By Teresa Kok

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Climate change is indeed, possibly, the greatest threat to human society. Nations of the world should cooperate to address this challenge that has been described as a planetary emergency.

Therefore, it is indeed heartening to note that the government is joining the growing ranks of countries in announcing carbon neutrality plans. In his speech unveiling the 12th Malaysia Plan, the Prime Minister announced that Malaysia is aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the earliest.

Interestingly, he also underscored that details of the plan to achieve the target will be announced pending the study on Long-term Low Emissions Development Strategies (LT-LEDS) which will be finalised by the end of 2022.

LT-LEDS is supposed to draw up greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies for key economic sectors that will then determine the target year.

The decision is akin to putting the cart before the horse. Sound decisions can only be made through thorough deliberations. 

It appeared that the announcement was made in a rush ahead of the upcoming 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held at Glasgow, Scotland.

There has been a lot of movement pushing countries especially developing countries like Malaysia to adopt carbon neutrality or net-zero emissions target year. 
The momentum has been growing stronger from pressure groups especially environmental non-governmental organisations as we inched closer to the year-end climate summit and after the dire warning of climate catastrophe following the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

However, as a developing country which contributes less than 0.7 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, it is my humble opinion that we should take a little more time to assess our capacity and ability before rushing headlong in making a hasty decision which may have serious ramifications later.

Forestry is also another key sector where its carbon sink capacity will very likely be affected if the mineral transformation plan does not consider its implications on forest loss.

There’s been reports about phasing out coal-fired power plants as the main source of electricity generation by 2050, replacing them with natural gas, the cleaner fossil fuels and increasing renewable energy in the national energy mix. 
However, we need to bear in mind the challenge of base load in electricity generation and that natural gas is a depleting resource. We may have to import and that would certainly increase the cost of energy, impacting the middle and lower income groups and affect the competitiveness of our economy.

So why the hurry? In fact, we’d just ‘increased our ambition’ by removing the conditional 10 percent emissions intensity reduction by 2030 from 2005 level in the submission of the revised Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in July.

Little known to many, developing countries are being coerced, influenced
and pressured by some civil society groups funded by rich nations to increase their ambition in emissions reduction while these NGOs are turning a blind eye to the obligations of those historical emitters to take the lead in deep emissions cut not to mention that they need to provide the agreed finance and technology transfer.
It needs to be pointed out that under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement, the first periodic stocktake of the implementation of the Paris Agreement to assess the collective progress will take place in 2023. That’s when countries’ progress will be assessed not just by their mitigation efforts but also the level of financing on the part of rich, industrialised nations.

Article 14 paragraph 3 said “The outcome of the global stocktake shall inform Parties in updating and enhancing, in a nationally determined manner, their actions and support in accordance with the relevant provisions of this Agreement, as well as in enhancing international cooperation for climate action.”

So, it is very important that the government is not swayed by public sentiments and external influence but is fully aware of the provisions of the Paris Agreement which we had signed and ratified and defend the country’s rights to development and to transition to a low carbon economy within an equitable and reasonable timeframe in accordance to our national circumstances.