Inaction, poor coordination a risky gamble

The effects of uncontrolled deforestation activities can be seen at the valley of Gunung Dulang, Pahang in this file photo taken on May 21, 2016. Photo: Bernama

Households should be encouraged to install solar panels for their energy needs

By Datuk Mohammad Medan Abdullah

Datuk Mohammad Medan Abdullah

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption, causing simultaneous lockdowns around the world. Countries and major corporations around the world are at a loss as to how to mitigate the impact and what strategies to be adopted to respond to the pandemic and its consequences on the loss of lives and its unfolding economic effects.

Even more surprising is that we hardly hear of anything being done at the UN level or any of its agencies. Strangely, there is no global leadership coordinating the worldwide response to this existential threat to the whole world.

This is very worrying and brings to mind the real and even more alarming issue facing the world today, namely, climate change.

If the way the world has been responding to the Covid-19 pandemic is any indicator, it is becoming very clear that the whole world is totally unprepared for a global disaster that will come swiftly on the heels of the climate change phenomenon.

We are supposedly the guardians of the Earth but it looks like we have failed miserably. In fact, our own actions have been the determinant and most prominent detrimental factor on the current dire state of the planet.

As climate change becomes the fight for our future, we should do well to remember that our ancestors and their lifestyles point the way forward. Their closeness to the environment and sensitivity to its pulses and rhythms made them live an existence which rhymes with nature’s own cycle. But after the advent of industrialisation and mechanisation on a large scale, man began to adversely and drastically affect the environment that he lives in.

One of these effects is the massive carbon emissions as a result of man’s economic activities. We are now at the tipping point, say many forecasters and environmentalists.

Monitoring carbon footprints for lower emissions and providing tax benefits for environmentally friendly investments are some of the practical ways forward to encourage businesses and individuals to lower their carbon footprint, minimising their adverse effects on the environment in which they are living in, and contribute to the fight on climate change.

Take the lead

Governments and business enterprises must lead the way forward at reducing the carbon footprint.

A major source of carbon emission comes from power generation for all kinds of activities. By switching to cleaner energy, we can reduce our carbon footprint drastically. For example, investment in solar energy and other forms of renewable energy is one of the key strategies in this area.

In the case of the Sarawak the investments in hydro energy generation have been a major investment in a cleaner energy source. But such investments also have had consequential impact on the natural environment like the loss of trees and flora and fauna.

We all know that trees and fauna need to be conserved to reduce carbon footprints. Having more trees and fauna restores the environment and battles climate change. The replanting and reforestation of degraded landscapes has to be a priority.

At the local level we should strive to create sustainable practises in our daily lives and activities.

For example, we can convert food and other related wastes to mulch. Creating our own inhouse organic fertiliser by setting aside an area for compost production will be a good start. Planting our own gardens with vegetables and fruit trees is a practical thing to do.

Secondly, households should be encouraged and incentivised to install solar panels for their own energy needs and to reduce their utility bills while at the same time earn some income by selling the excess energy they produce back to the grid.

Thirdly, businesses should start using low carbon emissions equipment such as printers, fridges, light bulbs and other equipment. Businesses will need to create a team that seriously looks into sustainable practices in their operations.

At the federal and state levels, there is a need for legislations and directives to reduce carbon footprint as a matter of public policy. There can be incentives such as taxations and subsidies to encourage compliance and engender the right behaviour.

Sustainable practices

Plantations can improve sustainable practises such as syntropic farming that repairs the soil and brings biodiversity back to the area. To repair the earth, we need to repair the soil. We do not want to be ecological disaster zones like in some countries where mining and other primary industries are key economic drivers but bring pollution and the haze to the region. In these countries, sustainable practices need to be enhanced and enforcement has to be strengthened.

In Sarawak, it is heartening to note that we have taken the initiative and have created practices such as sustainable logging in the form of forest plantations. With our ample land, the state can further leverage on our agricultural potential and become a food security provider for countries such as Brunei and Singapore and other places.

We can also build up on our organic farming pedigree and scale up to become an internationally recognised food production base which is strong on sustainable agricultural practices.

We have seen converted unused lands and available spaces used for birds nest farms. We can build further on this and can look into producing super foods such as taking ‘kelulut’ farming to a bigger volume industry which is based on scientific and sustainable, integrated practices.

The Covid-19 pandemic will result in widespread shutdowns of factories and economic activities, leading to potential record-breaking global unemployment levels and drastic declines in consumer spending. We need to take actions now to create the sources of future employment.

Clearly, investments in agriculture, food production and sustainable industries are the way forward. We will be able to provide employment for our people and feed the needs of the world at the same time.

We need to set green building standards and enforce them in the next generation of buildings and constructions. We can have future property developments which have green and sustainability markers or credentials as their premium selling points.

In conclusion, we must become the true guardians of our environment again through personal, corporate, and governmental initiatives.  We have to claim back our birth right.

Let’s use this crisis as a trigger point to apply strategies to better manage other systemic risks that are surely to come in the future.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Bintulu Port Holdings Berhad (Bintulu Port)