CLIMATE change not only incorporates regulation of atmospheric pollution resulting from the release of greenhouse gases from human activities but also a range of other issues, including impacts and adaptation, deforestation and linkages with some areas of international law.
According to the Environment and Water Minister, Malaysia was not invited to the virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate hosted by the United States (April 22 and 23) as it is not categorised as a country vulnerable to climate change. The question that arises is whether the minister’s statement reflects the intention of the US.
It is important to remember that climate change is affecting every country in the world. “Many developing countries are also uniquely vulnerable, ” said Kelly Levin of the World Resources Institute, a global research non-profit organisation.
Furthermore, it appears that the objectives or themes of the summit are beyond the issue of vulnerability. The White House statement said the summit would aim to “catalyse efforts” to “limit planetary warming to 1.5°C.” But it added that the summit would also “highlight examples of how enhanced climate ambition will create good-paying jobs, advance innovative technologies and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate impacts.”
In his invitation, US President Joe Biden urged leaders to use the summit as an opportunity to outline how their countries would contribute to stronger climate ambition.
The White House statement noted that, “The President also invited the heads of other countries that are demonstrating strong climate leadership, are especially vulnerable to climate impacts or are charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.”
When asked about Fiji’s non-inclusion, the US Embassy in Suva replied: “To ensure the summit captures as many diverse viewpoints as possible, the US has invited other voices, such as leaders that are charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.”
Hence, not inviting Malaysia to the summit could also be due to the fact that our country is not demonstrating strong climate leadership or not charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.
As Malaysia is not confined within four walls, it cannot be said that it is not vulnerable to climate change. Environmental threats do not respect national boundaries, and issues considered as matters of national concern have international implications. Malaysia is also a signatory to the Paris Agreement.
It is widely recognised that our planet is facing serious environmental challenges that can only be addressed through international cooperation. Countries move globally to respond to the urgency of climate change, and policy coordination will be essential.
The European Union (EU) is now working towards its “Green New Deal” objectives, and Boris Johnson has published his 10-point plan for a “Green Industrial Revolution”. The UK Government has also pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Norway, although not a member state of the EU, has been part of the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) since 2008 through the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement. About half of Norway’s emissions are included in the EU ETS, making this a cornerstone in Norwegian climate policy.
Emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia were lower in 2016-17 than in the preceding decade. Indonesia will receive up to US$56mil from Norway for this good result, which is very encouraging.
These situations demonstrate that climate change is no longer solely or mostly a problem of atmospheric pollution but rather a complex, multidimensional issue that penetrates deeply into the social and economic fabric of nation states and interfaces with a multitude of other areas of international law.
As such, it might not be right to say that Malaysia is not vulnerable to climate change. Malaysia should continue to initiate innovative policies or technologies to mitigate climate change so that it can be on par with the international community.
TEOH KING MEN
(The writer is a youth advocate for climate change, human rights, social justice and quality education in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.)