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Key Takeaways from COP28 for Malaysia

Picture this: A diverse group of people from different walks of life, uniting in Dubai for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCC (COP28). Their shared mission? A powerful commitment to safeguarding our planet from the impacts of climate change. This pivotal gathering was a call to action, a collective effort held from November 30 to December 12 to shape a sustainable future for us all.

Gathering over a span of two weeks, this conference drew leaders from across the globe at a crucial crossroads to confront the pressing challenge of climate change. Within the vibrant precincts of Dubai Expo City, a diverse assembly of ministers, industry tycoons, national representatives, fervent youth activists, and advocates for indigenous communities collectively transformed the venue into a nexus of discourse, steering conversations towards actionable strategies aimed at advancing the world closer to fulfilling the ambitious objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement.

With a pressing mission to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050 compared to pre-industrial levels, the summit saw the largest COP attendance of 70,000 delegates, with participation by high-profile individuals from various industries like philanthropist and former Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates, supermodel, Naomi Campbell, fashion designer Stella McCartney and Britain’s King Charles III.

Evaluating progress with the Global Stocktake (GST)

Taking center stage at this year’s COP was the inaugural Global Stocktake review, akin to a comprehensive report card evaluating countries that are parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement. This entails a meticulous inventory check on the global status of climate action, tracking progress in line with

the commitment to monitor, assess, and periodically review advancements toward the agreement’s long-term temperature goal.

The discourse witnessed thorough deliberations from all involved parties, with a notable focus on the context of fossil fuels. Following an arduous process of refining the Stocktake text through five revisions, the negotiations, spanning a fortnight, concluded with an extension of COP, requiring an additional 23 hours to reach a resolution.

“We are here to make sure that this first-ever Stocktake under the Paris Agreement is a success, because it is the only Stocktake that matters for keeping the 1.5C goal within reach.” Reaffirmed Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), lead Stocktake negotiator, Rueanna Haynes during the negotiations.

In what could be a watershed accord, consensus was reached to primarily “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems.” This landmark achievement, incorporating “fossil fuels” into a United Nations climate change agreement, was lauded by COP28 president, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber.

The Stocktake serves as a comprehensive text that encapsulates the entirety of the Paris Agreement which includes Adaptation, International cooperation, Loss and damage, Means of implementation and support, as well as Response measures. The text also involves addressing critical issues, such as methane emissions and ensuring an orderly reduction in the reliance on fossil fuels.

In addition to inspiring and urging nations to contribute to the global initiative of tripling renewable energy capacity and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030, the text serves as a guiding compass for all countries, outlining the path for formulating their upcoming national climate pledges within the framework of the Paris Agreement.

Anticipating the next four years (2024 to 2028), a separate “dialogue” will unfold, dedicated to implementing the outcomes of the Stocktake. This ongoing conversation underscores the commitment and aspiration to translate the principles derived from the Stocktake into tangible actions, further propelling the worldwide pursuit of a sustainable and climate-resilient future.

Breakthrough agreement on the Loss and Damage Fund

On the inaugural day of the summit, the UAE presidency marked a groundbreaking moment with the launch of the Loss and Damage Fund. An endevour to assist the most vulnerable nations disproportionately impacted by climate change to recover from the “loss and damage”, caused by the high emitting nations of the Global North.

However, the establishment of this fund had its fair share of contention, particularly on who would contribute to the fund. Across its five meetings leading up to COP28, including an emergency session in Abu Dhabi, the United States consistently resisted any language mandating developed countries to contribute to the fund.

Currently, no binding obligation exists for developed nations to contribute into the fund. Ultimately, as it stands, contributions would depend solely on the generosity of affluent nations. The establishment of the fund also sparked a question on whether developing but relatively rich nations should contribute to the fund.

This included a contribution of USD 100 million from the COP28 host UAE, USD 245.39 million from the European Union, USD 51 million from Britain, USD 17.5 million from the United States and USD 10 million from Japan.

Regardless, while the recipient countries were not specifically identified, the committee’s final agreement highlighted that the fund’s board would be designing a “resource allocation system” based on available evidence. This method would safeguard and guarantee a minimum percentage allocation to least developed countries (LDCs) and small island nations.

