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LETTER | Is Malaysia not vulnerable to climate change?

LETTER | Climate Change incorporates not only regulation of atmospheric pollution resulting from the release of greenhouse gases from human activities, but also a range of other issues, including impacts and adaptation, deforestation and linkages of some other areas of international law.

According to the environment and water minister, Malaysia was not invited to the Leaders' Summit on Climate in the United States as it not categorised as a country vulnerable to climate change. The question then arises whether the statement made by the Minister reflect the intention of the US.

It is important to note that climate change is affecting every country in the world. “Many developing countries are also uniquely vulnerable,” said Kelly Levin of the World Resources Institute. 

Furthermore, it appears that the objectives or themes of the summit are beyond vulnerability. The White House said the summit would aim to "catalyse efforts" to limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius. In his invitation, the US president urged leaders to use the summit as an opportunity to outline how their countries also will contribute to stronger climate ambition.

The White House added: “The President also invited the heads of other countries that are demonstrating strong climate leadership, are especially vulnerable to climate impacts or are charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.” 

When quizzed about Fiji’s non-inclusion, the US Embassy in Suva stated that “To ensure the summit captures as many diverse viewpoints as possible, the United States has invited other voices, such as leaders that are charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy”. 

Hence, not including Malaysia to be part of the summit could also be that Malaysia is not demonstrating strong climate leadership or not charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.

A global problem that requires a global solution

Malaysia does not confine itself to the four walls, hence, it could not be said that Malaysia is not vulnerable to climate change. Environmental threats are accompanied by a recognition that ecological interdependence does not respect national boundaries and that issues considered being matters of national concern have international implications. 

Malaysia is also a signatory to the Paris Agreement, ambitious environmental protection goals at the international level will not be meaningful unless implemented at the national level.

It is widely recognised that the planet faces serious environmental challenges that can only be addressed through international cooperation. Countries move globally to respond to the urgency of climate change as it requires a global solution. Policy coordination will be essential. 

The EU is now working towards its "Green New Deal" objectives, whilst British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has published his 10-point plan for a "Green Industrial Revolution". The UK government has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

The UK also launched a Green Finance Strategy in July 2019, which outlines the government's role in greening both private and public sector investment. China imposes a much lower price burden on producers than carbon pricing in the UK. 

Moreover, Norway has been a part of the EU Emission Trading System (EU ETS) since 2008 through the EEA Agreement. About half of Norway's emissions are included in the EU ETS, making this a cornerstone in Norwegian climate policy. 

Emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia were lower in 2016-17 than in the preceding decade. In response, Norway will pay up to US$56 million (RM231 million) for the good results, which are very encouraging.

The situations above demonstrated that climate change is no longer solely or mostly a problem of atmospheric pollution, but rather a complex, multidimensional issue that penetrates deeply into the social and economic fabric of national states and interfaces with a multitude of other areas of international law. 

It might not be right to say that Malaysia is not vulnerable to climate change or it should not be an excuse for not working towards innovative policies or technologies to mitigate climate change to be on par with the international playing field of international environmental law.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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