YearStarter 2023: Environment – Climate change was the talk of the town


2022 ended with yet another tragedy: a massive landslide brought on by even more rain. This really was the year that climate change entered our national conversation.. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

The year 2022 started with the tailend of one of the worst floods to hit Malaysia in decades that killed dozens, and it ended with yet another tragedy: a massive landslide brought on by even more rain.

For years, climate change has been much talked about among environmentalists and activists in the country, but perhaps for the first time, ordinary Malaysians are now beginning to expressly worry about it. Or rather, one effect of it: more rainfall, brought about by extreme weather caused by climate change coupled with the La Nina weather phenomenon now running into the third year.

Whether this leads to yet more floods, landslides, mudslips, and even dearer vegetables and seafood, Malaysians are now feeling the effects of climate change and how it directly impacts their lifestyle.

It was the year that climate change entered our national conversation.

The year 2022 started with the tailend of one of the worst floods to hit Malaysia in decades that killed dozens. – Photo: BloombergThe year 2022 started with the tailend of one of the worst floods to hit Malaysia in decades that killed dozens. – Photo: Bloomberg

A flood of problems

Budget 2023 – which was introduced in early October but never passed because the 15th General Election was called – saw some RM15bil set aside for flood mitigation plans as a long-term strategy to adapt to the impact of climate change. This is the largest sum so far.

We aren’t sure if the new Malaysia Unity Government will commit to the same figure as it has cited irregularities with past tender awards, but for the first time, there were indications that efforts were being made to look into long-term solutions for flooding problems instead of dealing with crises on an ad-hoc basis previously.

In September, then environment and water minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man also warned that Malaysia would need at least RM392bil for a long-term solution to overcome the country's flood problems in the next 78 years.

Year of the Tiger

Last year was also the Year of the Tiger, which saw the redoubling of efforts and campaigns by wildlife authorities to save our iconic Malayan tiger from extinction.

In January 2022, Malaysia kicked off its first meeting of the National Tiger Conservation Task Force, chaired by then prime minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and attended by the various mentris besar and state excos.

2022 saw the redoubling of efforts and campaigns by wildlife authorities to save our iconic Malayan tiger from extinction. – Photo: Filepic/The Star2022 saw the redoubling of efforts and campaigns by wildlife authorities to save our iconic Malayan tiger from extinction. – Photo: Filepic/The Star

Out of the meeting came a commitment from the states to conserve tiger habits as one measure to help save tigers in the wild.

This was followed by the Fourth Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation hosted by Malaysia that same month, during which the 13-point Kuala Lumpur Joint Statement was adopted. The statement calls for support to implement actions to save the tiger within South-East Asia.

Finishing with a song

The straw-headed bulbul. — DR CHAN AH LAKThe straw-headed bulbul. — DR CHAN AH LAKMalaysia closed the year by successfully lobbying to upgrade the status of two songbird species, the straw-headed bulbul and the white-rumped sharma, at the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), that took place in Montreal, Canada, from Nov 14-25.

Malaysia’s jungles are home to birds valued for their song and highly trafficked illegally; the Malaysian delegation lobbied to place the white-rumped sharma in Appendix I so that international trade in the bird will be regulated, monitored and controlled. For the straw-headed bulbul, listing in Appendix II means a total ban on trade in this bird, which is crucial if there is any hope of saving this species.

See the graphic below for more highlights of events related to the environment throughout 2022.

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