Malaysians must embrace precautionary principle

terça-feira, dezembro 25, 2018

Water from a melting glacier runs down through a hole in the Aletsch Glacier on the Jungfraufirn Glacier, Switzerland. Global warming is happening at a rapid pace and may exceed the 1.5°C. - Reuters

AFTER fractious negotiations this month in Katowice, Poland, 196 nations participating in the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) agreed to adopt a global action plan to limit climate change.

The action plan, or the Katowice Rulebook, sets out a single system for countries to make emission cuts under national climate plans and how those plans can be regularly reported, measured, scrutinised and progressively ramped up.

The goal is to keep global warming below 2°C (compared with pre-industrial-age levels), a target set out in the Paris Agreement drawn up three years ago, and to aim for a maximum 1.5°C if possible.

The bolder 1.5°C target is a key threshold for avoiding catastrophic climate change, according to a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific report, a central focus of COP24.

While the Paris Agreement provided a skeletal framework to help countries achieve this goal, the rulebook lays out how this can be done and aims to keep all countries honest in the process. The Katowice Rulebook, needed to put the Paris pact into practice, culminated three years of negotiations.

Said Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation and key architect of the Paris Agreement, says: “Despite all the headwinds, the Paris Agreement has stayed on course at COP24, demonstrating the kind of resilience it has been designed for.”

Indeed, the headwinds were strong. Midway through the Katowice event, for example, the process was almost derailed when the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to “welcoming” last October’s IPCC report, which said the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3°C this century rather than 1.5°C.

Keeping to the preferred target, it said, would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, with CO2 emissions reduced by 45 per cent by 2030.

At the meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that climate action was not just the right thing to do, it made social and economic sense — pointing to how action to cut emissions would curb air pollution deaths, generate trillions of dollars of economic activity, and create millions of jobs.

He also warned that “climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later, before it’s too late. For many people, regions and even countries, this is already a matter of life and death”.

Similarly, legendary United Kingdom naturalist Sir David Attenborough warned delegates that “our civilisations are going to collapse and much of nature will be wiped out to extinction if humanity doesn’t take urgent action on climate change”.

Malaysia’s COP24 delegation was led by Yeo Bee Yin, our energy, science, technology, environment and climate change minister. She outlined the new government’s initiatives to reduce fossil fuel uses by increasing the share of renewable energy (not including large hydros) for electricity generation from two per cent to 20 per cent, as well as plans to call for Malaysia to have an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act by mid next year.

Malaysia aims to double public transport usage from 20 to 40 per cent by 2030. The minister stressed that all these were done with little help from the developed countries, although financial aid from the latter had always been promised to the developing countries. She, however, assured the gathering that Malaysia looked forward to international collaboration.

According to IPCC vice-chair Prof Joy Pereira of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, as the average global temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, our nation can expect many more expensive, productivity-limiting hot days compared to temperate (cooler) regions in Europe, North America, India and China.

Already well acquainted with the harm caused by floods and landslides, we can expect more heavy precipitation, especially in the north, with increasingly unconventional and unpredictable tropical cyclone tracks. Any shift in such tracks to the south would increase the country’s flood hazard. Rice yields and nutritional value will drop, as will oil palm production.

As sea levels rise, much of the low-lying coasts in areas surrounding Southeast Asia (that is, Bangladesh) will be inundated, creating climate refugees. The scenarios worsen dramatically if warming is allowed to continue to 2°C.

Have we fully considered the humanitarian and security implications of such a situation? The cost of limiting global warming is high.

In 2009, the estimate for Malaysia to meet the Copenhagen pledge of 40 per cent carbon intensity reduction involved an estimated investment of up to five per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

However, the cost of adaptation to a 1.5°C warmer world, including disaster damage (strong winds, floods, landslides, etc), humanitarian aid and compensation to victims, and disruption of business and supply chains, could make five per cent of GDP look like a bargain.

The path forward is clear and we can’t afford to fail. Malaysians must embrace the precautionary principle, push to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C, and fully do our part to contribute.

Page: New Straits Times

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