Breaking down Malaysia’s climate commitments

Breaking down Malaysia’s climate commitments

Breaking down Malaysia’s climate commitments

Written by: Dhaartshini, Lim Kah Yau, Nat Zhai, Robin Goon 

Malaysia updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in August, stating its intention to unconditionally reduce economy-wide carbon intensity (against gross domestic product [GDP]) of 45% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. This is the first modification made to its NDCs, which were first submitted in 2015, and it represents a 10% increase in ambition.

In the previous version, Malaysia committed to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity of GDP by 35% unconditionally and a further 10% conditional upon receipt of climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building from developed countries, by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

With this new NDC, it is worthwhile pondering if this increased ambition indicates that Malaysia has taken significant strides to mitigate GHG emissions in the past few years, and whether it has received sufficient assistance from developed countries. 

This article will aim to answer this question and also highlight where Malaysia could potentially do better to meet its climate commitments. 

For context, NDCs are submitted by countries who are parties to the Paris Agreement, reflecting the commitment by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to impacts of climate change. Every five years, an updated NDC has to be sent to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat, and each successive NDC must show progress from the previous version.

The achievement of NDCs are not legally binding. Signatories to the Paris Agreement are only legally obligated to submit an NDC. Additionally, developing countries do not have to adopt economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets as developed countries do. 

That is why some developing countries like Malaysia have opted to use reduction in emissions per unit of GDP as a target for its NDC. Emissions intensity refers to the GHG emissions per unit of economic activity, measured by the GDP levels. The downside of emissions intensity targets is that emissions can actually increase if the GDP increases. In contrast, an absolute GHG target results in an absolute reduction of GHG emissions. 

What is Malaysia doing to meet the NDCs?

Over the years, Malaysia has received financial or capacity building assistance from the Global Environment Facility, Germany, United Kingdom and other parties in various areas. The country has also introduced many policies to reduce GHG emissions. 

Malaysia’s NDC implementation time frame is from 2021 to 2030. Several important, new, national-level policies are also scheduled to be introduced in the near future. 

To understand what Malaysia has been doing to meet the NDCs so far, one can look at the country’s biennial update reports (BUR) to the UNFCCC, which is required of Paris Agreement signatories. 

In Malaysia’s third BUR submitted in 2020 (latest data from 2016), the emissions avoidance recorded comes from three main sectors: energy, waste and forestry. 

Chart 1: Summary of emissions avoidance achieved in 2016 

Mitigation actions in the forestry, energy and waste sectors contributed the most to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Malaysia

Source: Malaysia third BUR

From this table, one can see that most emissions avoidance was achieved by the forestry sector (20,307.5 Gg CO2 eq), followed far behind by the energy sector (9266.3 Gg CO2 eq) and the waste sector (6315.6 Gg CO2 eq). CO2 eq (equivalent) is a measure used to compare emissions from different GHG based on their global warming potential. 

Evidently, Malaysia relied heavily on the forestry sector — reducing deforestation, sustainable management of permanent reserved forest, forest certification schemes and other actions — to reduce emissions. 

How is Malaysia doing now?

Malaysia became a net greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter from 2004 onwards. 

The majority of emissions come from the energy sector, followed by waste and industrial processes and product use (IPPU). The Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector has been crucial to remove GHG emissions. However, it has not kept pace with the increase in emissions from other sectors, which explains why Malaysia became a net GHG emitter. 

Chart 2: The annual total GHG emissions from 1990-2016

Malaysia became a net greenhouse gas emitter from 2004 onwards

Source: Malaysia third BUR

As to where Malaysia stands currently with regards to its NDC target, the 12th Malaysia Plan indicates that Malaysia has achieved 29.4% reduction in GHG emissions intensity per unit of GDP by the end of 2016, compared to 2005 levels. 

Nevertheless, more actions that could contribute to the NDC target are coming up. A NDC Roadmap and National Adaptation Plan are expected to be introduced in these two years. Furthermore, the new Minister of Environment and Water has stated that a framework to improve and enforce climate change laws, a new carbon trading scheme and changes to the National Greenhouse Gases Inventory Centre are among the 10 key performance indicators for the ministry. 

