By Mahathir Mohd Rais
An individual’s country shapes the person that they are in today’s day and age. The weather, natural resources and the environment as a whole, helps in fueling the patriotism that one has. The people of Malaysia are no different. We are very prideful with the beauty that Malaysia holds. There is no place like home.
However, our country, the place we call home is currently undergoing a battle with a killer that we could avoid. The killer’s name is Climate Change. For years, almost every country on planet earth has agreed upon changing and decreasing the effects of climate change.
Malaysia is no stranger to all the agreements and treaties that was made by the United Nations. We also implemented our own initiatives to combat climate change, which means that this is a problem that should be settled by now.
So, the question remains, why are we still talking about climate change and its’ effects when measures have already been taken?
To answer that question, we must first understand what climate change really is. A definition published by United Nations suggests that, ‘Climate Change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, but since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change.’ This basically means that, the effects that we are currently facing, are caused by our own faults.
It is agreeable to say that developing countries can’t runaway from the increase of carbon dioxide emissions due to the development of infrastructures in their particular area but with the help of countless new technologies, minimising its’ release is possible.
Malaysia has agreed to a number of targeted investments at climate resilience enhancement cultivation. Other than that, we are also under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, in which we have updated our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in August 2021, stating our intention to unconditionally reduce economy-wide carbon emissions by 2030. Additionally, we are also involved in the development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) internationally in 2014.
This simply means that the government is aware about the urgency of combatting climate change even when we are under the category of the ‘most developed country’ in the South East Asia region. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the degradation of our ecosystem, both the wetlands and forest habitats are very evident.
A very obvious example would be the floods that has affected several areas in Malaysia last year. Even last week itself, when certain districts in Ipoh was hit with a sudden flashflood out of nowhere.
Floods are one thing, but the extreme heat waves that has been hitting Malaysia recently caused a lot of seasonal flus and sickness to a great number of people. The worst ‘silent killer’ of all is the rising sea-levels in the coastal areas in Sabah and Sarawak, which will cause homes and livelihoods to be destroyed once the tide completely diminishes the islands there.
So, who is to blame for all this?
I believe that it is the duty of each and every one of us to ensure that the effects of climate change reduce as time passes by. Nevertheless, the one that plays a major role in this is obviously the government.
Even though I am willing to applaud the authorities for signing in agreement and treaties internationally in regards to climate change, I still think that there are no physical changes that has happened ever since. For example, Kuala Lumpur, the heart of Malaysia, could be the only place that visibly charges its’ citizens for plastic bags in shops. The other parts of Malaysia are still very dependent and ignorant about the dangers of plastics in general.
This is a huge problem because it means that the government isn’t trying their very best to push the agenda to other urban areas and especially rural areas in our country. Open burning, illegal deforestation, lack of the 3R (Reducing, Reusing and Recycling) implementation, illegal farming, increase in the development of properties even though there are already enough houses in Malaysia and many other countless amounts of factor that contributes to climate change that could be taken action of, is left unbothered by the authorities.
In addition, there are no incentives made to push the development of new technological machineries or environmental-friendly items to ensure that change is being made. For example, a search must be done on Timber in the development of houses in Malaysia. Timber is known as one of the best materials that can be used to fight climate change. It is reusable, recyclable and very sustainable. The best part is, while it is growing, it extracts CO2, or Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere, which would help a lot during these unprecedented times.
Even when change ‘happens’, it happens because of the NGO’s. There are a number of NGO’s that pushes the agenda of replanting trees, picking up trash at the ocean and educating the people about the dangers of climate change.
Unfortunately, the government rarely talks about this concerning issue. It is very disappointing to see the effects of climate change causing the rise in poverty and inequalities among the people of our country. Realistically speaking, if the government were to acknowledge the talents of the youngsters of Malaysia, by encouraging them to innovate and take charge of the current issues, the effects of climate change wouldn’t be as bad as it is now.
Even so, change is never impossible. There are a few things that the government could do. For starters, the government must engage with the international treaties that they have made. We, the people, elected ministers to do their jobs, to ensure that we can be safe not only today, but also for the future generations of our nation. Since our country has committed itself to changing for the better, then we must take action to ensure that the citizens are carrying out the action that will be implemented by the government.
Letting the people know about dangers of climate change to make people recognise their faults in damaging the ecosystem would spark the motivation among the public to become a more sustainable person. Furthermore, making it illegal to dump trash into rivers and to openly burn trash could also stop the people from doing it again and again.
On top of that, strengthening the law to ensure that factories are using smoke filters to decrease the release of CO2 will cause owners to at least try and be more sustainable in the long term. The government should also make it harder for companies to simply buy lands and build unwanted houses without first checking the demands for it. The enforcement of new legislations will encourage people to look at the bigger picture and recognise the urgency of combatting climate change.
The visions that we have about the future of Malaysia is only possible if we work together to protect Earth. If this planet of blue kills us all, it might be the end of the human civilisation. The focus that we have today must always benefit the future generation. If we don’t start today, we might as well assume that we are all doomed as a species.
About the author: Mahathir Mohd Rais (pictured above) is the Bersatu Segambut Division Chief of Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. This is an opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this publication.
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