The Association for Welfare, Community and Dialogue commends the coalition government’s effort to come up with an energy transition plan.
This is aside from the blueprint for decarbonising Malaysia’s transport sector, which saw the completion of a low-carbon mobility blueprint (2021-2030) in 2020.
Although the plan is good for a transition to a green economy, it will not see real progress in terms of the common good if it ends up for mere commercial purposes and profits, while the equity aspect that benefits the common people is ignored.
For example, living in Ipoh, I observe how public transport, such as buses, moves along key main roads while skipping the interiors of housing areas, where public buses could be used for transport instead of private vehicles.
In this area, some students may require cheaper public transport to commute to colleges and universities.
Older people may prefer efficient public transport to visit hospitals for check-ups. Most of them are ageing and may not be able to drive private vehicles.
People have to walk a distance to the main roads for bus services.
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Roads are also jammed in Ipoh when private vehicles clog the roads during school dismissal times. We can only wonder how much carbon is emitted to the atmosphere, endangering the health of the people.
Research has shown road transport contributes to over 70% of air pollution in urban areas: it is the second largest contributor to CO2 emissions in Malaysia at 21% in 2016.
Reduce use of private vehicles
Transport-related air pollutants, such as nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter, pose significant threats to the urban population’s health.
For the average person, transport is the most visible source of greenhouse gas emissions, especially when large fleets of cars clog the roads.
Shifting from cars to public transport can reduce up to 2.2 tonnes of carbon emissions annually per individual, according to research.
What is practically required in Malaysia is to reduce the number of private vehicles and support the use of public transport. This will help bring down carbon emissions.
Greater use of public transport services instead of personal vehicles is one of the best ways to reduce emissions and save the environment.
Many cities have successfully reduced CO2 emissions by as much as 50% by reducing or limiting the flow of private cars.
It is unfortunate that the idea of public transport was placed on the back-burner, especially in the wasted 22 years when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the prime minister.
While the nation goes through a green transition plan, the most significant way we could start is by making public transport available in all areas instead of selected areas.
This requires creating awareness among the people about the importance of public transport in the green transition plan.
This would create a far more equitable and health-friendly green transition plan that caters to all the people, irrespective of their background.