Malaysia needs carbon neutrality action plan now

By Dr. Izyan Munirah Mohd Zaideen, senior lecturer at Faculty of Maritime Studies, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu; and Captain Mohd Faizal Ramli, EHS Marine Specialist in oil and gas sector.

Carbon neutrality is becoming increasingly important, given the severity of the climate crisis and Malaysia is at a crossroad in its climate change mitigation pathway. Our country has a remarkable opportunity to reduce carbon footprint and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. However, specific timeframes and action plans have yet to be established. 

A consensus derived from the Paris Agreement, of which Malaysia is one of 195 signatories, is seen as a target that must be met in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Carbon neutrality refers to the balancing of greenhouse gas emissions and absorption by carbon sinks like plants, seas and soil.  It is a commitment we make not just to the planet, but also to humanity.

Carbon neutrality implies that Malaysia will need to make significant adaptations over the next decade in order to avert the worst consequences of climate change that are currently taking place. And developing carbon neutrality roadmaps is the optimal course of action as part of the Paris Agreement.

Achieving carbon neutrality before 2050 is extremely challenging and will necessitate unwavering efforts and the cooperation of the entire community. The effort is not merely a political move, rather, it is an attempt at human survival. 

To meet the 2050 goal, the government must take the lead on a plan that can be segmented into short, medium, and long-term actions.  The plan must be regularly updated to take into account the dynamic situation and to incorporate any further improvement.

For the course of long-term action, the need for a policy that is feasible and comprehensive yet practicable should be adopted. This initiative will need considerable financial input from a variety of sources.

The attempt to become carbon-neutral will be a major demand-driver in our economy, requiring technical advancements and social-economic transitions like those of switching to renewable energy such as solar power instead of coal and investing in carbon-absorbing initiatives such as reforestation programs.

The government will also need to establish a cost and carbon impact scoring system to offer an idea of the magnitude of investment required and carbon savings obtained for each action taken. Carbon offsetting can also involve compensating for carbon emissions by financing a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions elsewhere.

The government and private sector should invest in ecologically friendly technology to reduce coal and other fossil fuels usage, and to aim for 70 percent of energy output from renewable resources.

In order to sustain transformation over the long term, it is essential for the government and private sector to instill a carbon-neutral culture within their workforce and the public at large.

Even though Malaysia’s option to pursue marine renewable energy is currently limited, the country’s proximity to a vast ocean is advantageous for offshore wind, tidal, underwater current, and solar power generation.  Therefore, this option must be thoroughly considered too.

For the next 30 years, carbon neutrality will be the primary investment opportunity in renewable energy, energy-saving, and environmental protection sectors. If we are too slow to act, our country may lose its allure as a destination for international investment and businesses.

Photo credit: iStock/ AntonyMoran

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