A new renewable energy target of 31% and 40% by 2025 and 2035 in installed capacity was announced in July, the majority of which will be generated in the form of solar energy in Peninsular Malaysia at least until 2025. 

Meanwhile, the dominance of coal power plants in Peninsular Malaysia will be replaced by natural gas power plants from 2030 onwards, according to the Report on Peninsular Malaysia Generation Development Plan 2020. Utility-scale batteries will be installed from 2030 onwards to support renewable energy generation. 

Chart 3: Capacity Mix by Fuel (%) (2021-2039)

The dominance of coal as a fuel for electricity generation is expected to be replaced by natural gas in Peninsular Malaysia by 2030 

Source: Report on Peninsular Malaysia Generation Development Plan 2020

All these could be reasons why the government is confident that it can achieve the new NDC target, which it previously stated that it could only achieve with assistance from developed countries. 

How can Malaysia do better?

An argument for Malaysia to be more ambitious is that it could do much more to reduce emissions in the energy sector, particularly in terms of promoting renewable energy. 

This does not necessarily mean the country should increase its dependence on large-scale hydropower. 

The inclusion of hydropower in its energy supply was spurred by the Four-Fuel Diversification Policy in 1981 and the presence of large rivers with suitable elevation in nearly all Malaysian states. However, large-scale hydropower plants have resulted in the loss of land for many indigenous tribes in Malaysia, who have made their voices heard through protests. Environmental damage due to the submerging of huge tracts of land is also another contested topic. 

Instead, Malaysia could focus its efforts on increasing renewable energy generation from solar power and other sources, be it through expanded quotas for Feed-in Tariff (FiT), Net Energy Metering (NEM), Large Scale Solar (LSS) schemes; promotion of self-consumption schemes; or introduction of electricity market reforms that enable peer-to-peer trading, third party grid access and offsite RE generation.

Malaysia’s strategic location near the equator, coupled with its existing high energy reserve margins, substantiate its potential for more aggressive solar energy policies. In fact, some industry leaders have complained that current policies, such as the quota for RE in the electricity generation capacity mix, are limiting the adoption of renewable energy in the country. 

On the other hand, Malaysia’s reliance on LULUCF removals to meet its NDC target is a risk due to the continued encroachment of human activities into forest reserves, as seen with the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve degazettement by the Selangor government recently. The degazettement was only revoked after much public protest.

Additionally, the ability of trees to rapidly absorb carbon weakens with the warming planet. This drop in carbon sink effectiveness due to climate variability has also been “projected with high confidence” in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. A more worrisome consequence of unchecked climate change is that resulting occurrences such as forest fires may reverse the function of these sinks and instead, turn it into a carbon source.

What will it take?

While it is good to introduce comprehensive policies to tackle climate change, it is equally important to have consistent and good execution, as well as sufficient political will to enact lasting and impactful change. Malaysia has a mixed track record on this. 

The country’s actions towards a more sustainable economy started in the 1980s, with the government then adopting the Four-Fuel and Five-Fuel Diversification policies to wean Malaysia off petroleum dependence and diversify into natural gas, coal, hydropower and renewable energy. The plans were a success. By the end of 1995, Malaysia’s dependence on oil had reduced from almost 90% to less than 15%. 

Chart 4: Timeline of core national policies that drive the resource supply utilization in Malaysia

Malaysia began diversifying its energy source to include natural gas, hydropower and renewable energy in the 1980s

Source: The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies 

The Feed-in-Tariff (FiT), which pays renewable energy generators a premium rate over a period of time, was introduced in 2011. The quota for solar is no longer available, but FiT for biomass, biogas and small-hydro are still open. In 2016, the FiT was replaced by the NEM as the cost of solar panel installation became competitive.

However, the take-up rate for NEM quotas by 2018 was low because renewable energy generators had to sell electricity at a low displacement cost. This was corrected to a 1:1 offset basis in 2018. Subsequently, the quota taken up by commercial and industrial customers in nine months was three times more than what was achieved in the previous three years. 

These examples show that with sufficient political will, adjusting Malaysia’s energy portfolio is doable. However, ambiguities persist in some policy implementations. 

