Malaysia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) shows a lack of commitment and coordination towards addressing climate change challenges

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 1st of December, 2015

Malaysia’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) shows a lack of commitment and coordination towards addressing climate change challenges

In Malaysia’s last minute Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submission, just days before the start of the UN Climate Change Conference or COP 21 in Paris, Malaysia set an ambitious goal of reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity of GDP by 45% by 2030 relative to the emissions intensity of GDP in 2005. A target of a 35% reduction was set unconditionally while a further 10% reduction is contingent upon receiving sufficient climate change related financing, technology transfer and capacity building assistance from developed countries.[1] While these targets sound laudable, Malaysia’s approach towards COP21 shows a lack of commitment from the top leadership in the country and Malaysia’s INDC shows a lack of coordination among the important ministries that are involved in the climate change issue. This calls into question the credibility of the commitments made by Malaysia to reduce its GHG emissions intensity.

The launch of COP 21 in Paris was attended by 142 Heads of States and Governments including President Barack Obama, President Xi Jin Ping, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Joko Widodo, President Dilma Rouseff and Chancellor Angela Merkel. All the heads of states and governments were given an opportunity to make statements regarding their respective positions on climate change and to demonstrate their commitment to the climate change agenda.[2] Prime Minister Najib’s decision not to attend COP 21 sends a signal to the international community that Malaysia does not see itself as a key player in the battle against global warming.

Najib’s failure to take the lead on the climate change agenda is not merely restricted to his no-show in Paris. He has not made any major speeches on the issue of climate change domestically or internationally in 2015 (to date). His latest domestic speech on climate change was delivered at the Energy for Tomorrow conference organized by the New York Times in Kuala Lumpur on the 19th of November, 2014.[3] His latest speech on climate change was at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York on the 23rd of September, 2014.[4] PM Najib has not launched any significant domestic policy to demonstrate Malaysia’s commitment to the climate change agenda in 2015.

Just to use a counter-example, PM Najib’s golfing buddy, President Obama visited Alaska in September 2015 as part of a larger agenda to show the serious impact of global warming.[5] President Obama also launched the Clean Power Plant initiative to reduce GHG emissions from power generation plants.[6] And he has made the climate change agenda one of the main areas of negotiations and cooperation in his foreign policy vis-à-vis China and India.

Najib’s lack of a leadership role in the climate change agenda is made more serious by the fact that the previous Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE), G. Palanivel, was totally negligent in addressing key issues in the environmental agenda including GHG emissions. In my 2 years in parliament when he was a Minister, I did not see or hear him once answering a question pertaining to his Ministry or taking part in the important budget debates relating to his ministry. And I am not confident that the new Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE), Wan Junaidi, has the necessary grasp of the key issues surrounding climate change and GHG emissions. When I questioned him on the 16th of November, 2015 as to why Malaysia was only one of two countries in South East Asia (the other being Brunei) which had not submitted its INDCs, he replied that Malaysia was still waiting for a decision to be made by a contact group that had met in Dubai the previous week. (See Appendix 1 below) Perhaps he didn’t realize that Malaysia’s own INDC is a domestically determined target that should be set based on parameters and factors within the country rather than to be dictated by a ‘contact group’ comprising of other unnamed nations. I am not sure what conditions this group set that were reflected in Malaysia’s INDC which was eventually released on the 27th of November, 2015. But I am almost certain that there was not much discussion about our INDC in the cabinet which had met earlier on the same day.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment should play the important role as the coordinating agency for GHG emissions and climate change policy. There are many other ministries and agencies which have key roles to play in any strategy to reduce GHG emissions intensity including the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA), the Ministry for Urban Well-Being, Housing and Local Government (KPKT), the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI), the Prime Minister’s Department (JPM), the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities, the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Agricultural and Agro-Industries, just to name a few. The lack of coordination and planning between the various ministries and agencies was already highlighted in the Strategy Paper on Climate Resilience Development in the 11th Malaysian Plan.[7] What is severely lacking in Malaysia’s INDC was a sense of the overall coordination in strategies and polices to reduce GHG emissions intensity. Specific targets and policies from the relevant ministries and their contribution towards GHG emissions intensity were missing from Malaysia’s INDC. Without these targets and policies, the likelihood of Malaysia missing our overall INDC target of a 45% reduction in GHG emissions intensity is increased. Without strategic coordination between the ministries, the likelihood of inconsistent climate change policies also increases.

Just to highlight one important example in the area of power generation. Power generation contributes more than 50% of the total CO2 emissions in Malaysia mostly through coal and to a lesser extent, gas fired power generation plants.[8] One way to reduce GHG emissions intensity would be to shift away from using polluting power generation technology such as coal and to move towards renewable energy such as solar, biomass and biogas. But according to the Energy Commission, which has to plan for the overall electricity supply needs of the country, coal power is expected to generate 64% of the fuel mix in 2020 (up from 56% in 2016) while renewable energy is projected to only contribute 3% of the overall fuel mix all the way up to 2024 (Appendix 2 below).

In contrast, the Sustainable Energy Development Authority projects that Renewable Energy will make up 11% of the fuel mix by 2020 and 17% by 2030 (Appendix 3 below). If KeTTHA cannot coordinate between these conflicting published targets involving the largest GHG emissions producing sector, how can we trust that Malaysia can reach its announced target of a 45% reduction in GHG emissions intensity?

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Appendix 1: Question to and reply from Wan Junaidi in parliament as to why Malaysia still had not submitted its INDC as of the 16th of November 2015.

Source: Parliament Hansard, 16th of November 2015

Appendix 2: Projected Generation Fuel mix by the Energy Commission (2014 to 2024)

Source: Peninsular Malaysia Electricity Supply Outlook 2014, published by the Energy Commission

Appendix 3: Power Mix of Renewable Energy (2011 to 2030)

Source: Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA)