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Malaysia: Warming to climate change

Source:  Copyright 2006, New Straits Times
Date:  November 21, 2006
Byline:  Editorial
Original URL: Status DEAD

THE only time that we seem to notice that there is something wrong with the air we breathe is when the thick smoke from the forest fires in Indonesia cloud our vision and choke our nostrils.

While we rightly chafe at the little that has been done to stamp out the haze, we now stand accused of doing even less than our neighbour in controlling man-made greenhouse gases.

Indonesia ranks 43th in the 2007 Climate Change Performance Index compiled by the Berlin-based NGO Germanwatch, 12 places above us. Only Saudi Arabia prevents us from propping up the table.

In the big picture of climate change, what we do or do not do about global warming counts for little. This much is clear from the country’s status as a Non-annex 1 nation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the dispensation from reducing emissions that it carries.

Even Sweden and Britain, who are doing the most to protect against deleterious climate change, are not doing enough, according to the Germanwatch.

It will be the big polluters like the United States which is not party to the Kyoto Protocol, or China which is exempted from cutting emissions, who will make a difference in any global strategy to tackle global warming. But every little bit counts in the global battle to stave off the threat of climate change.

The stewardship of Earth is the responsibility of every nation, big or small. As the keeper of more than 30 million hectares of rainforest, the country is morally obliged to protect one of the world’s major "carbon sinks".

While our carbon emissions are still significantly lower compared with the more industrialised countries, there is no room for complacency since they have more than doubled since 1990. The dubious distinction of doing the least against climate change should serve as a wake-up call to put the lid on fossil-fuel emissions.

While there have been commendable initiatives such as the reduction in the use of unleaded petrol, the promotion of biodiesel and advances in energy efficiency, there is a need for improved compliance with industrial and vehicular emission regulations.

There is also a need to sort out the issues of jurisdiction and the problems of inter-agency co-ordination in the management of the environment and natural resources. It is imperative to take into account the possible adverse effects of infrastructure development on the vitality of the ecosystem. Environmental protection is integral to sustainable development.

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