In the transportation sector, Kimura (2018) illustrated that the National Electric Mobility Blueprint  was intended to strengthen Malaysia’s electric mobility ecosystem and charging infrastructure. However, action on electric vehicle (EV) policies are minimal as of 2021. Instead, the National Automotive Policy (NAP) focused on the development of Energy Efficient Vehicles (EEVs). While this is laudable, it is not exactly expanding the implementation of electric mobility ecosystems. 

There is also the issue of policy inconsistency in Malaysia. In his unveiling of the National Forestry Policy in March, former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin highlighted the need to be proactive in conservation. A month after that, he unveiled the National Mineral Industry Transformation Plan 2021-2030, which intends to open swathes of land for mineral resources exploration. This dichotomy within the government reflects a lack of political will and direction in meeting Malaysia’s NDC.

All in all, Malaysia has taken many steps to meet its NDC, but there is much that could be improved, especially in terms of promoting renewable energy generation, protecting forest reserves as a carbon sink and in ensuring proper implementation of policies and roadmaps. Malaysia can increase its NDC target, but this will have to be followed with strong commitment, political will and transparency from all stakeholders. 

Sources:

Abdul Latif S. N., Chiong M.S. & Rajoo, S. et al. (2021). The trend and status of energy resources and greenhouse gas emissions in the Malaysia power generation mix, https://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/14/8/2200

Adam Aziz. (2018). Beginning 2019, no price difference between solar generation and consumption tariff https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/beginning-2019-no-price-difference-between-solar-generation-and-consumption-tariff

Babunal, V. (2021). Environment and Water Ministry sets 10 key targets as KPI. https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2021/09/725555/environment-and-water-ministry-sets-10-key-targets-kpi

Bernama. (2021). Malaysia to become important hub for mineral industry development. Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA). https://www.mida.gov.my/mida-news/malaysia-to-become-important-hub-for-mineral-industry-development/

Bernama. (2021). Muhyiddin: Malaysian Forestry Policy unites all states in forestry conservation efforts.  https://www.nst.com.my/news/government-public-policy/2021/03/675798/muhyiddin-malaysian-forestry-policy-unites-all-states

Bujang A.S., Bern C.J. & Brumm T.J. (2016). Summary of energy demand and renewable energy policies in Malaysia  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1364032115010175

Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. (n.d.). Q&A: Understanding Paris Agreement NDCs https://www.c2es.org/content/q-and-a-understanding-paris-agreement-ndcs/

Economic Planning Unit. (2010). Prime Minister’s Department, Putrajaya  https://www.pmo.gov.my/dokumenattached/RMK/RMK10_Eds.pdf

Energy Commission. (2021). Report on Peninsular Malaysia Generation Development Plan 2020 (2021-2039) https://www.st.gov.my/en/contents/files/download/169/Report_on_Peninsular_Malaysia_Generation_Development_Plan_2020_(2021-2039)-FINAL.pdf

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2021). Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_SPM.pdf

Joshi, D. (2019). Reduce total emissions, not just emissions intensity of GDP https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/letters/2019/10/534211/reduce-total-emissions-not-just-emissions-intensity-gdp

Julie Chao. (2021). Latest IPCC report points to urgent need to cut emissions https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2021/08/09/latest-ipcc-report-points-to-urgent-need-to-cut-emissions/

Kimura, S. (2018). An analysis of alternative vehicles’ potential and implications for energy supply industries in Indonesia https://www.eria.org/uploads/media/ERIA_RPR_2017_15.pdf

Liew Jia Teng. (2021). MPIA urges government to reassess RE quota allocation https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/mpia-urges-government-reassess-re-quota-allocation

Kementerian Alam Sekitar dan Air. (2021). Climate Change E-Colloquium 2021 and the Virtual Launch of Malaysia’s Third Biennial Update Report https://www.facebook.com/KementerianAlamSekitarDanAir/videos/4194203654032601 

 Kementerian Alam Sekitar dan Air. (2021). JC3 Flagship Conference Fireside Chat https://ibfimonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/012-Dr.-Nagulendran-Kangayatkarasu.pdf 

Malaysiakini. (2021).  Environment minister blasts S’gor’s plan to degazette Kuala Langat forest https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/590298?utm_source=telegram&utm_medium=textlink&utm_campaign=mkininews

