Steps towards a green government


OUR new Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, ought to be congratulated for establishing a separate ministry to handle environmental affairs. Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, the newly- minted Environment Minister, will not only have to learn a lot speedily but hit the ground running if he wants to make an impact. At the same time, he needs all the support that he can harness, especially from the Prime Minister.

But given the state of affairs at this point of time, I will not be surprised if environmental issues such as climate change are not pressing concerns and will take a back seat to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The purpose of this letter is to awaken and heighten the awareness of the top leadership of the country that the state of the environment should never be neglected. Environmental challenges such as climate change concerns all of us – governments, corporations and individuals (civil society). Today, climate change is recognised as one of the most important environmental challenges facing the global community. Hopefully, Muhyiddin will gravitate towards becoming a green PM, and that one of the hallmarks of his Prime Ministership will be his commitment to and seriousness about reducing the country’s carbon emissions.

The Prime Minister must work towards becoming a champion of the environment by his words and deeds. We want a concerned PM who has the heart and mind to care for our fragile earth so that future generations can enjoy what we are now enjoying.

Here are a few suggestions on how the PM can assist the Environment Minister:

> We have had enough education, heightening of awareness and coaxing, we must now move forward by adopting drastic measures that will force the public to adopt new lifestyles. For instance, when people have to pay more for their petrol (by doing away with subsidies) they will stop driving fuel- guzzling SUVs and MPVs. If they have to pay more for electricity use, they will learn to conserve energy in their homes and workplaces.

All these translate to cutting down the country’s consumption of energy and carbon emissions.

> Our new PM should develop and nurture a “green-conscious” environment among ministries, government departments and agencies, and even municipalities so they will be encouraged to vie for green bragging rights in all of their programmes and projects.

> Start drawing up legislation to cap carbon emissions.

> Set up a green fund to finance environmentally-friendly projects

> Appeal to the rakyat – parents, teachers, religious leaders, CEOs of corporations as well government- linked ones, and politicians – to reduce their emissions. We need to vigorously pursue a change in mindset when roles are reversed

in that children will teach their parents not to pollute.

> Address one of our weakest links: We do not have a tough enforcement regimen to prevent environmental degradation.

If the above are to be executed effectively, there ought to be tremendous hands-on leadership at the PM’s level. Frankly, my thinking thus far is that it’s not that the government cannot devote more effort towards fighting climate change, it’s that we don’t want to.

Ultimately, though, we cannot depend solely on the government to protect the environment; the concern has to be people-centred. At the individual level, it is regrettable that true awareness of the adverse effects of climate change is wanting. The rakyat (even the rich) care more about petrol subsidies than about the adverse impact of carbon emissions. This mentality has to change.

The public needs to be mindful that the little things we do matter, and in the long run we do make a difference. For example, a tree that we grow today will make the world greener. Or cutting down on our energy consumption on a daily basis will contribute to a cleaner environment.

All corporations, businesses and enterprises – large or small – need to take individual responsibility in mankind’s efforts to protect the environment. The longer we wait, the more difficult the task ahead will be.

Malaysia must prepare itself for a new development paradigm that will meet the environmental and social challenges of the coming decade. We should realise that the time for taking action against global warming is not tomorrow, not even today but this very minute.

Over to you, Mr Prime Minister. Seize the moment. This is a golden opportunity for you to become the Green Prime Minister of the country.

POLA SINGH

Taman Tun Dr Ismail,

Kuala Lumpur


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