YB Dato’ Seri Azmi bin Khalid,
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Malaysia;
His Excellency Boyd McCleary,
British High Commissioner to Malaysia;
Distinguished Guests and Participants;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Assalamualaikum and a very good morning
1. First and foremost I would like to commend the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment whom in collaboration with the Government of the United Kingdom have successfully organised this Regional Conference on Climate Change. This conference is timely providing an avenue for individuals, communities, governments and organizations to deliberate on a momentous challenge of our time climate change its effects and how best to manage the phenomenon. The theme adopted for this conference Reducing the Threats and Harnessing the Opportunities of Climate Change reflects an eternal human truism that mankind by putting their collective minds and effort together can always be expected to come up with solutions to any man made problems.
2. Not since the cold war have humanity been faced with a threat as profound as to render the price of inaction too great to contemplate. Cumulative scientific evidence compiled by the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change in its series of assessment reports since 1990 coupled with the Stern Review a study commissioned by the UK Treasury looking at the economic impact of climate change brought home the stark reality that climate change left unchecked poses a clear and present danger to mankind’s common future.
3. Indeed this phenomenon is too real, too important, too far reaching and too time sensitive for our bickering, for our indifference or for our cynicism. Arresting and reversing it should be our topmost priority. As earth is mankind’s only home, becoming mere spectators as it turns inhospitable for human habitat is not an option. Combating climate change calls for decisive local action and global collective endeavor, the place to act is here while the time to act is now.
4. Recent years saw the effects of climate change being brought to our shores. Devastating monsoon floods hit Malaysia in December of 2005 and 2006 and again in January of 2007 with losses estimated at 4 billion ringgit.
5. Climate change not only influences the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events but also has adverse impact on agricultural yields, biodiversity, forests, availability of clean water and increases in diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. At a more extreme level, climate change leads to forced migration as sea level rises and coastal and low-lying areas become flooded.
6. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its most recent Fourth Assessment Report released in February 2007 concluded that anthropogenic or human induced causes are the main reason for climate change. The report also highlighted that 11 of the last 12 years rank among the 12 warmest years in the record of global surface temperature since 1850. More importantly, it warned that continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates is very likely to induce greater and more serious global warming. Climate change will spare no country, the pressing task ahead of us now is what we should do, both at the national and international levels.
Ladies and gentlemen,
7. I am heartened that Climate change is now high on the agenda of national governments the world over and also in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. At the national level, Malaysia has always been a committed practitioner of sustainable development.
8. Among the key initiatives taken by the Malaysian government in the fight against global warming has been in the fields of renewable energy. The policy of Renewable Energy (RE) as the fifth fuel has been formulated by the Malaysian government to diversify the traditional sources of fuel which to include renewable energy such as biomass, biogas, and municipal waste, solar and mini-hydro. In order to encourage the generation of energy using biomass, companies which undertake such activity have been provided tax incentives while to promote the usage of renewable energy for power production, the government has established a programme called Small Renewable Energy Programme (SREP).
9. Under the 9th Malaysia Plan, new sources of energy such as solar and wind will be developed with an emphasis on utilising cost-effective technology as well as strengthening capacity building. In this regard, efforts will be undertaken to coordinate R&D activities of the various energy related research centres.
10. Efforts to promote the development of bio fuel using palm oil as a renewable source of energy have been undertaken by the Malaysian government in line with the initiative to make Malaysia a world leader and hub for palm oil. Designated pump stations, to supply diesel blended with 5% methyl ester has already commenced operation in 2006. For the initial phase, the blended diesel will be utilised by vehicles of selected government agencies.
11. In the recently tabled 2008 budget, the Malaysian Government reiterated its commitment to sustainable development. To further promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy, the Government proposed several improvements in tax incentives, including increasing the Investment Tax Allowance on expenditures for energy conservation and energy saving initiatives for company use.
12. Under the Kyoto Protocol, companies that succeed in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) are given a certificate of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) which can be traded. Malaysia supports the implementation of environmentally sound projects which leads to the reduction of GHG, to encourage Malaysian companies’ participation in CDM projects, under the 2008 budget, income derived from trading of CER certificates will be given tax exemption.
13. The focus sectors are Renewable Energy; Energy Efficiency Improvement; and Waste Management. As of July 2007, 28 projects have been given Host Country Approval and 16 projects are registered with CDM Executive Board. These projects are mostly based on renewable energy. The expected amount of Certified Emission Reduction (CER) generated from these projects is about 1.8 million tonnes CO2 equivalent per year.
14. Currently almost 60% of the land area in Malaysia is covered by forest and if tree crops such as rubber, oil palm and cocoa are included the area increases to 77%. We have been able to achieve this through our policy of sustainable forest management (SFM). Malaysia is committed to the implementation of SFM as enshrined in the resolution of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), as well as the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). To further strengthen this effort Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei have initiated the Heart of Borneo conservation plan, which will protect biodiversity by preserving 220,000 square kilometers of rainforest on the island of Borneo. However, national actions alone are inadequate in coping with climate change.