Ministry of Energy and Natural Resource (KeTSA). (2021). Kerangka Pelan Transformasi Industri Mineral Negara 2021-2030. https://www.ketsa.gov.my/ms-my/pustakamedia/Penerbitan/Kerangka%20Pelan%20Transformasi%20Industri%20Mineral%20Negara%202021-2030.pdf

Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. (2021). Malaysia’s energy transition plan 2021-2040 https://www.ketsa.gov.my/ms-my/pustakamedia/KenyataanMedia/Press%20Release%20ASEAN%20Energy%20Meeting%2021%20June%202021.pdf

Nancy Harris & David Gibbs. (2021). Forests absorb twice as much carbon as they emit each year, World Resources Institute https://www.wri.org/insights/forests-absorb-twice-much-carbon-they-emit-each-year

Susskind, L., Chun, J. & Goldberg, S. et al. (2020). Breaking out of carbon lock-in: Malaysia’s path to decarbonisation https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fbuil.2020.00021/full

The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. (2021). Electricity supply industry reform and design of competitive electricity market in Malaysia https://www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Electricity-Supply-Industry-Reform-and-Design-of-Competitive-Electricity-Market-in-Malaysia.pdf

The Straits Times. (2018). Malaysia to draft Climate Change Act, formulate national adaptation and mitigation plan https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysia-to-draft-climate-change-act-formulate-national-adaptation-and-mitigation-plan

UNFCCC. (2015). Intended nationally determined contribution of the government of Malaysia https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/ndcstaging/PublishedDocuments/Malaysia%20First/INDC%20Malaysia%20Final%2027%20November%202015%20Revised%20Final%20UNFCCC.pdf

UNFCCC. (2018). Malaysia third national communication and second biennial update report to the UNFCCC https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/Malaysia%20NC3%20BUR2_final%20high%20res.pdf

UNFCCC. (2020). Malaysia third biennial update report to the UNFCCC https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/MALAYSIA_BUR3-UNFCCC_Submission.pdf

UNFCCC. (2021). Malaysia nationally determined contribution update https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/ndcstaging/PublishedDocuments/Malaysia%20First/Malaysia%20NDC%20Updated%20Submission%20to%20UNFCCC%20July%202021%20final.pdf

UNFCCC. (n.d.). Nationally determined contributions https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs/nationally-determined-contributions-ndcs

Yeo Bee Yin. (2020). Special report: Reform is fast becoming the only choice, The Edge Markets https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/special-report-reform-fast-becoming-only-choice


About Malaysian Youth Delegation

Established in 2015, Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) is a youth-led organization in Malaysia, which focuses on climate change policy and negotiations, providing a platform for curious and interested youths to explore the world of climate agreements. MYD strives to educate the public on climate change policy by organizing training sessions and public talks. MYD also regularly engages with the Government of Malaysia on climate change policies. 

For more information, visit https://mydclimate.org or email at focalpoint@mydclimate.org 


Post-COP24 Forum: Malaysia’s Perspective on the Katowice UN Climate Change Conference

Post-COP24 Forum: Malaysia’s Perspective on the Katowice UN Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP24, in Katowice was deemed as a turning point for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement Rulebook, agreed on at COP24, acts as an operating manual to guide countries (or “Parties” in UNFCCC speak) to meet the ultimate goal of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C.

The release of the Special Report on 1.5 degrees by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018 raised concerns over the current level of ambition that Parties have committed to in the face of climate change. Calls for higher ambition at COP24 echoed the sentiments that came out of COP23. But did we get it?

The question still remains; did Parties do enough to raise ambitions? Is multilateralism still alive? Can the international community work together to avoid the worst impacts of the inevitable climate crisis?

Most importantly, where does Malaysia lie in all of this?

Join us at our Post-COP24 Forum to find out! Our distinguished panelists, consisting of Malaysians from the government, civil society, and youth organizations who attended COP24, will discuss the outcomes and how Malaysia fits into the global picture. We will have a Q&A session after the panel session, but please feel free to send us questions beforehand!

Kindly RSVP by 24th January 2019. Registration is FREE and space is LIMITED.

Drop us a message on our social media or at mydclimatechange@gmail.com if you have any questions.

