gathered to enter the Parliament with lots of mixed feelings – the feelings being excitement and nervousness. As the debate on Royal Address were happening concurrently, it was exciting to spot many other Ministers as we walked through the hallways of the Parliament.
During the one hour session, we spent a good time introducing MYD, touching on our objectives and outcomes throughout the years. It was then followed by a session on question and answers where we deep dived into her plans for Malaysia as she heads the ministry. As it is only her third week, she mentioned that a detailed plan is in progress and expected to be out in October 2018.
Here are a few items that her ministry would look at:
- Carbon accounting
YB Yeo emphasized on how important it is to have proper processes undertaken to measure amounts of carbon dioxide emitted by entities like industries. Therefore, a focus area that her ministry will pursue is for proper carbon accounting to be in place. At the moment entities are only tracked based on economic activities. Unfortunately, actions do not justify the percentage of carbon emitted in a year and only gives a “feel good” feeling without much results. Hence, having proper carbon accounting would help to identify the activities that could bring the most impact in combating climate change. She has also shared that a baseline measure is required for tracking and monitoring of emissions by entities.
- Proper implementation of roadmaps and blueprint
Speaking about tracking and monitoring, YB Yeo shared the significance of proper roadmaps and blueprint implementation. She touched on proper planning and policies where impacts are measurable. Most importantly, YB Yeo reminded us that when a policy is introduced, alternatives should be available for the ease of the people and also as incentive for the people to accept the policy. For example, if we would want to ban plastics entirely, there should be sufficient alternatives to it. Policy makers should also think of how will the policy be feasible, how much impact can it produce to save the climate and environment. In summary, as policy makers, we should have empathy to the people we represent.
- Focus on adaptation and mitigation
YB Yeo also mentioned that as youths we should be ambitious and aim for a wider reach as there are a lot more to do to protect and improve the climate. My takeaway from her was to be prepared for the future as young leaders, for Malaysia to start focusing on adaptation and mitigation plans. She also shared some recent issues like Malaysian coastline protection and also the recent flood in Penang as examples of why adaptation and mitigation is vital for the country.
A New Hope?
Yesterday’s meeting with YB Yeo invoked mixed feelings of hope and renewed ambition for youths to further its involvement in the climate change conversation in Malaysia. What initially proved to be a misdirected dialogue between MYD and the Minister of Energy, Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment with regards to MYD’s recently published statement urging the new government to end fuel subsidies led to the Minister vehemently defending its initiative, as well as questioning MYD’s stance, based on ‘pragmatism’ and the ‘needs of the Rakyat’.
The overall impression received from the whole dialogue indicated that this was going to be a completely different ball game compared to that of the previous Minister, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar. On top of having to re-establish relations with a Ministry which consists of climate change under its umbrella, as a result of the ousting of Barisan Nasional, there was a strong sense that much needed to be done for both parties – for MYD it would be to gain the support of the rebranded Ministry, especially after seemingly having started on the wrong foot, and for the Ministry itself, to put it as bluntly as possible, cleaning up the mess of the previous government.
Though YB Yeo had only been in the office for 3 weeks, she was adamant that her Ministry focus their efforts based on mitigation, adaptation as well as capacity building in tackling the climate change agenda. She had also made it clear that the Ministry will come up with the ‘correct’ carbon accounting method as it was suggested that calculations made by the previous government were incorrect, and that a monitoring plan be implemented to oversee the performance. Furthermore, it was suggested that the idea of increasing the nation’s renewable energy mix to 20% by 2025 (as suggested in the PH’s manifesto) may be out of reach, hence the idea of the energy efficiency act. Nonetheless, it should be noted that all these policies are still in the infancy stage of discussion, with YB Yeo indicating that come October, a plan will have materialised.
Based on the meeting, it goes without saying that our brand new Minister will have a lot on her hands, and it can be assumed that whatever plans the previous Ministry (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment) had will not be upheld by her. Rather, YB Yeo seems intent on a new direction, a direction that is quantitative-driven, data-based and, supposedly, realistic.
