Malaysia urgently needs political unity at all levels to recognize and tackle the deleterious impact of climate change in the country, MPs and representatives of civil society organizations say at an event by parliamentarians from ASEAN for Human Rights (APHR) in the Malaysian Parliament on 1 August. .
The “Interface for Members of Parliament and Civil Society Organizations on Strengthening Climate Action in Malaysia” brought together 11 MPs and seven civil society representatives for an open discussion on the adverse effects and causes of the climate change in their communities, and the steps needed to push for more coordinated and effective solutions.
To strengthen climate action in Malaysia, political unity across parties is more urgent than ever because climate change is not a local or party issue. No constituency is immune to its effects, as evidenced by the December 2021 flood disaster that affected eight states, resulting in the loss of at least 54 lives.
All participants recognized that the climate emergency affects all Malaysians but not to the same extent: the rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups are often more affected. Stronger safeguards for these groups are needed in any proposed national climate legislation and policy.
Emeritus Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi has recommended that parliamentarians push for recognition of the human right to a healthy environment in Malaysia’s Constitution, urging MPs to remember that “human rights do not belong not just you and me, they also belong to the next generation”. ”.
“MPs must work together to use our budget oversight to ensure that the national budget provides sufficient funding to address the negative impact of climate change,” said MP Charles Santiago, president of APHR, while budget issues were identified as one of the critical gaps in climate action by participants.
Issues addressed included assessing the extent to which adopted and proposed measures, such as improving the urban drainage system to reduce flooding, contribute to climate change adaptation or mitigation.
MEPs called for the adoption of a standardized ‘green labeling’ index, to measure whether the budget is helping to achieve or hindering climate goals. They also supported a tax on carbon emissions from power producers in Malaysia to raise the capital needed for a just transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.
For their part, civil society representatives suggested that their work could be improved if they had access to official data on national budget allocation to climate action. They also urged MPs to institutionalize and expand current budget commitments, including under the Ecological Fiscal Transfer, to enable state governments to protect forest areas.
Representatives also detailed the need for stronger national legislation in key areas: urgently reducing carbon emissions by stopping deforestation, introducing a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and supporting ecotourism in state level.
MEPs agreed to draw up a legislative roadmap that would help them identify climate legislation to push, an institutional framework to make tackling climate change a priority across all sectors and an action plan to ensure government responsibility.
Parliamentarians and civil society representatives present at the event noted that in the absence of an existing institutional mechanism for climate engagement, there was a need to broaden and strengthen this type of cooperation between civil society groups and more deputies from all parties, and Santiago announced that a similar meeting between deputies and civil society groups would be held in September, before the next parliamentary session. – APRH