Panel

  • Muhammad Ridzwan Ali, Assistant Secretary, Environmental Management and Climate Change Department, Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change
  • Meena Raman, Climate Change Programme Coordinator, Third World Network
  • Liyana Yamin, COP24 Delegate, Malaysian Youth Delegation

Opening address by

  • H.E. Krzysztof Dębnicki, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Malaysia

Agenda:

10.30 – 11.00 am: Registration and light refreshments

11.00 – 11.05 am: Welcoming Remarks by a representative from the Malaysian Youth Delegation

11.05 – 11.15 am: Opening Statement by H.E. Krzysztof Dębnicki, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Malaysia

11.15 – 11.20 am: Panel introduction by Moderator

11.20 – 12.20 pm: Panel discussion

12.20 – 12.50 pm: Q&A Session

12.50 – 12.55 pm: Closing remarks and presentation of token of appreciation

12.55 – 1.00 pm: Group photo

 

How to get to Common Ground Bukit Bintang

    1. The nearest MRT station is Bukit Bintang. The walk from MRT Bukit Bintang Pintu D to Menara Worldwide takes about 10 mins.
    2. Parking at Menara Worldwide at RM3.50/hour.
    3. Open space parking across the street next to Shell gas station at RM8.00/entry.

      The Time I Delivered a Speech on Behalf of YOUNGO

      The Time I Delivered a Speech on Behalf of YOUNGO

      Hi, it’s me again bringing you more content on just transition. On the 5th of December, YOUNGO was invited to participate in an Open Dialogue with the Polish presidency, centering around the theme of “just transition”. Aimed at engaging key stakeholders, the open dialogue was first initiated during COP 23. According to my YOUNGO peers, the Fijian presidency worked closely with different key constituencies to set the agenda for the dialogue session. There was no such opportunity for collaboration this time around.

      Photo taken by Syaqil.

      With all the action happening on the COP 24 floor, I joined the intervention drafting session on a whim. I was taking a breather in the computer room with some of the MYD members after a morning of informal consultation meetings. Syaqil mentioned that he would be joining the open dialogue speech planning. At the time, I was in a writing rut so I decided to come with. With fellow YOUNGO members, we started drafting the speech without a clue about the format or the layout of the session. The only guidance we received from the Secretariat was the following 5 questions:

      1)    What does Just Transition mean for different stakeholders?

      2)    How can Just transition policies contribute to the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement?

      3)    For which of the recommendations of the SR1.5 will the imperative of a just transition of the workforce be particularly relevant?

      4)    How can different stakeholders contribute to these policies?

      5)    Can we identify common areas among different constituencies and stakeholders that help to achieve a Just Transition?

      We immediately jumped into identifying what Just Transition looks like for different YOUNGO members, and had an hour-long dialogue on our concerns about the future. Although we strayed from writing the actual speech, I felt connected at the core with fellow youth representatives from around the world. The exchange kept the passion for climate action glowing in my core. It’s easy for the older generations to sit around and talk about future ramifications of inaction. But, we the youth will be the ones without sustainable jobs and experience the lack of socioeconomic mobility brought on by a transition into a low-carbon economy. Unanimously agreed that our key messages will touch upon increased ambition, to keep the youth and future generation when planning for a transition, and to involve youth in decision-making processes.

      The result of our brainstorming can be found below.

      Good afternoon everybody.

      My name is Tan Cai May from Malaysia, and I am speaking on behalf of YOUNGO.

      Formally recognized in 2009, YOUNGO serves as the official voice of young people from around the globe in the climate negotiations under the UN Climate Change. It is an independent volunteer-run structure comprising a membership of more than 200 youth-led, youth-focused NGOs, working in the field of climate change and environmental sustainability.

      YOUNGO is delighted to see that steps are being taken to continue the open dialogue platform started at COP23 – we would have appreciated this even more if the room was set up with a square table, which is more conducive for dialogue. YOUNGO played a key role in the collaborative agenda setting of last year´s dialogue at COP23 and is willing to continue such approaches towards this and future UNFCCC sessions to further strengthen the relationship we have built.

      We appreciate the Polish Presidency’s assertion that just transition holds a variety of meanings across different communities. To children and youth all over the world, just transition concerns among other challenges: healthy and clean work environment, labour rights, job opportunities, social security, and community resiliency.