Personally, and selfishly, I have to admit that one of the major qualms I had about a change in government was the idea that most Ministries (if not all), not just MESTECC, would have to start from square one. Yet, if it is true that the Ministry from the previous government was not effective in tackling the nation’s climate change agenda, then truly a new direction is what we need. However, only time will tell if such a step would yield a desirable outcome.
Sometimes breaking pragmatism is the way forward
Have you felt crestfallen at yourself and others simultaneously? How can a simple meeting with the Climate Change minister shift the dynamics of thought? We went into the meeting with virtually no plan but came out with a much larger outcome – an outcome that persuaded us to be critical of ourselves as an NGO and YBY/ministry.
Starting off with the meeting itself, YB Yeo seemed slightly jaded, potentially due to her strenuous work schedule and dealing with a plethora of requests from various stakeholders, and this requires plenty of patience and virtue, which is commendable of her.
Upon completing our keynote presentation, the session was maneuvered to YBY’s interests and ideas rather than our suggestions – fueled partly due to our inexperience of meeting a newly elected minister.
The discussion on fuel subsidies consumed most of the time in the meet as YBY was outright disapproving of ending them. This was following the publishing of Mike’s statement on ending fuel subsidies in Malaysia. She commenced with the “developing country” rhetoric of how the population, especially the lower and middle income groups, would be affected and the industries shifting to other developing countries due to relatively higher fuel prices. She also pointed out that Malaysia was a far less emitter of GHGs as compared to countries like the US and China and hence fuel subsidies should be left unabated. In her words, removing fuel subsidies was not the best way take action against climate change.
Most of her arguments were undoubtedly rational and pragmatic but if we are going to be persistent with this frame of thought, and if other developing nations choose to compromise on the environment, the future only looks bleak. Malaysia’s annual CO2 emissions per capita accounts to about 8 tonnes, which is nearly on-par with many developed nations, and one of the poorest performing country in reducing its carbon footprint . Also, despite the country contributing to less than 1% of the global GHG emissions, it does not mean that we have the license to pollute. Malaysia has its own NDCs to be fulfilled and should ideally strive to be more ambitious with its targets – doing this would also set an example to the region and the world. Unequivocally, at the same time, it is the developed nations that ought to mitigate and be financially supportive to the developing countries.
Apart from all the commotion, YBY is a data-driven person, who looks out for quantifiable action in climate change, implying this to be the first step in making before climate mitigation and adaptation.
Overall, MYD could have been more critical within that one-hour period of meeting but it would be safe to say that we weren’t prepared to counter the pragmatic intricacies of the minister’s straightforward queries.
Despite the ministry designed to be working in a vertical policy integration setting (working in silos), which has its own set of drawbacks, we are unsure as to how the ministry needs to be dealing with their subsidiaries or its stakeholders. As YBY herself mentions, it would be best on taking the time and initiating a masterpiece rather than coming up hurriedly with a decision on their working plan.
The rendezvous had my mind glued within the premises of the meeting since it was a battle of pragmatism and climate righteousness. However, I am pretty confident that, if we are to meet the next time, both MYD and YBY would be in optimal positions to be conversing – only time will tell if that would be dramatic or pragmatic. Nevertheless, she might be having a plenty of things to be worrying about since we very well understanding climate change is to be looked at in a holistic manner.
One off the bucket list?
Edited by Varun and Jasmin
I did not need a university degree to realise that something was fundamentally wrong with the accountability of our institutions. The 17-year-old Nacha craved to do something, anything – so she attended her very first Bersih rally in 2011 even though it was taboo for a school student to discuss, let alone attend such rallies with the whole family. She was in awe, however, when she discovered that she was one of the hundreds of thousand other people who were defiant and driven for a better Malaysia.
In a sea of yellow at the Bersih rally in 2011
Over the next few years, the yellow T-shirts would signal a rallying cry to all Malaysians to stand in solidarity to demand cleaner and more accountable institutions. When Malaysia experienced an almost miraculous turn in history for the first time in 60 years with the Pakatan Harapan coalition’s win in the recent GE14, my family and I simply had to join the masses again – not in apprehension, but in joyous celebration.
