By Mariam Mokhtar
At the PAS Youth muktamar in Port Dickson which took place on October 30, eyebrows were raised because Environment and Water Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man failed to attend the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) which started on October 31 in Glasgow, Scotland.
He said Malaysia had sent a delegation led by Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA) secretary-general Ir Dr Zaini Ujang.
According to him, “KASA was preparing carbon market guidelines and pricing policy to provide clear guidance to those who want to get involved in the voluntary carbon market in line with the government’s target to reduce the intensity of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45% across the economy, based on the Gross Domestic Product, in 2030.”
His explanation was a mouthful and to the ordinary man in the street, means nothing at all.
If Malaysia is to help in the global effort to save the planet and decelerate climate change, could he provide some simple guidelines at the individual level? Things like recycling waste, reducing red meat consumption, stopping food waste, cycling instead of taking the car and limiting the use of the air-conditioner.
Tuan Ibrahim is not the only one to blind us with science.
Last week, at the tabling of Budget 2022, Finance Minister Zafrul Abdul Aziz announced the government’s sustainability agenda which includes more environmentally-friendly development programs.
He promoted the development of electric vehicles (EVs) with energy -efficient vehicle (EEV) features to minimize vehicle smoke pollution in the atmosphere.
Import duty, excise duty and sales tax are exempted on EVs and vehicle owners enjoyed a 100% road tax exemption.
This effort may be commendable but how affordable are electric cars? Can the graduate or the average pakcik afford one?
Many of these ideas may sound good on paper, but only the fabulously wealthy can afford to buy an EV.
At present, our petrol sales may be one of the cheapest in the world, but the cost of owning a car is prohibitive.
Despite the various tariffs imposed, most people are forced to own a car because our public transport system is inadequate except for Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley.
What is the use of promoting EVs when there are insufficient electrical charging points around Klang Valley, never mind throughout Malaysia?
Our electricity production still relies on fossil fuels and coal powered generators.
Our ministers are ambitious. Two years ago, one minister was talking about developing a flying car. What happened to that idea?
The Malaysian government makes it seem like Malaysia is still in the 16th century, and this minister is trying to jump to the 31st century.
Zafrul placed a lot of emphasis on protecting our natural ecosystems, but our ministers must realize that what they table in the parliament and tell reporters is not what is practiced in real life.
The finance minister mentioned nature conservation projects on Penang Hill and Tasik Chini. He had addressed coastal erosion in various parts of the country and efforts were underway to overcome floods.
Many Malaysians are aware that overdevelopment of Penang Hill, and mining and deforestation in environmentally sensitive areas like Tasik Chini appear as if government departments are not aware of what is happening on the ground, or at worst, they do not communicate with one another.
Perhaps, they do know, but they just don’t care. It is the Malaysian government, after all.
In conservative parts of the country like Kelantan and Kedah, some politicians dismiss illegal logging and deforestation in the highlands as a cause of flooding. Most will insist that flooding is an act of God.
Many clerics who are wannabe politicians and whose knowledge of science, climate change and physical geography is limited, do not have the ability to comprehend simple physical processes.
When trees are logged, the surface of the ground is bare and the soil is no longer held together by the roots. One consequence of illegal logging is that a heavy downpour has the capacity to wash away the soil, causing mudslides and serious flooding downstream.
It does not matter which government is in power because experience tells us that protected forest reserves and coastal areas like mangrove forests have been earmarked for development.
Politicians and the Malaysian elite are in league with unscrupulous developers. They put wealth before health of the nation and the environment.
There has also been a lot of talk to prioritize and strengthen environmental governance.
There have been numerous pollution spills into our waterways and soils, both accidental and deliberate.
There have been recorded complaints which are often ignored by the authorities about the pollution of our atmosphere from factories discharging noxious wastes, as well as illegal dumping and burning of waste.
Apart from a light fine for the company, the directors of these companies have escaped jail.
The lack of a deterrent encourages other firms to repeat the same illegal practices of polluting the environment.
Increased funding is needed for the Department of Environment so that it can monitor and enforce the environment and our natural resources; but until the umbilical cord between the crony and the politician is severed, the pollution of our air, water and soil will continue.
1. The Edge Markets: Full Budget 2022 speech
3. Malaysiakini: Tuan Ibrahim questioned for skipping UN climate change conference
(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)