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UK Parliament declares climate change emergency; what about Malaysia?

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Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have received the ”memo” – and it remains largely business as usual here in Malaysia, writes Anil Netto.

In a stunning development, the UK Parliament yesterday became the first to declare a climate change emergency after sustained pressure from an environmental activist group.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled the motion and it was approved by MPs without a vote.

Corbyn had earlier told the activists, “This can set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe.”

Unfortunately, here in Malaysia, we don’t seem to have received the ‘memo’: the issue received scant coverage in the local media, and it is largely business as usual.

We continue to argue about race and religion while merrily talking about building a multi-billion ringgit six-lane highway over urban parks and tunnelling through hills.

Forests continue to be cleared all over the country.

Hills are cut for high-end property development, timber and mono-crop plantations.

A large new airport is being proposed near an existing one.

A third national car has been proposed.

Unnecessarily massive land reclamation for super high-density property development is in the pipeline, much of it for the wealthy – and to earn massive profits for the wealthy.

It is almost as if we are living on a different planet.

The UK Parliament’s declaration is a remarkable development made possible by sustained activist action by environmental group Extinction Rebellion. It didn’t happen out of thin air.

Extinction Rebellion had held 10 days of protests which brought parts of central London to a standstill. The group made several key demands:

  • The government to declare a climate change emergency and work to bring about changes
  • Legally binding policies to slash carbon emissions to zero by 2025
  • A citizens’ assembly to be formed to oversee the changes required to achieve this target
READ MORE:  Yesterday, today and tomorrow…

The above are more drastic targets. The UK government had earlier wanted to reduce emissions by 80% by 2030. Many UK towns and cities there have already declared their own climate change emergency. Some of these local areas want to cut emissions to zero by 2030.

Extinction Rebellion, which was set up only last year, has done the world a favour by showing what is possible when a group of activists come together. They have catupulted the profile of an issue – climate change – to the top of the agenda and forced politicians to sit up and take notice.

In Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang today, a group of students and activists are actively involved in “A Day 4 Climate – Climate Justice for All’’, along with a string of other groups. This comes on the heels of a “Youth Strike 4 Climate”‘ protest in Penang recently.

A couple of schools in Penang got into the act as well.

More such activities must be held by all those aware of the unsustainable path we are on. Meanwhile, Penang Forum and other civil society groups are highlighting the dangers of unsustainable “development”.

As the US cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

It can no longer be business as usual.

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