My family & I in front of Istana Negara
We were united once again albeit under a different flag. It was in these rallies that I truly saw the Malaysian spirit; in form and energy. But I knew, that this was just the beginning – from here on, how Malaysians collectively harness the Malaysia Boleh spirit and convert it into action and results, is crucial in shaping a future the people want to see.
When I read about the Committee on Institutional Reforms accepting written representations, I was filled with anticipation. I now have a platform upon which I can hold our leaders accountable and express my opinion on environmental and climate policy; I intended to put it to good use.
So Karee (MYD 2018) put together the initial skeletal draft and we worked on it from there – looking at Malaysia’s commitments to the UNFCCC, the First Biennial Update Report to the same, 8th to 11th Malaysia Plans, National Urbanisation Policy, as well as the Second and Third National Physical Plans among others.
Reviewing and recommending structural reforms, however, required a critical understanding of the institutions they operated in. This led to a mini study session where Kelvin (MYD 2016), whose forte is in Malaysian policy, was kind enough to spare some time explaining the various functions of each department bodies, and possible overlaps and mismanagement.
For example, although Jabatan Perhutanan Semenanjung Malaysia (JPSM) functions to manage forests and sustainable use of forest resources while Jabatan Perlindungan Hidupan Liar (PERHILITAN) functions to protect wildlife, both departments involve biodiversity conservation. Due to the silo approach though, issues that would be better solved by cooperation between the two departments were instead dealt with separately, leading to functional overlaps and lack of accountability. We addressed this in the submission to the Committee.
While I was encouraged with the help from the team, especially Kelvin and Karee’s effort in editing and organising the content, without whom the submission would not have been possible, I was not prepared for an ‘intervention drafting’ frenzy situation. We were short on hands and we were also running out of time – we needed to submit a hard copy of the representation at Ilham Tower on the same day (28th May 2018).
It was unfortunate that some of the ideas that poured in, such as Malaysia’s livestock industry, were way past the deadline I set to finalise the document. A passionate debate about the carbon footprint of the livestock industry on a global scale and the need to mention in our paper the oft-neglected issue despite and perhaps because of the lack of data on the matter ensued. However, the issues with the livestock industry were inappropriate in a submission on institutional reforms, as it was mostly policy-related.
Balancing the need to be inclusive and mindful of the team’s various opinions with the responsibility to tie things up and submit it on time, we managed to tailor this according to the theme. By the time I managed to print and take off to Ilham Tower, I was walking on a razor’s edge. It would have been ironic to have worked so hard on the submission to near-perfection, only to be turned away at the door for our tardiness. Rushing like mad through KL’s traffic, I managed to reach on time and strode towards the door excitedly…
After a moment of awkwardness as I waited outside for someone to notice me through the glass doors (no bell), a man opened the door, took the envelope from my hands and thanked me.
Well, that was anticlimactic.
But it was okay. I felt a lightness in my body, not only because I was reminded of the euphoria of passing up an assignment 1 minute before the deadline, rather it was a sense of accomplishment that the Malaysian Youth Delegation has actively participated in the New Malaysia’s first steps in an active democracy. I walked away feeling empowered as a youth and excited for MYD in the upcoming months. As more Malaysians glue their eyes on the new Harapan government, MYD will continue to strive for greater youth participation in the local climate policy scene and hold our leaders accountable to the Harapan manifesto.
Written by Nachatira Thuraichamy
Edited by Diyana Rahim
In light of the discussions on the Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto as the new ruling government, my friends adjured me on what I had envisioned for the new Malaysia by 2020. It was a loaded question!
Being with the Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD), our team battles the ticking time to tackle issues regarding climate action to the best of our capabilities. The newly formed government’s manifesto envisions Malaysia to transform its economy, governance, social well-being, and our concern, the environment.