While the Loss and Damage fund outcome had mixed reactions, unearthing unsatisfactory responses from some critics, the small step forward, although arguably insufficient since “at least” USD 100 billion a year is needed by 2030, received a total pledge of USD 792 million. This included a contribution of USD 100 million from the COP28 host UAE, USD 245.39 million from the European Union, USD 51 million from Britain, USD 17.5 million from the United States and USD 10 million from Japan.

The critique underscores the fund’s pivotal role, particularly for developing nations grappling with frequent and severe weather events that have resulted in the loss of human lives and extensive damages to properties and cropland.

Over the past decade, the global stage has witnessed alarming records of rainfall, unprecedented glacier melting, scorching heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and warmer winters punctuated by frequent blizzards.

Malaysia has not been immune to the firsthand impact of climate change. The country’s sea level, as reported by The World Bank, rose approximately 3.3mm annually in the east and around 5mm in the west from 1993 to 2015. Disturbingly, projections suggest that the country’s mangrove zones may face submersion by 2040, with potential impacts on industrial zones by 2060. Cities like Kepala Batas and Juru in Seberang Prai, Penang, could face complete submersion within the next decade.


Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability (former minister of The Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry) and Group chair of ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC)

Recalling the Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Sustainability (former minister of The Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Ministry), Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad’s bold statement at the Country Statement stage, “It should not be the case that some wealthy countries, including those who have benefitted from exploiting the environments of other nations in the past, are now allowed to be “pragmatic” when it comes to climate change, while developing ones are held to stricter and inflexible standards or subject to unilateral trade measures. This must be remedied via more inclusive and equitable climate finance.”

The Malaysia Pavilion Highlights Malaysia’s Commitment with Concrete Actions

Central to the commitment of slashing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 at the earliest, the Malaysia Pavilion, inaugurated by Malaysia King, His Majesty Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah (KDYMM YDA), thrived with the engagement of 60 local and international delegates. These participants delved earnestly into discussions aimed at realising this ambitious goal. The Pavilion, themed “Going Beyond: Green Growth, Resilient Community, Sustainable Planet,” epitomised Malaysia’s comprehensive and progressive approach to climate action. A particular emphasis was placed on a Just Transition, ensuring investment incentives, the construction of resilient and sustainable energy infrastructure, and the development of green skills.

Concrete strides have been taken by the country to bolster these goals. Within the region, Malaysia affirmed its commitment to ensuring the successful implementation of the ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) Action Plan. Nik Nazmi, pledged this support during the ASEAN Leadership in

Addressing Climate Change forum. The commitment seeks to foster collaboration, spur innovation, and facilitate the effective execution of collective climate change action plans within the ASEAN community, advancing issues of common interest.

Cementing its status as the highest-ranking Southeast Asian nation, according to the Energy Transition Index 2023 by the World Economic Forum, the country is actively steering its trajectory towards a sustainable future. This endeavor is evident through the recently unveiled National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR), the implementation of Green Electricity Tariffs, and a substantial reduction in subsidies for fossil-fuel-based electricity, amounting to nearly USD 1 billion.

In tandem with these efforts, Nik Nazmi announced that his ministry is in the process of formulating a Long-Term Low Emissions Strategy (LT-LEDS) and a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) Roadmap. This comprehensive framework aims to pave the way for achieving net-zero emissions by as early as 2050. Concurrently, key initiatives such as the climate change bill, national adaptation fund, and carbon market mechanism are being developed as crucial drivers for the nation’s sustainable future.

Delivering his keynote on Water and Biodiversity Day, the minister stressed on mitigation and adaptation measures to minimise the damaging impacts on the nation’s biodiversity, which serves as a lifeline of the planet and has a significant role in preserving the ecological balance, economic well-being and climate regulation. Moreover, Malaysia’s Economic Exclusive Zone overlaps the Coral Triangle area, which is deemed to have the greatest diversity of marine life in the world. As such, the government has raised the allocation for the Ecological Fiscal Transfer for Biodiversity Conservation (EFT) from RM70 million in 2022 to RM150 million in 2023 and RM200 million in 2024 to protect and increase coverage of protected areas.

