Are we losing in the battle against climate change?


THE role of a leader in general is to defend the sovereignty of the country for the sake of the progress and wellbeing of all. As a constitutional democratic country, if the choice of the leader is in the hands of the people, all actions and decisions taken by the government led by him must also be fully beneficial to the people. 

Since the announcement of the dissolution of Parliament by the Prime Minister (PM) of Malaysia Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on the 10th of October, the development of the country’s politics has been hotly discussed day by day. It is clear that not long from now we will choose and appoint another leader who will steer the administration and develop strategies to ensure the development of a peaceful and advanced country. 

It is our responsibility as Malaysians to elect leaders who take matters seriously and are committed not only to issues such as economic growth and the welfare of the people, but also to ensure that environmental sustainability is also preserved.

Priority should be given to implementing reforms in the country’s administrative system towards (being) more sustainable, while (the) measure of economic growth of a country should not be based solely on GDP. In fact, the country’s economic growth must mutually support environmental protection in line with Agenda 21 of the 1992 Rio Convention, which aims to stop damage to the environment by promoting sustainable development. 

This is because the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly noticeable and worrying, especially in Malaysia after experiencing several extreme weather events such as floods, frequent air and water pollution, extreme temperature increases and increasingly erratic weather in recent times. It does not only degrade the quality of the environment, but also causes a decline in the quality of life of the people mainly due to the increase in socioeconomic disparity and the decline in the health of the Malaysian community. 

One of the ways to address this is to draw up a fair national economic transformation strategy towards a more sustainable direction by focusing on just energy transition and increasing the promotion of green jobs among the Malaysian community, especially for the youth.

Young people are the least to contribute to climate change, but they are also the most vulnerable to its effects. The Malaysian government should look seriously at efforts to increase youth involvement by increasing the capacity of young people, especially in public policy advocacy focused on environmental and climate issues. 

The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly noticeable and worrying, especially in Malaysia after experiencing several extreme weather events such as floods and increasingly erratic weather – pic by Muhd Amin Naharul

In addition, efforts should be intensified to facilitate access to information and information related to the environment and related policies, so that they become more informed and able to contribute meaningfully to climate action at the local or international level by using media platforms online or print more efficiently and comprehensively. 

Next, the youth group should also be recognised as a strategic partner of the government in the policy-making and decision-making process, which is not only able to encourage the government to take more meaningful climate action, but also (to) produce young people who are more aware and concerned about environmental issues and change climate.

This matter was also highlighted in the Youth4Climate 2022 Summit held in conjunction with the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York last month, which I participated in as the only Malaysian youth representative. This summit, themed “Powering Action”, emphasised four main pillars which are youth driving ambitions, sustainable recovery, non-state actors’ engagement and climate conscious society. 

This summit also provided a space for youth activists from around the world to exchange opinions, share experiences and knowledge on issues and initiatives led by them to address climate change and explore opportunities for them to collaborate and build a global youth community who is aware of environmental issues and climate change. It is also to support meaningful youth involvement in climate action, while fostering an inclusive ecosystem in the decision-making process with national and world leaders at various levels.

On the other hand, environmental governance needs to be coherent, efficient and responsive to the needs of all age groups and communities in designing participatory and systemic local solutions. This is because I also believe that in an effort to take action on the issue of climate change and the environment should involve collaboration between various parties, including marginalised groups such as youth groups and the Orang Asli community and taking their views into account so that more inclusive and comprehensive decisions can be made.

The recent actions of the Malaysian government in addressing climate issues should be commended. Among these are the amendment of the Environmental Quality Act 1974 by increasing the punishment rate for environmental criminals, efforts to increase preparedness to deal with flood disasters in the form of strengthening warning systems, building water infrastructure that is resilient to climate disasters, development of the National Water Sector Transformation Agenda 2040, implementation of the Action Plan National Energy Efficiency by improving the efficiency of energy use and management, as well as the drafting of a climate change bill. 

This shows the high level of concern of the Malaysian government towards environmental issues and climate change, especially in building a low-carbon and resilient country through climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. However, I hope that the government’s commitments are implemented by developing a clear and transparent progress monitoring strategy, so that the target results from the implementation of this policy and project can be efficiently achieved in addition to encouraging active participation from the public, especially industry players and stakeholders who lead climate action at multiple levels especially at the grassroots level.

In addition, policymaking alone is not sufficient if the Malaysian community does not have the awareness and knowledge on the need to give priority to the issue of climate change and environmental sustainability, and that they also have a critical role to play in supporting the government’s goals. 

One of the ways is to improve environmental literacy through the strengthening of knowledge transfer strategies. This can be done by maximising the capacity of educational institutions to play an active role in producing a young generation who are knowledgeable and concerned about the environment, as well as becoming agents of spreading awareness within their own communities. 

At the same time, the government should also step up efforts to encourage these centres through financial incentives and facilities to increase research, innovation and community projects that are more focused on environmental management and climate change.

The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are responsible for global temperature warming of about 1.1°C since the end of the 19th century, and finds that the average global temperature over the next 20 years is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C. 

The issue of climate change, which is getting worse over time, should be taken seriously in the same way that we act to deal with the Covid-19 epidemic that has been haunting the lives of the global citizen for the past two years. In an article written by Bill Gates published by The GatesNotes, he stated that the impact of climate change may be worse than the Covid-19 epidemic if not addressed immediately. If we can do it to deal with Covid-19, we can do it for climate change, too.

Therefore, ahead of the 27th Conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27-UNFCCC) which will take place this November in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, I call on the Malaysian government to commit to prioritising the need to address the issue of climate change efficiently and apply it in the development of the country in terms of economics, social and politics as a whole. 

I also want to emphasise that progressive and immediate action is critical to limit the impact of climate change, which puts pressure not only on the environment but also on the wellbeing and prosperity of Malaysian society. 

I hope that the commitment can be translated into implementation by emphasising efforts to strengthen transparency in climate change governance, as well as active and inclusive participation of the people to build a sustainable country and environment. 

Climate change is a global crisis and efforts to mitigate it is our shared responsibility!

Mogesh Sababathy
Malaysian Youth Climate advocate
Co-founder of Project Ocean Hope
PhD candidate, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)