Our voice certainly isn’t representative of the entire Malaysian youth but one thing remains indisputable: every Malaysian youth wants a brighter future, better world for themselves and the next generation. Therefore, in the spirit of climate action, we progressed by conducting a training series to assist our fellow members and interested youth/public with knowledge on climate action.
The Third Training Series happened on May 27, 2018 as we welcomed our honourable speaker, Mr. Nithi Nesadurai, who is the President of Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM) to share his knowledge on the Role of Civil Society Organisations in Climate Negotiations and his vast experiences by attending the Conference of Parties (COP). During the commencement of his sharing session, he expressed his gratitude towards young leaders, who were of great help in environmental related projects.
Mr Nithi Nesadurai, President of EPSM, giving a brief introduction.
Mr. Nithi started with explaining the background of COP and Operasi Lalang. According to him, in the 1980s, the general relationship between government and environmental organisations were strained but eventually turned relaxed as they grew being supportive of each other due to these organisations’ help under technical areas to the government. Nonetheless, it would be ignorant on our part to dismiss the effort put in by these groups to hasten environmental action. He then proceeded to speak about the interactions of the society and government, and society with international negotiations w.r.t climate negotiations.
After this, we had shifted to learning on the process leading to Rio Summit under the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Within the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21 aimed to improve sustainable development and action in the 21st century. In this agenda under Section 3, groups such as women, children/youth, indigenous people were incorporated.
Participants and MYD members listening to the intriguing talk!
One of the crucial component of this talk was the role of Climate Action Network (CAN) in Climate Change action. One of this organisation’s aims were to withhold the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR), which has been subtly fading in the recent climate negotiations. He explained that with CBDR, the developed countries were ought to initiate and set leadership example by reducing the emissions first, which was to be followed by the developing countries under the funding and technological assistance by the developed to aid a low-carbon development. Mr. Nithi highlighted the differences in approach for the Global North and Global South. Typically, the North tended to go in depth into one specific area of policy whereas the South often covered wider aspect but weren’t comprehensive.
The roles and structure of CAN was also explained briefly. CAN in climate negotiations, is consistently working towards inducing more ambitious climate change regimes and effective lobbying, for instance, directly engaging with negotiators, sharing viewpoints and gaining knowledge He explained about hpw ECO was a highly regarded daily use bulletin in the climate policy arena. It generally gave an insight on the events and news that had occurred the previous day. He had also explained the infamous “Fossil of The Day” – an event that identified a respective country that proved to be an obstruction or a nation that attempted to stall negotiations in a given day or time period during COPs.
As he headed towards the end of the sharing session, he listed some challenges as well. First and foremost, was pertaining to the badges. He notified us that Poland did not like civil society organisations and it would be against the law to rally. Secondly, the meetings enabled for the civil society would be diminished due to lesser number of yellow badges in contention.
At the end of the talk, Mr Nithi gave a round of advices to the civil society participants for learning and understanding issues. He emboldened us to select an issue that is appealed to oneself. He encouraged to seek answers from people that could clarify one’s queries and asked to join the respective working groups.
The day ended with giving the token of appreciation to Mr. Nithi Nesadurai.
Aida Amirul, the emcee of the day delivered her appreciation to Mr Nithi.
‘Plants bring good smiles’ – Mr. Nithi’s handed over a chili plant by Lhavanya.
A token of appreciation to Brixston Academy, our location provider.
‘The Dream Team’ with their ultimate C for Climate Change sign.
In the spirit of TS 3 this week, I would like to dedicate this piece to all the prominent figures in MYD who have inspired the pioneers to become the kind of environmentalists that we are today. Even though MYD works progressively in pace, we are the backbone of society and one of the country’s pillar of strength. We often don’t realise that we are where we are today not solely through our own efforts. Somewhere in the past, someone has revolutionised the way succeeding generations should live, whether it was by improving their way of life through material means or by reforming their intellect. Indeed, MYD family will stand true to our own purpose. Cheers to the upcoming Training Series!
Written by Sarah
Edited by Varun