      We, as young people, identify intergenerational equity as the central theme to just transition. Transition involves a change, and we, the young people want to play an even more active role in this process of change. The children & youth are the future and we want to shape our future together with you. Meaningful participation of young people in negotiations and policy-making processes is key in attaining a sustainable and just transition.

      We would like to take this opportunity to point out that ‘just transition’ is only mentioned once and in a vague manner in the Paris Agreement. We believe that it should be properly addressed in the negotiations considering that climate injustice is what’s pushing people to refuse the transition towards a green economy. Furthermore, there should be clear guidelines on how to assure just transition in the process of keeping the temperature increase below 1.5°C.

      We, as children and youth, will continue to pursue opportunities in the workforce that endeavour to create pathways towards limiting greenhouse gas emissions using available innovative and technological approaches, in order to achieve climate resilient development and meet long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. The IPCC Special Report shows that there is no time to wait. We need to raise ambitions immediately, and we need to have a transition starting today. We, as children and youth, have been taking action and will continue to do so. We are already creating change and we urge you to join us in this process.

      Thank you for your attention.

      As the presenter, I was grateful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of YOUNGOs at COP 24. However, there were great points from our discussion that did not transfer over into the speech, and I would like to highlight some of them.

      First, we would like current leaders to acknowledge that our generation will not be as well-off compared to our parents’ generations. Natural resources are depleting at a high rate, and we will have to face the accumulated climate change effects. Our discussion also highlighted the unprecedented effect of exporting externalities to developing countries, where communities are more vulnerable to climate change effects and socioeconomic externalities of modern-day consumerism. In regards to the green technology and clean energy aspect of just transitions, my peers and I agreed that outcomes from the decarbonization movement need to be accessible and affordable to all. We recognized the developed-developing divides and hope that transition issues will improve the disparity rather than exacerbate it.

      At this point, we don’t know if the outcomes of this ‘dialogue’ were documented and presented to world leaders negotiating our future. But why wait on others to do something about it.

      Written by: Cai May

      Edited by: Mike

      Just Transition Already Lah

      Just Transition Already Lah

      Day 2 of COP 24 kickstarted with much buzz around “just transitions”. Just transition has been described as a just and ethical process to shift to a low-carbon economy, keeping in mind the implications towards socioeconomic, energy and environmental systems. The need for just transition has come up primarily as an environmental justice issue in civil rights movements, before being included in climate change discussions over the past few years.

      Got to take the YOUNGO seat during the official opening ceremony.

      Within the just transition movement, there are groups advocating for the acceleration of low-carbon efforts, and there are groups that call for less ambitious mitigation. Communities experiencing climate change effects and suffering from distributional inequity are coming forward to call for better management of mitigation efforts as the economy undergoes changes. Thematic movements include energy democracy, food sovereignty, and sustainable job opportunities. In the other camp, we have the traditional coal miners and shale frackers who are still relying on fossil fuel extraction to put bread on the table. The tension going forward with decarbonizing the economy has been brewing all these years especially in labor union strongholds of Europe. The gilets de jaune protests are still happening in France as we speak.

       

      The chatter on just transitions in COP 24 came from both sides of the transition story piece. In the beginning of the conference, CSOs were critical towards the Polish presidency’s message (based on my experience at that one pre-COP CAN strategy meeting I attended but still!) In the month leading up to COP 24, the Polish Presidency’s released a three-pronged strategy for the conference, one of which underscores for an ethical and fair shift in market. These key strategies were reiterated during the presidency’s opening speech on the second official day of COP.

       

      COP 24 President Michal Kurtyka delivering the opening address. Photo by Andrzej Grygiel/EPA-EFE.

      While the preceding Fijian presidency underlined just transitions for all and especially vulnerable communities that are at the frontline of experiencing climate change effects, the Polish presidency honed in on just transition matters in the coal industry. COP 24 president Michal Kurtyka gave a powerful speech on working together towards a low carbon future, tying in a message on balancing climate action and human behavior. To quote: “How do you tell a population of 5 million in 70 cities in the Silesian region to move on?” This sentiment was shared by the mayor of Katowice, Maric Krupa as he talked about the achievements of the city and how far they have come. Reigning in the message in for the third time, the Polish environment minister Henryk Kowalcyk called for more social cost consideration in decision-making concerning decarbonization. Clearly, Poland was ambiguous about their feelings on transitioning.

