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Malaysia needs climate advocate in governance

Climate change should be part of the national discourse on politics, economy and education

Activists demonstrate inside the venue of climate change talks in Cancun - Photo courtesy of allvoices.com

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The Association for Community and Dialogue is concerned that Malaysia ranks near bottom in the global climate change index, which compares the climate protection performance of countries responsible for 90% of greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2021, Malaysia dropped to 56th place to rank among the bottom 10 nations. By comparison our neighbours Indonesia and Thailand did much better, (24th and 26th place, respectively.)

It is sad there is no outcry among politicians on both sides of the political divide on such a low ranking compared to other issues such as corruption or issues that are politically expedient. These reveal that both sides of the political divide have not made issues related to climate change a priority of governance.

We cannot see Malaysia as a developed nation of the future if it does not reduce its carbon footprint. While Malaysia has made a commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, relative to 2005 levels, there has not been political will among the previous and current political elite to come up with a vision through governing principles to promote and coordinate climate plans and action that will create a solid national mission to reduce carbon footprint. This is because of various reasons that must be tackled.

First, our political, economic and social dynamics do not create a significant space for climate discourse. Few advocates speak on climate issues, and this has been in the domain of few climate writers and NGOs. This happens when politicians and economists who are less interested in climate change are given a prominent role in the mainstream discourse. As usual, their analyses are based on the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. They ignore the economic processes and systems that contribute to greenhouse gases in the country. There is no nationwide discourse on how we are going to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, which is a source of income for Petronas.

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Second, we are legally far behind developed countries in coming up with a Climate Change Act that would require mandatory reporting on carbon emissions, so that policies could be developed to reduce carbon footprint. We have much fewer cases fought in courts on major climate issues such as pollution and its effect on health of the Malaysians, which touch the conscience of the population, compared to other advance countries.

Third, we are part of a governing ideology that gives much prominence to ministries like finance, trade and industry, while downplaying and giving lesser attention to the ministries of the environment and even human resources. Budget allocations to protect the environment are provided without a genuine collective long-term national agenda that involves all ministries.

Climate change issues are beyond the power of the ministries of the environment and water to fix. They require an advocate to streamline the commitment of all ministries to address.

The Association for Community and Dialogue urges all political parties, social movements, economic think-tanks and educational institutions in this country to pay serious attention to climate change issues in the framework of sustainable development goals. It should be part of the national discourse on politics, economy and education.

Malaysia has to work towards reducing its carbon footprint and that requires a bipartisan climate advocate in governance and in Parliament to save the planet for our future generations. – The Malaysian Insight

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