Adopt similar green funding
26/02/2023 (Daily Express) - RECENTLY, the United States enacted a law called the Inflation Reduction Act allocating USD374 billion in green incentives to tackle the climate crisis. The implementation of this law is intended to trigger a boom in clean energy, creating thousands of jobs.
Similarly, the European Commission is proposing a Green Deal Industrial Plan that includes USD240 billion in loans and another USD21 billion in grants to subsidise green businesses, green technology projects and related initiatives.
It would be beneficial to Malaysia if we created a similar significant funding scheme, with allocations from the annual budgets, as it would position us as a competitive trading nation and attract international financing in combating the climate crisis.
The Malaysian government has pledged to phase out new coal fired power plants from electricity generation, as one of the pathways to net zero carbon emissions.
As Malaysia is a trading nation, we must ensure that our products are manufactured from clean energy so that our goods can be easily exported to markets such as the European Union, which has enacted Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms (CBAM).
The CBAM requires the European authorities to levy tax on importers for goods that have high carbon footprint or produced from dirty energy. Switching to clean energy therefore gives our products a competitive edge.
In contrast to many other countries adopting net zero carbon emissions, Malaysia is blessed with large forests. 55pc of our total landmass is covered by forests, which absorbs much of our carbon emissions. Based on a projection for Malaysia to attain net zero carbon emissions by 2050, we need a total investment ranging from RM350 to RM450 billion over a 30 year period, which is less than 1pc of our country’s GDP.
As technological advancements to reduce emissions are very costly, our forests then become our best bet in meeting net zero targets. The good news is that our Government has pledged to increase the Peninsular Malaysia forest cover from 43pc to 50pc.
This corresponding 7pc increment represents 900,000 hectares of forests that could potentially increase our total forest cover to 57.7pc of our total land mass.
While the effort to undertake forest restoration is extremely expensive, we could use this as an opportunity to create new jobs and innovative products towards combating the climate crisis.
Apart from the required 7pc increment, approximately 700,000 to one million hectares of our forests throughout Malaysia are degraded and require some form of restoration.
The need to restore this much land into forests would create tens of thousands of jobs for our rural communities, which allows them to participate in economic activities that sustain their livelihood, apart from having a continued access to non-timber forest products that they have depended on for generations.
When we restore forests, we do not just plant trees. By adopting agroforestry, we can plant various kinds of crops alongside tree seedlings and saplings that take decades to mature into trees.
When the crops cultivated are bio-energy plants, they could be harvested annually and processed into biofuel, generating a new form of renewable energy. The types of bioenergy crops planted and the processes used could be used to generate electricity, as well as aviation fuel to power planes.
In the long term, when tree canopies begin to shade the ground surface from sunlight, planting bioenergy crops under trees would no longer be feasible. We then also need to start investing into the long term production of third generation biofuel.
This could come in the form of bioenergy crops cultivated in waste materials. Palm oil mill effluent (POME), the discharge from palm oil mills, for instance, can be a medium to cultivate algae for processing into biofuel. All these multiple action plans must be undertaken with both a sense of urgency and a long term view.
For this, the annual budget should also build and enhance coordination among a range of ministries, agencies, corporations, universities, civil society and community-based organisations to collectively combat the climate crisis, and the creation of jobs in renewable energy.
With strategic planning, the economic benefits we will be able to reap with the opportunities that come with pursuing our Net Zero ambition will also enable us to better invest in the equally important component of climate adaptation and resilience building. Early action will bear multiple benefits.