Climate change? How will it impact Malaysia? Part 1
I wanted to understand how exactly will climate change impact Malaysia, so I began reading Malaysia’s report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The latest one I could find online was from 2018. Why does Malaysia have to submit this report? Because Malaysia is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, where 195 countries agreed to take actions to limit global warming to well below 2 (preferably 1.5) degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
The whole document is over 300 pages long and I’m only halfway through it. I’ve decided to summarise some of the main points into 3 blogs, focusing on the current state of things (part 1), projected impact of climate change (part 2) and planned mitigation actions (part 3).
This is mostly to help myself remember things. Hopefully, you find it helpful too!
What did Malaysia commit to?
Malaysia committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity of GDP by 45% by 2030, relative to that of 2005. This consists of 35% on an unconditional basis and 10% on a conditional basis, upon receipt of climate finance funding, tech transfer and capacity building from developed countries.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is in charge of submitting the Biennial Update Report (BUR) every two years, and National Communications (NC) report every four years to the UNFCCC.
Current state of things in Malaysia
- Over the past four decades, increasing temperature trends of 0.13 to 0.24 degrees Celsius per decade have been observed.
- A slight decreasing trend of rainfall is observed in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, whereas a slight increasing trend is observed in Sarawak.
- In 2014, approximately 55.3% of land remains forested. This includes permanent reserved forests, state land forests and totally protected areas (To know more about this, read Macaranga’s Forest Files!)
- In 2014, GHG emissions biggest contributor was the energy sector (80%), waste sector (9%), industrial processes and product use (IPPU) sector (6%), agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sector (4%) and AFOLU-LULUCF (land-use change and forestry) emissions (1%). Emissions have been increasing over the years.
2. Carbon dioxide emissions amounted to 78% of total GHG emissions, methane at 18% and nitrous oxide at 3%
3. Between 2005 and 2014, emissions in the energy sector increased by 28%, IPPU sector by 34%, AFOLU agriculture by 8%, waste sector by 29% and LULUCF net removals increased by 23%. (page 40, 41)
- In 2015, primary energy supply comprise natural gas (44%), crude oil and petroleum products (33%), coal and coke (19%) and hydropower (4%)
(Data from 2018 — the latest available from official sources — looks around the same)
- Average waste generation per capita per day (2012) is approximately 1.17 kg/capita/day. Food residues are the biggest contributor (45%), while plastics decreased to 13.2% from 24% (second biggest contributor) and paper increased to 8.5% from 7% (third biggest contributor) (2005 to 2012).
- Taking into consideration both LULUCF emissions and removals, GHG emissions per capita and per GDP decreased by 12.2% and 32.5% compared to 2005 levels. Population increased by 17.9% and GDP by 53.5% over the same period. Net emissions for 2014 is as shown in the table. (More on this below!)
☀ On waste ☀
Waste is one of my favourite areas to look into, just because it’s so visceral whenever I see rubbish dumps. When I was young, we used to drive past a massive open landfill next to the MRR2. The stench when you drive past it is unbearable.
It’s important to look at waste management because waste generation is expected to increase with a growing population and rising living standards. Also, it’s the second biggest source of GHG emissions!
- More waste is generated where developments are the highest. Klang Valley residents generate the most waste at 1.35 kg/capita/day, whereas East Coast has the lowest at 0.95 kg/capita/day.
- In 2014, there were 167 operational landfills and 131 closed landfills. Among the operational landfills, only 10 are sanitary landfills. In Sarawak, 46 our of 49 landfills are open dumpsites. (This is something that deserves more exploration, I think!)
☀ On emissions ☀
- The energy sector (to produce electricity, petroleum refining and natural gas transformation) is the biggest culprit (54%), followed by transportation (25%) and the manufacturing industry (9%).
- Fugitive emissions from the oil and gas industry (41%), industrial wastewater treatment and discharge (28%) and solid waste disposal (18%).
- 99% of emissions from industrial wastewater treatment and discharge is from palm oil mill effluent (POME).
- Agriculture sector (60%) is the biggest emitter, due to managed soils and managed manure, followed by cross-sectoral indirect emissions (16%) and road transport (9%).
☀ On removal of GHG ☀
GHG removals occur in the LULUCF (land use, land-use change and forestry) sector.
According to the UN, LULUCF activities can mitigate climate change by removing GHG from the atmosphere or halting the loss of carbon stock, which includes deforestation. But LULUCF can also be a source of emissions.
Forest land remaining as forest land, for instance, results in removal of carbon dioxide. But emissions can emerge due to carbon loss from commercial harvest (i.e. logging), forest fires and emissions from drained peat swamp forest (to make way for plantations and other developments).
Crop land converted to forest land involves removal of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, crop land remaining crop land emissions are calculated from the total harvest and cultivation in drained peat lands.