      Before I continue, I would like to clarify that by no means I am anti-just transition. My take is but a critical lens on what the Polish presidency has to say about just transitions in the COP space because it does reflect on their intended outcomes of COP 24. But I digress. The Solidarity and Just Transition Silesian Declaration was presented by Kowalcyk during the opening ceremony and contains language that is more accommodating towards the Paris Agreement and climate action efforts than I expected. While Katowice takes pride in going from “black to green” in the Upper Silesian region known for its coal production, I think that the Polish presidency, in upholding this model city, fails to address just transition in practice. My Uber driver laid down some quick facts about Upper Silesia for me, as we drove towards the city from the airport. Apparently, there are some 20 (27 as of 2014) coal mines still in operation in the Upper Silesian coal basin, accounting for ~ 74% of coal mining activity in Poland and producing up to 330 million tonnes of coal within the 2010 – 2014 period. The model city, it seems, managed to transform because the region needed a place to grow their service sector and it just so happened to be Katowice. My driver continued to lament about the satellite cities and the collective challenge to “go green”, citing the legacy of a coal-heavy economy. “Mining runs in the family… it’s all they really know how to get an income.”

      Coal at the Katowice Pavillion.

      During my daily commute to Katowice, I couldn’t help but notice the power plants puffing away in the vast, open fields in between station stops at towns. How is it that countries like Poland wean off coal? To think of it, the transition will happen if you want it or not, it’s the justice aspect that you’ll have to consider. When I dropped by the Katowice pavilion, I thought the whole coal display was distasteful in contrast to the reality of the industry’s future. Soaps and coal pendants available at the nearest tourist information center is not going to get coal miners out of a dying industry, the political will to provide transitional platforms will. Until alternative industries flourish and potential employees undergo suitable training, the Upper Silesian region will only bask in the shadows of monumental “progress” in hosting COP 24 and the climate action success attributed to it. Just transition already lah…

      Written by: Cai May

      Edited by: Mike

      Final Day of COY14: Memories to Take Back

      Final Day of COY14: Memories to Take Back

      The third and final day of COY started like a whirlwind as we arrived late to the venue hence it made me feel like I was chasing for the spokes council meeting. It was to no avail as by the time I had reached the room the session had ended. However, I did find part of the BLT team working on a document in preparation for the bilateral meeting with the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UN PGA). Wanting to make up for lost productivity as a result of my tardiness, I decided to join the party.

      Basically, the agenda of the meeting was to have the President deliver a keynote speech, after which questions will be directed to her, ranging from human rights, health, and climate refugees. As the UN General Assembly covers a range of topics, we decided it to be appropriate for her to address topics of wide scope, though it was agreed upon that they touch on climate change, one way or another.

      Pressed for time, we urgently drafted 6 questions in which we needed to do prior research too. After that, we had to allocate a question to a person and when it came down to choosing between the final two people who hadn’t been allocated a question yet, the other candidate suggested that I should be the one to deliver considering I had done research on it. That was a very nice gesture from her, albeit the question being a back-up in the case that we have extra time with the UN PGA.

      Having worked on the document for what must’ve been at least 3 straight solid hours (this was after working on the Renewable Energy (RE) position paper for half a day previously), I felt I deserved a reward in the form of hot chocolate (trust me that the hot chocolate at the COY venue, University of Silesia, was to die for). Hence I made my way to the cafeteria.

      Barely 5 minutes into settling down at the cafeteria, a message was sent regarding representatives needed from respective working groups in delivering a closing statement during the COY closing ceremony. Exasperated at not having the time to even take a bite, I made my way to the room to prepare the closing statement on behalf of RE.

      To my surprise, the RE working group was not included in the initial list of speakers to deliver a closing statement. However, seeing that not many representatives appeared for the preparatory meeting for the closing ceremony, Clara, the Global North Focal Point, was kind enough to give me a slot, provided I could keep the statement at a maximum of one minute. Preparing the statement was relatively straightforward considering we already have a position paper to work from.

