WHILE we are still grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the impacts of planetary catastrophes have begun to rear its ugly head.
Spain, Greece and China are suffering from heat waves, high temperatures, extreme flooding and deadly wildfires.
In an interview in the Veritasium channel, when asked what were among the next problems that will strike humanity post- pandemic, Bill Gates responded that it will be climate change as well as bioterrorism.
This has been made more evident by the alarming code red warning by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, which clearly estimates the high chance that the world might cross the global warming level of 1.5°C increase in the next decade.
Climate-related risks of health and livelihood problems, food source scarcity, shortage of clean water supply, security and economic threats are predicted to intensify if global warming increases by 2°C.
The IPCC has proposed that the world needs to achieve zero carbon emission by 2050, and Malaysia has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emission intensity of gross domestic product by up to 45 per cent by 2030.
Government intervention in realising green targets, proper execution of policies and active monitoring of green enterprise performances are critical.
More importantly, the country needs to rethink its long-standing approach of natural resources-led development approach over environmental preservation, and move towards ecologically sustainable growth.
A two-pronged strategy needs to be considered. First, accelerate existing efforts and infrastructures that are in place. Second, develop new paradigms and practice-oriented culture of a circular economy.
Therefore, the ministries that manage the environment, water, energy, natural resources, agriculture, plantations and commodities have strategic roles to play to limit carbon emissions.
Moreover, the government and the public need to ensure effective implementation of long-term planning, such as the Green Technology Master Plan 2017-2030 and Malaysia's Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018-2030. In 2015, the government made it mandatory for households to separate solid waste at the source, implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government under the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (Act 672).
However, the lack of a consistent solid waste management policy and precedent has led to an estimated waste recovery rate of only less than five per cent. Therefore, devising a clear policy or law pertaining to waste management especially in major cities is indispensable.
Cities like San Francisco and Seoul should become our models. Through effective policies and laws, they managed to divert 80 per cent of their local daily wastes from landfills through recycling and turning their food wastes into compost for plantations.
In addition to circular economic policies and mechanisms in its manufacturing and waste management activities, Malaysian authorities also need to aggressively adopt policies that improve the lifestyle of its population.
This primarily involves redesigning business models whereby all products manufactured are easily recyclable, repurposed or reused, and utilises sustainable sources of raw materials.
This may ensure products continue to circulate as long as they can, and minimise the use of natural resources in creating new ones.
It is more timely than ever for the establishment of a Special Parliamentarian Committee on Environment, Climate Change, Energy and Technology as announced by the Parliament speaker in 2019.
This committee needs to become a coordinator for multidimensional strategies of curbing the impact of climate change.
No time should be wasted to come up with a concerted effort across sectors and agencies if we are serious about preserving the planet for the next generation.
The writer is a Research Fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia.
Published in: The New Straits Times, Wednesday 29 September 2021