Meanwhile, Local Government Development Minister, Nga Kor Ming shared during his visit that Malaysia’s National Circular Economy Council recognises the significant value of the waste-to-energy sector and will manage the implementation and progress of these initiatives.

As the government charts its initiatives, a resonant call echoed within the confines of the pavilion. Achieving the net-zero target demands a concerted, worldwide effort involving regulatory bodies, industry leaders, scientists, experts, businesses, organisations, and communities—a sentiment Nik Nazmi likened to a ‘green gotong royong.’

“The urgency for Malaysia’s shift to sustainable energy is fuelled by global commitments, particularly the Paris Agreement and the need to fortify economic diversification and energy security.” reiterated the NRECC minister at the launch of the Sustainable Energy Development prospectus. “This transformative effort requires a significant investment of RM637 billion, and Malaysia invites global collaboration to lead the way for a net-zero future by 2050”, he added.

Diverse Industry Voices Unite Through ‘Green Gotong Royong’

As Malaysia’s national energy utility, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) came primed with a clear objective – to champion the nation’s Energy Transition agenda, bolstering Malaysia’s position as a leader in sustainable energy.  “As the nation aspires to lead in renewable energy, TNB stands ready to embark on decarbonisation and fortify the grid infrastructure to ensure a sustainable power supply for economic growth. We eagerly anticipate collaboration opportunities to accelerate a responsible energy transition journey with partners and stakeholders,” said Chief Operating Officer, Datuk Ir. Megat Jalaluddin Megat Hassan.

In alignment with the NETR, the utility company stood firm on strengthening the grid infrastructure to meet the growing electricity demand by 2050. “Through TNB’s initiatives in modernising the grid and strategic planning for a future-proof electricity network structure, Malaysia is positioned to become a central hub for the seamless integration of renewable energy. This offers substantial opportunity for our nation to spearhead the ASEAN energy transition agenda, taking the lead in regional interconnection efforts and paving the way towards a sustainable and resilient future.”, explained Dev Anandan, Chief Grid Officer of TNB during his panel session.

From the financial sector, Governor Abdul Rasheed Ghaffour of Bank Negara Malaysia emphasised in his opening address, “Malaysia’s strides in Islamic finance have served as a crucial launching pad for the growth and expansion of transition and green finance.” This commitment is evident in the introduction of Value Based Intermediation in 2018, aimed at fortifying efforts to integrate sustainability elements into finance. Notably, the inception of the “Bursa Carbon Exchange” marked the world’s first Shariah-compliant voluntary carbon exchange.

Within the Malaysia Pavilion, discussions materialised into collaborative actions. A significant development involved the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) sealing an USD 8 million agreement with UAE-based Masdar to catalyse renewable energy projects within the country. Additionally, Sarawak Energy forged a collaboration with the UAE clean energy powerhouse to advance Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS).

Undoubtedly, these combined endeavors from diverse industry players offered a glimpse of the ‘green gotong royong’ envisioned by Nik Nazmi.

Navigating Hopes and Aspirations ‘til Azerbaijan and Beyond

“The fate of the ordinary, vulnerable and marginalised people of this world depends on decisions we make at this conference. Let us choose wisely and act boldly, to not only resolve climate change but bring about the birth of a better world for all.” – Nik Nazmi

Concluding COP28, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said the climate deal “marks the end of the fossil fuel era”. And now the real work begins, as each participating country returns home to put together the building blocks of a more energy-conscious future.

For Malaysia in particular, guided by a just energy transition, it’s paramount that all sectors within the nation band together, through regional and global cooperation, to achieve its set target reduction in GHG by 45% in 2030 and strive to achieve net-zero emissions earliest by 2050.

Echoing Nik Nazmi’s call to action for an inclusive transition, at the Country Statement stage, “The fate of the ordinary, vulnerable and marginalised people of this world depends on decisions we make at this conference. Let us choose wisely and act boldly, to not only resolve climate change but bring about the birth of a better world for all.”

As a participant in the global effort, Malaysia bears the responsibility to contribute to the collective goal and to ensure these ambitious aspirations are on the right track before the world reconvenes in Azerbaijan for COP29.

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