MYD’s Position Statement on Rebranding of MEWA

This position statement was written to persuade the Ministry of Environment and Water to consider adopting the term ‘climate change’ in its rebranding process.

On the 3rd of April, Malaysiakini published an article stating that the Ministry of Environment and Water (MEWA) is still undergoing a rebranding process. The Malaysian Youth Delegation (MYD) presents this statement to appeal to the Ministry to add the term ‘climate change’ in addition to the term ‘environment’ in the Ministry’s new name.

The term ‘environment’ encompasses issues within the spectrum of the natural world which includes land, water, forestry, waste management, air quality, pollution and others. Departing from that, however, the term ‘climate change’ distinctively signifies the dangerous and accelerated rise in global temperature caused by the emission of greenhouse gases. This term has since gained its own magnitude and preference among the international climate change advocacy network since the founding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. In short, the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘environment’ are no longer simply interchangeable in today’s state of affairs.

Climate change affects many sectors worldwide including agriculture, fisheries, livestock, forestry, tourism, food, energy and health. The effects of climate change also threaten the collapse of ecosystems, extinction of animal species and the natural world. In relation to this, a Merdeka Centre survey in 2016 stated that a significant number of Malaysians (81%) are concerned about climate change and dissatisfied with the government’s efforts in managing it.

In brief, we believe in the significance of including the term ‘climate change’ in the name of the Ministry for the following reasons:

1. Having the term ‘climate change’ in the Ministry’s nomenclature would signify its mandate to address climate change, in line with Malaysia’s commitment in conventions and resolutions that it had signed or ratified which include the term climate change:

  • UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Entered into force 1994, signed by Malaysia in 1993 and ratified in 1994.
  • Kyoto Protocol on UNFCCC. Drafted in 1997, ratified by Malaysia in 2002, came into force in 2005.
  • Paris Agreement as a replacement of the Kyoto Protocol under the UNFCCC signed by 197 parties. Adopted in December 2015, ratified by Malaysia and came into force in 2016.

Additionally, the implementation of the National Policy of Climate Change by the government in 2010, further supports the weightage given towards climate change on a national level.

2. Adding the term ‘climate change’ in its name, the Ministry will demonstrate that it recognizes climate change as a highly precipitous phenomenon that threatens the very existence of human societies. It would additionally serve as a guiding principle which influences the Ministry’s agenda-setting to be laser-focused on this state of emergency.

3. Globally, there are currently 6 governments only with ministries that have progressively embraced the term climate change: New Zealand, Canada, Finland, India, Pakistan, and UAE. It would serve as an opportunity for Malaysia to lead by example, especially in the ASEAN region, in showcasing its steadfast commitment to a global movement that impacts humanity across generations. This gives the government credibility and leverage in international negotiations on the issue of climate change.

4. It will allow for collaboration with other countries for the common cause of tackling climate change (e.g. Malaysia and UK climate change and low carbon initiative). This will foster strong connections with allies with the hopes of learning from their success stories and increasing technological exchange.

5. As climate change is now a global concern, including the term will increase the strength and presence of climate change initiatives in Malaysia. This may cultivate the interest of investors and create better investment opportunities in green technology.

6. The addition of ‘climate change’ will also emphasize the ministry’s position as the go-to in coordinating this matter across federal, state and local authorities to avoid duplication of efforts. This position also provides a direct avenue for climate advocacy NGOs, environmentalists, private sectors and the general public to coalesce with one another, engage with the Ministry and derive solutions on climate action.

7. The Ministry’s emphasis on climate change will increase support for climate change causes among the youth. It will allow for a chain effect to occur when the youth start taking initiatives and influence the people around them to partake in the government’s initiatives regarding climate change. Additionally, youth climate change advocacy groups will be able to sense the Ministry’s inclusivity.

8. The ‘finite pool of worry’ theory predicts that as concern over one issue (like economic survival) grows, concern over other issues (like climate change) will start to diminish. Given the current circumstances that the country is heaving through such as COVID-19 and the pre-existing resistance from some sectors of the public, there is more need to highlight climate change as a problem. Omitting the term ‘climate change’ from the name of the ministry may negatively impact the climate change cause.

9. It has been observed that the Ministry’s inclusion of the term ‘climate change’ in its name previously was effective in dealing with an expanse of issues involving climate change. There was more awareness of its importance and its impact was more perceived by the common public.

Humanity has less than 10 years to limit global heating to 1.5℃ according to the 2018 IPCC report by leading climate scientists. With all this considered, the Malaysian Youth Delegation calls for the Ministry of Environment and Water to:

1. Adopt the term “climate change” as part of the Ministry’s official name
2. Lead and coordinate the government ministries in sustainable climate action
3. Further develop contemporary climate change and related policies for the present and future generation.

Written by: Syaqil Suhaimi, Saef Wan, Liyana Yamin, Jen Ho, Ai Hui, Fathi Rayyan, Zhee Qi, Mahirah Marzuki, Sonia Kiew, Azierah Ansar, Alyaa See, Raudhah Ibrahim, Preveena Jayabalan, Ngiam Karyn, Meor Muhammad Hakeem, Bryan Yong