      After finishing with that segment, we found ourselves having to attend the bilateral with the UN PGA straightaway. It was pretty amazing to have been able to sit in the same table with the President of the General Assembly. Her Excellency Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés was a very lovely and down to earth person. She communicated that prior to the bilateral, she had just arrived in Katowice 4 hours ago, but was insistent with engaging with YOUNGO. Basically, the session started off with Yugratna, the Global South Focal Point laying out the agenda before the floor: H.E. was to start the session with her keynote, after which the floor will be opened for questions delivered by those who have been chosen earlier. As opposed to asking a total of 8 questions that was drafted earlier on, however, Yugratna instructed that a total of 6 questions will be delivered instead, where one of them was mine.

      Once we were done with the bilateral, we immediately had to make way to the closing ceremony of COY. It was a lively event as there were several VIPs in attendance, including H.E. Maria Espinosa Graces (UN PGA), H.E. Patricia Espinosa (UNFCCC Executive Secretary and Michal Kurtyka (COP24 Presidency), among others. Prior to that, however, the respective working groups had the opportunity to deliver closing statements before the audience and I was pleased to say that in delivering the statement on behalf of renewable energy, it went smooth.

      Here I was delivering a closing statement on behalf of the RE working group during the COY closing ceremony.

        After the session, I felt pretty pleased with myself, not so much in grabbing an opportunity to speak before an audience, but how in being able to represent a working group as a spokesperson, I take it as a culmination of participatory involvement with YOUNGO, something I can’t say for myself last year, during COY13. In hindsight, this has been a most productive and fruitful COY for me, something I will definitely take back and use it as a source of motivation with regards to taking initiative within space for youth.

        Written by: Syaqil Suhaimi

        Edited by: Jasmin Irisha

        Opening of Young and Future Generations Day – Growth in Youth Climate Movement in ASEAN

        Opening of Young and Future Generations Day – Growth in Youth Climate Movement in ASEAN

        On 6 December, it was a day of celebration for youths at COP in what was called the Young and Future Generations (YoFuGe) Day. On top of showcasing climate action powered by youths, it was a day where we could speak up in communicating our aspirations for a just climate future.

        During the opening ceremony of YoFuGe Day, I was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of Malaysian youths. Here, I shared upon how 2018 has been a healthy year for youth climate involvement as Malaysian youths have had the opportunity to attend climate conferences throughout the ASEAN region.

        We had youths attending the Asia-Pacific Climate Week conference in Singapore, in July. In September, we had representatives attending the UNFCCC SB48-2 Bangkok Climate Change Conference. In October, we had a representative attend the Asia-Pacific Adaptation Forum in Manilla. In November, there was the ASEAN Pre-COP Capacity Building Workshop in Singapore (The Malaysian node happened in October) as well as, for the first time ever, our very own Local Conference of Youth (LCOY).

        I stressed how ASEAN as well as nearby regions still very much focus on the rapid growth of their economies. Therefore, the youth need to provide checks and balances, not only to governments but also to large corporations whom still very much rely on extraction in generating profits at a maximum. In demanding for Just Transition, the youth aren’t just asking for the transition from coal to renewable energy, but by transitioning into 2030, we would still want a world with a hospitable and livable climate.

        When it comes to climate diplomacy, the ASEAN and nearby regions have not been as prominent as its Western counterparts, but it’s about time that we start putting the environment, let alone climate change, at the top of our agenda. Not only would we need to strengthen our NDCs in light of the Special Report on 1.5, but we need Parties to commit to launching domestic processes to strengthen NDCs. The importance of multi-stakeholder participation cannot be stressed enough.

        Speaking on behalf of Malaysian youths in its growing climate movement across ASEAN.

        Where others argue that economic development will not be sacrificed in the name of climate change and that we shall not pay for the sins of others, I implore that they reflect on such a position. Where a country’s policies are still geared towards providing fuel subsidies, plantations are being built in the name of carbon sinks (having totally disregarded that huge areas of land have to be deforested anyway), and where public transportation projects are being scrapped as a result of a tight national budget (only for there to be conversations of another national car), I implore such parties to ponder upon and “welcome”, rather than “take note”, the special report on 1.5. Because in sticking to the status quo, by being content with the mentality of ‘business-as-usual’, who’s to say that we won’t even have an economy to build as early as 2030?

        Written by: Syaqil Suhaimi

        Edited by: Mike