Malaysia needs to urgently beef up its climate actions, says environmental group

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This figure shows the history of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations as directly measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. This curve is known as the Keeling curve, and is an essential piece of evidence of the man-made increases in greenhouse gases that are believed to be the cause of global warming. - Graphic: Wikipedia

There are international resources available and Malaysia must follow the example of other developing countries which are taking climate change seriously, says Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia).

With the adoption of the Paris Agreement, an international treaty for post-2020 climate action, at the Paris climate summit last December, signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are committing themselves to enhancing climate actions to halt further alteration of the climate system and its adverse impacts on human societies.

Malaysia, one of the 197 parties that negotiated and adopted the agreement and subsequently one of the 175 countries that signed the agreement on 22 April 2016 in New York, will now have to walk the talk.

In the run-up to the Paris Conference, Malaysia, like many other countries had also submitted its climate action plan known as the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) in which it declared its intention to cut its emissions ‘by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to the emission intensity of GDP of 2005.

This consists of a reduction of 35 per cent on an unconditional basis and a further 10 per cent conditional upon receipt of climate finance, technology transfer and capacity-building from developed countries.

The country has been consistent in defending the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC while negotiating the new agreement, notably stressing that the agreement is under the convention, thus the obligations of developed countries in providing finance, technology transfer and capacity-building assistance to developing countries remain.

The call for the provision of finance is apparent from Prime Minister Najib Razak’s statement when pledging the 40 per cent emission intensity reduction of its GDP from 2005 level by 2020 at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 and the demand was reiterated subsequently on a number of occasions.

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However, nearly eight months have passed since Paris and Malaysia appears to be lagging behind in accessing international funding provided by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the operating entity of the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, aimed at helping developing countries to shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient sustainable development pathways.

Many developing countries have submitted funding proposals to the GCF, which in turn has to date approved scores of projects and programmes close to US$440m. These funds are channelled towards mitigation and adaptation projects as well as the strengthening of the institutional framework of developing countries in order to develop suitable climate action plans.

In preparing to access the GCF money, as of May 2016, 49 developing countries had accessed the GCF’s readiness grant, which enabled them to strengthen the institutional capacity of their national designated authorities (NDA) or focal point and to develop their country programmes. The NDA/focal point of Malaysia is the environmental management and climate change division of the ministry of natural resources and environment.

The GCF began disbursement of funds since last year. As an example, our neighbour, Vietnam, had its proposal to “improve the resilience of vulnerable coastal communities to climate change related impacts” to a tune of US$29.5m approved at the last GCF board meeting in June 2016.

Unfortunately, we have yet to see any proposals from Malaysia, neither for a readiness grant, nor a project proposal, in the pipeline pending assessment or approval.

It is also to be noted that Malaysia is among the 12 board members representing developing countries in the GCF’s board, which is the governing body.

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On the technology front, Malaysia is also one of the 26 countries participating in phase two of the global technology needs assessment programme supported by the UNFCCC. However, it is understood that Malaysia has yet to move on this programme since the launch in November 2014, straggling behind other countries in this region like Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

In the meantime, Malaysia has experienced climate change-related extreme weather events such as the 2014 year-end devastating floods that was estimated to have incurred damages amounting to hundreds of millions ringgit with the agriculture sector in the worst hit state of Kelantan alone recording losses of RM105m.

No official cost estimates have been made available of the recent heat wave but its impacts have surely been felt by the general public who are forced to instal air-conditioners and pay more for electricity usage.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) urges the Malaysian government to pay attention to the challenges arising from the impacts of climate change that are coming our way and get its act together by matching our demands with deeds.

The UNFCCC mechanisms, which include the GCF and the technology needs assessment process, can help Malaysia get its act together on climate change and do much more with the available finance and technology resources, including in beefing up its climate change division in the ministry through availing itself of the readiness money via the GCF.

There are international resources available and Malaysia must follow the example of other developing countries which are taking climate change seriously and are accessing the GCF for the necessary financial resources and in addressing our climate technology needs.

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There should be no more excuse for further delays. Hence SAM urges the Malaysian government to act now and act firmly and fast.

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