COP26: What’s at stake for Malaysia?

In the lead up to Malaysia’s involvement in 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), Malaysia updated its first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) intending to reduce its economy-wide carbon intensity 1 (against GDP) of 45% in 2030 compared to 2005 level. The updated NDC includes the following:

(a) The 45% of carbon intensity reduction is unconditional;
(b) This target is an increase of 10% from the earlier submission; and
(c) The GHG coverage is expanded to seven greenhouse gasses (GHG): Carbon dioxide (CO 2), Methane (CH4 ), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), Perfluorocarbon (PFCs), Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) and Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

Summary of Emissions Avoidance Achieved in 2016

The sectors covered by the NDCs include energy, industrial processes and product use, waste, agriculture, land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF).

Malaysia at COP

Malaysia’s involvement in global climate negotiations include: 

  • The UNFCCC treaty on 13 July 1994.
  • Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997; however, as a developing country or a Non Annex 1 Party, Malaysia was not legally binded to greenhouse gas emissions targets.
  • The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference on 12 December 2015 with the goal to limit global warming below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and limit increase to 1.5° C. 

Malaysia submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which includes cutting Greenhouse gases emissions intensity of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 45% by 2030 relative to emission intensity in 2005. This would be broken down into 35% of an unconditional basis and the remaining 10% reliant upon climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building from developed countries. This was later increased to 45% of carbon intensity reduction as unconditional on 27 November 2016, 10% more than its earlier submission. [1] Greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP is an indicator for the amount of emissions from greenhouse gases produced by an economic activity which allows for increase in emissions if the GDP does as well. Malaysia also reiterated its commitment to maintain at least 50% of the country under forest cover.

The government’s Economic Planning Unit reported that as of 2013, 33% reduction has been achieved and that greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 432,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide via the Renewable Energy Act of 2011. [2] [3] However, the International Energy Agency reported that Malaysia has not declined significantly with its CO2 intensity per unit of GDP from 1991 to 2013. [4] The 12th Malaysia Plan reported that Malaysia has achieved 29.4% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions intensity per unit of GDP by the end of 2016, compared to 2005 levels. 

A study which evaluated COP proposals on Malaysia via a top-down disaggregation framework called “Empirical Regional Downscaling Dynamic Integrated Model of Climate and the Economy”, set out to quantify economic and environmental consequences over the period of 2010-2110. Their findings showed the cost of climate damage under the Malaysia Optimal Climate Action scenario will amount to MYR5,483 (US$1589) billion while damage costs under the COP21 and COP22 scenario would be MYR5,264 (US$1526) billion. [5] One of the authors of the research Professor Abul Quasem Al-Amin stated “It is possible [for Malaysia to reach its goals set in 2015] however, all preconditions must be fulfilled by ASEAN countries. Malaysia cannot do it alone as you know climate change is a global and regional problem.”

In COP 25 Malaysia, Ms. Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis announced the “Shared Prosperity Vision 2030” as “the national blueprint that focuses on sustainable development, economic growth, evidence based policy making, addressing income gaps, enhancing unity and inclusivity.” Malaysia also pledged the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Sector and has set a target of achieving 20% renewable energy by capacity in its generation mix by 2025. While also repurposing the existing agency the Malaysia Green Technology Corporation, as the Malaysia Green Technology and Climate Change Centre.

The Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 was initially announced by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in October 2019, as part of the 12th Malaysia Plan succeeding his legacy of Wawasan 2020 (Vision 2020). It had three objectives including:

  1. Development for all 
  2. Addressing Wealth and Income Disparities 
  3. To establish a united society free of prejudice. 

 

With his resignation and Ismail Sabri ’s government currently in power, the latter announced the 12th Malaysia Plan will be geared to ensuring Malaysia becomes a carbon neutral country by 2050 alongside a commitment to put a stop to building new coal-fired power plants.  Sabri’s pledge is announced a few months before COP26 after pledges by Indonesia to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060, Thailand targeting carbon neutrality by 2065 to 2070 and Singapore to halve its emissions by 2050. In his parliamentary speech, he announced that the government aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emission intensity of GDP by 45% by 2030 as well. This was based on the emission intensity of GDP in 2005, in line with the Paris Agreement in 2015. 

