Prioritise Three Acts to Address Climate Change in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 9 December 2022 – Greenpeace Malaysia sent a letter to the new Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad calling for the prioritisation of a comprehensive and integrated approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation through the enactment of three Acts, namely; a Climate Change Act, Transboundary Haze Pollution or Clean Air Act and the revising of our 1974 Environmental Quality Act.

This call comes as a follow-up to pre-election demands for Malaysians and elected representatives to #Vote4Climate by putting issues with climate change at the forefront. Plans formulated in the first 150 days of a new government are vital in laying down the foundations for the direction and course it will take. As well as to reveal its potential positive or negative impacts on a country.

In a 2019 article written by the current Environment Minister, he mentioned that:
“There have been many suggestions of how ordinary Malaysians can do their part to reduce climate change…But ultimately, what is needed is for governments to lead the way by their policies and actions.”

Therefore as Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad steps into his new role, we ask that he fulfil his promises by leading the way through impactful changes in governmental policies and actions, by starting with the three Acts.

(1) Climate Change Act
Our climate change agenda is fragmented,  environmental governance has been divided into different ministries, for example, in the recent Budget 2023, public transport, Electric Vehicles and carbon reduction were included in different parts of the budget. However we need a long term strategy for carbon reduction, climate mitigation and adaptation. Despite having a Climate Change Division and Malaysia Green Technology and Climate Change Center, it is performing climate change related functions without legislation.  We need a legislative framework under a Climate Change Act for a Minister to be responsible for both green (concerning biodiversity such as forestry) and brown issues (concerning human health such as air pollution) as well as Climate Change issues, such as forest, water, agriculture, coastal erosion, carbon tax, and renewable energy.

(2) Transboundary Haze Pollution Act or Clean Air Act
Between 2018-2019, The Pakatan Harapan Government has drafted the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act but the Perikatan Nasional and Barisan Nasional Government has decided to shelve the tabling of the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act and continue to use diplomacy. However diplomacy alone cannot solve the problem. After all, too much diplomacy and too little action has been responsible for the recurring haze. Furthermore, our government needs to hold Malaysian businesses accountable. NGOs in Malaysia including Greenpeace have filed an air pollution complaint to Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to highlight major gaps in our legislative tools, including air quality standards that are not in line with global guidance from the World Health Organization.

On the Transboundary Haze Act, the Malaysian government can improve on Singapore’s efforts and overcome diplomatic shortcomings. We respect the state sovereignty and the non-interference principle, but we must address and hold responsible Malaysian companies’ role in financing and contributing to forest fires and peat draining activities in Indonesia which lead to transboundary haze. Additionally, we need a legal instrument prepared by ASEAN in order to highlight this cause and hold Malaysian companies to account.

On air pollution standards,  we need to align the National air quality with international standards and the recommended 2021 WHO guidelines. 

(3) Revised Environmental Quality Act(EQA) 1974 
The Department Of Environment has revised the penalties on polluters in the EQA in Oct 2022. However the government needs to include amendments on the standards of environmental pollution prevention, monitoring and enforcement; strengthen EIA guidelines to uphold impartiality, transparency and public participation; and include the concept of a holistic circular economy especially for scheduled waste.

On Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) guidelines, the current practice involves private developers paying consultants to conduct EIAs for their projects and produce their assessment reports, almost all EIA reports are favourable to the developers paying them. Therefore, it is important that the DoE, not the developer, be the party that pays these (consultants) who conduct the EIAs. In EIA, it is important to strengthen the legal requirements and good governance in the process, increase transparency, make it accessible to the public, environmental NGOs, interest groups and elected representatives, transform public display methods to enhance public engagement and stakeholder involvement. Enforcement capacity should be strengthened.

On the concept of circular economy, provisions should be included to enable pollution control and reduction of waste through recovery of resources. For example, biogas recovery from livestock waste and mandatory e-waste collection system should be introduced and regulated. On the other hand, in terms of emission and release of toxic chemicals, we need new provisions or new legislation for chemical governance so that the government can manage the database of chemicals and toxic substances from the whole life cycle perspective.