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BUDGET 2024: MORE PRACTICAL EFFORTS TOWARDS CONSERVING BIODIVERSITY, MITIGATING CLIMATE CHANGE

26/10/2023 12:10 PM
From Soon Li Wei

Budget 2024 outlines a host of initiatives to drive change in the nation's environmental protection landscape, particularly in addressing crucial issues such as climate change and biodiversity conservation.

The budget, the largest in Malaysia’s history and tabled by Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Oct 13, has allocated a total of RM7.1 billion to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, an increase from RM6.5 billion in 2023.

The budget also includes numerous measures supporting the nation’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda such as RM2 billion for the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) and the issuance of an RM1 billion biodiversity Sukuk facility to replant degraded forests and generate carbon credits.  

Meanwhile, a total of RM200 million has been allocated for ecological fiscal transfers dedicated to biodiversity conservation. It includes RM60 million to double the number of community forest rangers and RM10 million to support people affected by human-wildlife conflicts.

In terms of climate mitigation, a total of RM11.8 billion has been allocated to flood mitigation projects, RM563 million to the rehabilitation of over 200 high-risk slopes nationwide and RM300 million to flood preparedness measures managed by the National Disaster Management Agency. 

Analysts and experts Bernama spoke to described Budget 2024 as a 'green budget' and a good starting point towards net zero carbon emission as well as strengthening biodiversity conservation but added more measures are needed to effectively implement the initiatives and achieve the desired outcomes.


Solar power is one of the renewable energy sources in Malaysia

 

THOROUGH ASSESSMENT 

 

Climate finance policy analyst Muhammad Shaqib Shahrilnizam said while Budget 2024 reflects positive strides towards environmental and conservation goals, addressing identified gaps and optimising financial instruments are crucial for the long-term success of the initiatives. 

"The integration of the (proposed) Fiscal Responsibility Act provides an opportunity to align fiscal policies with sustainable development objectives… the continuous monitoring, evaluation and adaptation of strategies will be necessary to navigate the evolving landscape of climate and conservation finance," he told Bernama. 

He said while the biodiversity Sukuk is seen as a transformative instrument poised to revolutionise funding for conservation initiatives, a thorough assessment of its operational effectiveness is essential to ensure its success.

"It (biodiversity Sukuk) is a good and positive step by the government. However, on its execution, it requires further monitoring and evaluation. The timing is right as the government is in the process of creating PADU (central database hub) as a central base data collection system. This will help us in our understanding of the green capital asset and biodiversity market," said Muhammad Shaqib, who is former Global Youth Focal Point on Climate Finance to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

He said Budget 2024’s dedication to financial incentives for decarbonisation and renewable energy sources is commendable and indicates a progressive stance. He, however, called for more robust policies to incentivise businesses and foster conservation markets, particularly through pollution pricing mechanisms.

“The government should advocate comprehensive environmental policies beyond traditional subsidies and implement financial incentives like pollution pricing mechanisms, for example, carbon pricing to foster a sustainable business landscape aligned with conservation goals,” he added. 

 

GREEN MOBILITY 

 

In Budget 2024, the government is seen encouraging greater usage of electric vehicles (EV) to reduce carbon emissions by allocating RM170 million to Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Gentari and Tesla Malaysia for the installation of charging stations on major highways and introducing EVs to the government’s fleet of vehicles.

According to research by the European Energy Agency, EVs come with a significant 17 to 30 percent lower total carbon output over the course of each vehicle’s lifetime than a typical internal combustion engine-powered vehicle. 


A charging point by ChargeEV

Muhammad Shaqib said even with the prevalent emphasis on EVs and renewable energy infrastructure, a noticeable gap exists in the absence of a comprehensive strategy for public transport. 

"The government should address the neglect of green mobility with a strategic focus on public transport, including infrastructure improvements and last-mile connectivity to promote eco-friendly transportation in urban developments,” he said.

Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia president S. Piarapakaran, meanwhile, said due to the fossil fuel energy mix in the national electricity supply, it is misleading to claim EVs have zero  emission as they only have zero-in-situ emission. 

"When life cycle assessment is carried out, the negative environmental impact from the major global shift to EVs is prominent as EV growth is fuelled by mining activities. Hence, this information should be disseminated clearly to the public by the business sector and government," he said. 

It has been reported that higher demand for EVs worldwide is also seeing an increase in the demand for the minerals inside their batteries, which contain significant amounts of aluminium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium. The environmental and social challenges posed by the increase in mining activities have yet to be addressed, according to reports.

 

CLIMATE MITIGATION, ADAPTATION

 

Commenting on the RM11.8 billion allocation for 33 High Priority Flood Mitigation Projects to be undertaken next year, Piarapakaran said in general, the proposed flood mitigation projects are modelled and designed by incorporating the safety factor to make them functional. 

"Unfortunately, when there are changes in land use in the surrounding areas after a project is completed, it (flood mitigation project) may not be able to function according to the design capacity. This is because the project was not designed to receive higher surface runoffs above the design capacity due to land-use change. 

"So, it is important for the federal government to ensure state governments don’t change the land use and pose a risk of failure to flood mitigation projects despite ensuring the effectiveness of the project implementation. 


A flood mitigation project at Kampung Tersang, Rantau Panjang, Kelantan

“A regulatory framework must be put in place so that all parties play their roles and do not cause mitigation projects to fail... and further allocations will be needed to mitigate the ‘failure'," he said. 

Muhammad Shaqib, meanwhile, said while climate adaptation measures are allocated in Budget 2024, a critical examination reveals a lack of a truly progressive edge such as alternative financing mechanisms for vulnerable communities to enhance their resilience in the face of climate challenges.

"The budget also could have crafted a narrative for nature-based solutions through flood mitigation projects but this opportunity was missed and the administration maintains a traditional view on flood mitigation,” he said, adding that the government should prioritise nature-based solutions for flood mitigation by reallocating funds from traditional engineering to nature-centric approaches. 

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Institute of Climate Change senior lecturer Dr Wee Hin Boo said the conservation initiatives outlined in Budget 2024 seem to focus more on land biodiversity, with little emphasis on ensuring sustainable development on coastlines, especially in terms of climate mitigation on marine ecosystems. 

He said Malaysia has a land area of 330,803 square kilometres but the sovereign sea area or exclusive economic zone of the country encompasses 334,671 km2.


More efforts should be done to protect marine ecosystem

“This means we have a larger sea area than land area,” he pointed out.

“However, our marine ecosystem is currently being threatened by climate change. The sea level is rising and so is the global sea surface temperature.

“Not much is mentioned (in Budget 2024) on efforts to conserve our marine ecosystem. We hope the next budget (2025) will provide equal emphasis to both land and marine biodiversity conservation. This is because the marine ecosystem plays a crucial role in providing protein sources such as fish, which is a component of the nation’s food security system," he added.

 

Edited by Rema Nambiar

  


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