Ladies and gentlemen,
15. On the international front, it is clear that in spite of ongoing negotiations at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol, greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase. The situation has become serious because greenhouse gas concentrations have increased by over one third from 280 ppm (parts per million) pre-industrial to 380 ppm in 2005 and is projected to increase further too anywhere between 540 and 970 ppm in 2100.
16. While the relationship between concentration levels and temperature rise is not known precisely, stabilization at 450 ppm has been recommended by some parties as at that level, there is only a 5-20% chance of global mean temperatures exceeding 3 C above pre-industrial levels. An increase exceeding 3 C would bring great physical, economic and social hardships and even catastrophe while stabilization at levels below 450 ppm would be far too difficult for countries to undertake.
17. More importantly, we need to think through the key issues for the post-Kyoto framework. How do we ensure that the post-Kyoto framework is fair, effective and implementable? Our efforts towards this end must be guided by fundamental principles well known and established in the environmental area, such as the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities; the polluter pays principle and the precautionary principle.
18. Beyond principles however, the post-Kyoto framework can only be successful if we work speedily through many decentralized groupings to generate momentum, since time is of the essence in tackling climate change. Decentralized groupings like the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, the G8 Summit or a gathering of major emitters’ which only involve a handful of countries in the world can meet and work out proposals on climate change. However, these proposals would then have to be brought to the UNFCCC for its agreement or notification. Such a process can help speed up the development of concrete proposals for the consideration of the UNFCCC.
19. It is also important to realize that countries will commit themselves to the climate change efforts at the international level only if such efforts are congruent with those of national interests. Thus, the countries’ level of development, development priorities, natural resources and political structure will influence whether they are able to implement climate change efforts. In practical terms, this means that different types of targets, fixed, conditional and sectoral will have to be in place so that all countries can participate effectively.
20. All national development efforts, especially those of developing countries, must incorporate climate change aspects. Efforts that advance social and economic development together with poverty eradication objectives will simultaneously address greenhouse gas emissions. However, such national efforts need to be complemented at the international level by efforts from developed countries to provide capacity building, technology and finance to developing countries.
21. Technology transfer and capacity building are essential in our fight against climate change. Greater international momentum on technology transfer is needed. While technologies are held by private companies, governments can help to promote international collaboration to overcome barriers faced. Many developing countries lack the financial means to gain new technology.
22. A post-Kyoto framework should also consider what actions must be taken to ensure that the remaining forests in the world are preserved. It is an interesting idea because it can fight climate change in a cost-effective manner while improving living standards for some people, safeguarding biodiversity, and preserving other ecosystem services. While policies on deforestation must be formulated and controlled by the countries themselves, the international community can benefit from preserving such forests through the carbon market.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
23. Climate change presents us with both a threat and an opportunity. The threat I’ve dwelled at length, it is undeniable that climate change also provide us an opportunities to reexamine our lifestyle. Without a long hard look at how we consume the worlds’ resources at the micro level we will not be able to start a sustainable effort to reverse climate change. That is why suggestions have been made to have personal carbon rationing, which is supported by the equity principle of equal shares for everyone. As part of a global agreement, per capita rationing would ensure that people would only be able to pollute up to their equal rations and beyond that, they would have to buy credits from those who have not utilized their rations fully. The whole idea of personal carbon rationing is to ensure that people adjust their life styles to less carbon intensive ways.
24. But even if we do not implement personal carbon rationing, we can still reduce our own carbon footprint in many ways including by utilizing public transportation, using more energy efficient consumer products, choosing less fuel guzzling personal transportation and practicing the 3Rs – Recycle, Reduce and Reuse.
25. For companies, the opportunities to gain from climate change are tremendous. We already know that waste to wealth industries are on the increase and entrepreneurs should seize the opportunities that present themselves to enter new markets that cater to green products and technology. As governments around the world tighten laws and regulations in efforts to fight climate change, only companies that produce energy efficient products and products that are less carbon intensive will be able to prosper.
26. This conference is being held at a most suitable time because it precedes the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC and the 3rd Meeting of the Parties (MOP) to the Kyoto Protocol, which will be held in Bali from 3 to 13 December 2007. The discussions here can pave for the way forward in Bali.
27. We inherited an environment and climate that allowed our generation to lead a healthy, fruitful and productive life. It should therefore be our moral undertaking to pass a healthy and livable earth for the next generation.
28. I hope that you will take this opportunity to discuss and map the way forward in tackling climate change. This conference can and should yield positive results for the global climate change agenda. I wish you all the best in your deliberations and on this note, it is with great pleasure that I declare open the Regional Climate Change Conference.