UN climate report a wake-up call for policymakers

The main challenge is to educate, inculcate political will and a sense of urgency and responsibility among govt and corporate leaders

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / Pic by BLOOMBERG

TEMPERATURES are rising faster than expected and becoming a deepening climate emergency, calling for immediate action from policymakers.

The United Nations’ (UN) recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report provided new estimates on the possibility of global warming hitting the 1.5°C level in the next decades.

It found that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting global warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.

Environmental and sustainability consultancy SHEMSI Sdn Bhd’s director and consultant Amarjit Kaur said the report confirms that current planet warming is being caused by humans.

“As part of mitigating and adapting to climate change, policymakers would be looking into developing new and more stringent policies and laws to incentivise companies to reduce their CO2 emissions. For example, introducing carbon tax as seen in Singapore.

“The main challenge is to educate, inculcate political will and a sense of urgency and responsibility among government and corporate leaders, as a lot of the preparations required to face climate change depends on making the right policies and ensuring its implementation,” she told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

Climate change is not just about temperature as it brings multiple different changes in different regions, which will all increase with further warming.

According to the IPCC report, these include changes to wetness and dryness, to winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans.

“Climate change is intensifying the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions.

“For cities, some aspects of climate change may be amplified, including heat, flooding from heavy precipitation events and the rise of sea levels in coastal cities,” it added.

Moving forward, Amarjit foresees that energy demand will continue to grow as our society increasingly relies on technology.

“This in turn contributes to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal, our major source of electricity.

“Efforts are ongoing to encourage renewable energy in the country, however, issues related to politics, financial costs and awareness are the main challenges,” she added.

Amarjit said the country is already seeing impacts from climate change, but it can be mitigated if considerations are implemented for new and existing infrastructures and developments.

“At the individual level, we should aim to minimise our carbon footprint by making better consumption choices.”

She added that labour standards in Malaysia have always been poor — particularly in the dirty, dangerous and difficult industries such as construction and palm oil — due in part to the lackadaisical nature of enforcement, allowing companies to take advantage of their workers.

She believed that this can be improved through better monitoring and enforcement, as well as corporate governance practices.

“Much more work must be done to ensure that companies are implementing meaningful ‘diversity’ related policies. At the moment, a lot of focus on diversity in Malaysian companies is on topics such as race and gender.

“However, true diversity should also include people with different abilities and beliefs,” she said.

Amarjit opined that a lot of the main challenges with implementing good corporate governance relate to the character and integrity of a company’s leaders, who are responsible for establishing a corporate culture that can leverage on environmental, social and governance.

“Many are still not grasping the urgency for embracing sustainability and often see it merely as a greenwashing exercise,” she concluded.