By Professor Ir Dr Dominic C. Y. Foo
Rain falling in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur was met with some relief over the past few days as we are currently experiencing hot weather in the country. The hot weather is not a new phenomenon as barely a few months ago, many parts of Malaysia experienced extremely hot weather and a total of 10 areas recorded a yellow-level heatwave (places that have recorded temperatures between 35-37 degrees Celsius (°C) for three consecutive days) by the Malaysian Meteorological Department.
This extreme weather pattern is not unique to Malaysia as other nations globally have recorded other such patterns themselves. The most recent weather incident is the winter storm that took place in Texas in February of this year which led to power shortage for millions in the state. The main cause for these incidents is none other than climate change, according to scientists. The earth’s temperature has been recorded as rising by 0.08 °C per decade since 1880, and the rate of warming over the past 40 years is more than twice, i.e. 0.18 °C per decade since 1981. Even though the world went into lockdown last year, 2020 was the second-warmest year on record based on temperature data reported by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The “fever” that our Earth is experiencing has been attributed by scientists to the large concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. Among the various GHGs, the two most dangerous GHGs are none other than carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. The major CO2 emitters that are responsible for this include industrial sectors such as power generation, steel and petrochemical plants, as well as transportation sectors where fossil fuels are used extensively.
We are now at a critical stage to act seriously on climate change.
The Paris agreement in 2015, with a total of 196 signatories, aims to keep the global temperature rise by 2 °C above pre-industrial level, and pursue efforts to limit the rise to 1.5 °C. In responding to that, some countries have announced their national targets accordingly. For instance, developed countries such as UK, Japan and Korea have announced their net zero GHG emission by year 2050, while one of the world largest CO2 emitter has aimed to achieve carbon neutrality by year 2060.
For Malaysia, our intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) signed after Paris agreement remains identical, i.e. to reduce GHG emission intensity of GDP (gross domestic product) by 45% by year 2030, relative to the emission intensity of GDP in year 2005. Climate change has been identified as a national challenge to be addressed through the Malaysia Grand Challenge (MGC).
One of the 30 niche areas in the 10-10 Malaysian Science, Technology, Innovation and Economic (MySTIE) Framework; Energy; has been adopted as one of the MGC. In order to build up a more sustainable and green Malaysia, there is a need to increase renewable energy contribution to primary energy supply. In 2018, the primary energy supply was only 7.2% and this included large hydropower. Through the MGC, innovative solutions in areas such as diversified renewable energy sources, energy storage systems and microgrid systems are yet to be found. But once it materialises, it will enable us to migrate from a carbon intensive energy system to climate resilient energy system; possess innovative and cost-effective energy storage systems that are stable and efficient and improve access to energy in remote areas. This will reduce our CO2 emissions and assist with meeting the GHG target by the end of the decade. Reduction of our carbon-based energy practices will reduce pollution, which will have a multiplier effect on other sectors of the economy, water security and food security.
One of the important strategies is to expedite the growth of renewable energy sector. The Peninsular Malaysia Generation Development Plan 2020 (covering 2021-2039) aims to develop more renewables for the power generation sector, aiming to reach a target of 31% clean energy in the power mix by year 2025, a rise from the previous 20% target. Some of the incentives managed by the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) such as Green Investment Tax Allowance (GITA) and Green Income Tax Exemption (GITE) are hoped to encourage the growth of renewable energy in the country.
It is also worth mentioning the recently formed Malaysian Climate Change Action Council (MyCAC), who has proposed a total of six approaches to combat the climate change issues, which include carbon trading, green recovery plan, strengthening governance through stakeholders, and more. MyCAC will also implement the Low Carbon Mobility Development Plan 2021-2030, with increased use of electric vehicles and low-carbon transportation. This will lead to a reduction of 165 million tonnes of CO2, along with fuel saving of RM 150 billion over 10 years. Besides, the National Low Carbon City Master Plan will also be implemented at local authority and state government levels. It would be good to follow the footstep of the 4 cities are now part of the Low Carbon Cities Framework – Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Bandar Iskandar and Kuala Lumpur.
There are many efforts being carried out at the national level. As citizens, there are things that we can do at a personal level to assist with reducing greenhouse gases. For instance, we can save electricity by turning off unused lights, and by setting a higher temperature for our air conditioning units. We could also switch to energy-efficient home compliances by purchasing products that have the 5-stars energy efficient decal. Doing these will help to save money as we will be paying less in our monthly electricity bill, apart from reducing CO2 emission. The avoidance of plastic bags is also a good practice, as it leads to reduced consumption of crude oil directly, which is highly polluting.
While we are now observing the Full Movement Control Order (FMCO), it would be a good move to take public transport once it is lifted as it is another good lifestyle choice that can help to protect Mother Earth. A single-passenger car releases 171 gram of CO2 for its 1 km travel, while a train will only release 41 grams of CO2 for the same distance. Another good practice is cultivating your own garden in your home- it will not only help with reducing CO2 but allow you to consume healthy vegetables.
Let’s do what we can to make the world a better place to live. Our habits today will enable our descendants to continue to living on this mother earth, rather than having to migrate to Mars!
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Science Media Centre Malaysia
Professor Ir Dr Dominic C. Y. Foo is the Professor of Process Design and Integration at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, and is the Founding Director for the Centre of Excellence for Green Technologies. He is also a Fellow at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia