“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan, OBE
A low carbon city is one where carbon emissions are measured, managed, and mitigated, to provide a future where urban centres can operate with a reduced impact on the planet. The Climate Resilient and Sustainable Cities Division of the Malaysian Green Technology & Climate Change Centre – formerly known as GreenTech Malaysia – is tasked with supporting Malaysia’s cities in transitioning to a greener future while meeting the fundamental environmental, social, and economic needs of a city. That means reducing carbon emissions, while supporting change to create better urban centres for the nation’s citizens.
A low carbon city is where carbon emissions are measured, managed and mitigated
That’s why the rakyat has such an important part to play, and why informed choices are so central to how our organisation operates. The powerful quote from explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan is a beautiful way of framing that responsibility.
Under the Low Carbon Cities Programme, we track and target five elements – energy, water, waste, mobility, and greenery for carbon sequestration. That means tackling four key areas of waste, while promoting the positive benefits of natural greenery in our urban centres. That’s a particularly important task in Malaysia, as one of Southeast Asia’s most urbanised countries. With urbanisation projected to grow further in coming years, managing the environmental impact of our cities will be crucial in meeting Malaysia’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions intensity per GDP by 45% (relative to 2005 levels) by 2030.
Technological Advancements in the Green Sector
Technology has impacted the energy sector significantly, with smart monitoring systems reducing energy consumption of buildings, and the rollout of renewable technologies offering cleaner sources of power. Rooftop solar is one area we are excited to support moving forward. Malaysia has over 3 million landed properties, 21,000 stand-alone factories, 450,000 shophouses, 90,000 terrace malls, and 1,000 shopping malls. That’s a huge opportunity for our organisation to help the nation deliver low-carbon energy solutions.
it’s easy to overlook the simple impact of just switching off a light
Of course, with all these high-tech devices being introduced, it’s easy to overlook the simple impact of just switching off a light. Relying too much on energy-saving devices comes with the risk that we become complacent and waste energy in other areas. People tend to assume technology is the answer to all our energy problems. Certainly, it has an important part to play, but what we find in our work is that transformative change really comes from the people. Advanced technology can provide better and more accurate data, helping us make better decisions. That’s where I think the most important role of technology lies – supporting individuals and companies with greener opportunities, and educating them about more efficient ways to live, so that we can help build a reality of low carbon cities in Malaysia. Our organisation’s green advisory services have already trained over 4,000 skilled workers and almost 1,500 certified energy managers to support this journey.
Climate Change – A Shared Responsibility
Climate change is a problem we all share, which means tackling it is a challenge we have to embrace together. Decision makers and organisations like ours are there to provide the tools and frameworks so that everyone can do their part. In our work, we support local authorities through improving their understanding of climate change, educating them about low carbon cities, and framing the steps needed to achieving their goals. This includes initiatives such as the Low Carbon Cities 2030 Challenge — aiming to establish 200 low carbon zones and 1,000 low carbon partners by 2030. While those steps start with civic leaders and decision makers, the true measure of success is how well those opportunities filter down to citizens. It’s important that we recognise that, because the answer to reducing our carbon impact requires truly integrated solutions.
Climate change is a challenge we have to embrace together
Mobility is an area that perfectly illustrates this point. There are around 30 million vehicles in Malaysia, but understanding how to reduce that figure, or working to ensure they travel more smoothly across transport networks, isn’t as simple as looking at the number of people on the road. Planning low carbon transport networks requires you to understand a range of factors such as where people are going, where they are coming from, and whether they have several stop points along their route. Our job is to develop sustainable opportunities in a way that provides low carbon options for informed citizens. It’s about integrating solutions that work for individual citizens, to build a city that works better as a whole.
Green Partnerships for Sustainability
Agreements such as the Low Carbon Mobility blueprint between Petronas, TNB, and Malaysian Green Technology & Climate Change Centre are already moving this goal forward. There are 271 electric vehicle charging stations already installed across Malaysia today. More are of course needed, but this frames the move towards more low carbon alternatives for mobility. Efforts to promote cycling and enhance public transport with hybrid electric vehicles help lay out a pathway to lower carbon transport for citizens.
There are 271 electric vehicle charging stations across Malaysia
Private sector organisations also have an important part in any fully integrated solution. At the Climate Resilient and Sustainable Cities Division, we help businesses understand their own energy saving opportunities, and the benefits this can unlock for their organisation. Initiatives such as Energy Management Gold Standard (EMGS) and MyHIJAU make it easier than ever for businesses, and indeed consumers, to source energy efficient equipment and devices. There are 365 companies and almost 4,000 products listed on MyHIJAU today, and 160 organisations in Malaysia can proudly boast their EMGS certification. Green Investment Tax Allowance Assets and Green Income Tax Exemption Services are also on offer to provide additional financial support that can help businesses registered under MyHIJAU acquire such technologies.
Reducing environmental impact is of course an important social responsibility, but it’s also a genuine business opportunity. Reputation is an essential selling factor for any business in our modern world, and celebrating green credentials can have a profound positive impact on company success as a result. Tackling waste is also fundamental for overall efficiency, and supporting businesses in decreasing waste and energy consumption can substantially reduce operational costs. With the growing focus on climate impact mitigation, these measures also go a long way to future-proofing a business ahead of any potential changes to the regulatory environment in coming years.
True Change Comes from the People
Often when we talk of climate change and carbon emissions it can seem like we’re speaking of something far away from everyday citizens. The challenge now is helping people understand the individual impact of their actions, and providing the tools for consumers to make informed choices.
This isn’t just about data measuring on a global scale, it’s about real changes that positively impact our lives. It’s about building cleaner, cooler, healthier, and more equitable cities. It’s about living in a better environment that encourages people to live healthier lives. It’s about unlocking economic opportunities through better transport and reduced energy costs as well as reducing our waste so the burden on our resources is equally reduced. Low carbon cities are ultimately about realising a better vision of a city, and building a hopeful future for Malaysia in which we would all want to live.
Energy Watch is committed to publishing pieces that offer professional insight and represent diverse opinions to encourage debate. Views expressed in this piece belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Energy Watch.