Malaysia Budget 2017: Green 'warriors' lament bare mention of environment

NICHOLAS CHENG The Star 21 Oct 16;

KUALA LUMPUR: For the second year in a row, the environment has been left out of the national budget allocation.

This sparked concern among environmentalists, considering that Malaysia is expected to ratify the Paris climate change agreement in two weeks.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak mentioned the environment once during his two-hour speech in the Dewan Rakyat, calling for cooperation between state governments, the private sector and the people to protect the country’s natural resources.

Environmental Protection Society of Malaysia president Nithi Nesadurai was left wondering how Malaysia will fare in the Paris Agreement with so little enthusiasm reflected in Budget 2017.

“I have been privy to how the Government plans to achieve its Paris commitments and they seem convincing, yet when you have a national budget and nothing is mentioned about the environment for two consecutive years, it seems this is just happening in a vacuum.

“The Budget should put in support mechanisms which are required to achieve the Paris accords. Without it our efforts will seem weak,” he told The Star.

Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Datuk Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the snub had been expected, considering Malaysia’s focus on economic development.

“But what is the point of having the best roads, buildings and railways when we have problems with our water? What will happen when there is deforestation?

“It’s easy for us to talk about the Paris Agrement but there is no implementation," Shariffa said.

One small concession towards environment was the Government's plan to expand solar panels to 1,600 housing units next year and also allocate RM400mil for “clean air and ecotourism initiatives”.

Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia (Ecomy) chief executive officer Andrew Sebastian thanked the Government for the ecotourism allocation but rued the ability of environment enforcers to keep doing their jobs effectively.

“It looks like our international commitments to climate change don’t seem to be in line with the Budget and our ministries on the ground,” he said. “I pity the folks in Perhilitan and the Forestry Department."

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had said that the Cabinet would discuss a paper which will then be handed to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in New York.

Malaysia is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gasses among Asean members, behind Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, and contributes to 0.52% of the world’s carbon emissions.

The country pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and has introduced measures to reach the target, such as developing new towns to be carbon neutral, giving tax incentives to companies that report and limit their emissions, procuring more environmentally-friendly government assets and planting 13 million trees since 2011.

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