Malaysia’s Third Biennial Update Report submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2020 outlined several mitigation actions that have been carried out so far. Those at the national and sub-national levels include:

a) Power Sector Development Plan, setting targets on renewable energy capacity at 31% of the total installed capacity by 2025 and at 40% by 2035
b) Green Technology Financing Scheme (GTFS) offering a guarantee of 60% of government financed amount and 2% per annum rebate on interest/profit rate charged by financial institutions on green technology projects.
c) Green Investment Tax Allowances (GITA) and Green Income Tax Exemption (GITE) targeting
d) Low Carbon Cities Framework (LCCF)
e) Government Green Procurement [6]

The report also outlined the summary of greenhouse gas emissions avoidance achieved in 2016 via mitigation actions across renewable energy, energy efficiency, transportation, waste and forestry where the most emissions avoidance was achieved through the forestry sector (20,307.50 Gg CO2 eq) and the least in the waste sector (6,315.60 Gg CO2 eq). However, greenhouse gas emissions in 2016 accounted for approximately 334.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq), with about 75% from the energy sector including transportation.

Civil Society Concerns

With COP26, Malaysia has taken part in the UK Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (UK PACT) programme which was announced in August 2021. This meant five climate projects in Malaysia valued at £1.4 million will be funded through the Malaysia-UK PACT programme. The British High Commissioner to Malaysia has stated that these capacity-building projects were explicitly chosen to support Malaysia in the aims of COP 26.

Nevertheless many groups have raised concerns to the host of COP26, the UK government, on trade agreements hampering climate regulations. International Trade Committee Inquiry on COP26 and International Trade together with The Trade Justice Movement in the UK have raised concerns on Malaysia’s efforts to stop a proposed ban on palm oil, as part of the UK’s Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) accession bid.  Meanwhile, Greener UK, a coalition of 12 major environmental organisations, believe the agreement “could be required to eliminate or reduce the tariffs imposed on the import of products containing palm oil. This could lead to an increase in the production and import of such products and thus cause greater deforestation in palm oil exporting countries such as Malaysia.” 

On the other hand, 20 environmental and civil society groups in Malaysia released a statement entitled “Need to get facts straight about Paris Agreement” raising concerns of factual inaccuracies of the Paris Agreement (PA) in a public webinar hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA) on Malaysia day 16 September 2021. 

“Our officials should know and understand the negotiating history and the North-South battles over the delicate balance achieved in Paris, including as to the various obligations developed and developing countries have and their nuances […] The Malaysian delegation to COP26 must go well-prepared to counter such moves.”

[1] NDC Registry, Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of the Government of Malaysia https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/ndcstaging/PublishedDocuments/Malaysia%20First/INDC%20Malaysia%20Final%2027%20November%202015%20Revised%20Final%20UNFCCC.pdf; Malaysia’s Update of its first Nationally Determined Contribution                            https://www4.unfccc.int/sites/ndcstaging/PublishedDocuments/Malaysia%20First/Malaysia%20NDC%20Updated%20Submission%20to%20UNFCCC%20July%202021%20final.pdf

[2] Lian, Fei Kok. “‘The implications of the Paris climate agreement for Malaysia.” Int. J. Sci. Arts Commerce 3, no. 2 (2018): 27-39, p. 4.

[3] Economic Planning Unit. (2015). Eleventh Malaysia Plan, 2016-2020. Percetakan Nasional Malaysia Berhad.

[4] Kiew, Ling Pui, and Jamal Othman. “The influence of economic, technical, and social aspects on energy-associated CO2 emissions in Malaysia: An extended Kaya identity approach.” Energy 181 (2019): 468-493, p. 468.

[5] Ahmed, Adeel, Abul Quasem Al-Amin, and Rajah Rasiah. “COP negotiations and Malaysian climate change roadmap: a comparative assessment using a dynamic environmental model.” Environmental Science and Pollution Research 26, no. 29 (2019): 30003-30015.

[6] Ministry of Environment and Water. Malaysia: Third Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC, December 2020, https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/MALAYSIA_BUR3-UNFCCC_Submission.pdf  [Accessed 6 October 2021]

A writer and researcher who loves eating butter chicken. Working from Malaysia. Also speaks Malay and some Cantonese.