KUALA LUMPUR: Addressing climate crises have been moved to the forefront in many countries including Malaysia, in a race against time.
As temperatures are already rising worldwide, disasters such as storms and floods are becoming more severe due to warmer oceans.
The rising temperature is caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, mainly from human activities such as fossil fuels burning and farming.
Extreme weather come with hefty prices as disasters such as heat waves, floods and landslides affect harvests and work productivity, leaving adverse social and economic impacts.
Klima Action Malaysia (KAMY) has proposed for the Climate Change Act to be fast-tracked to focus on carbon emissions and pricing, together with the establishment of an authoritative enforcement body.
Its chairman and programme director Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar said the situation would be more intense in a few years and stressed on the urgent need to expedite the process of drafting the law, before it is tabled and debated in the Parliament.
She said Malaysia had set to reduce GHG emission intensity by 45 per cent in 2030 and there was a need to set a carbon price and provide a mandate to a commission to regulate it.
"Singapore has already enforced its own law on this, where the carbon tax is set at SGD5 per tonne of GHG emission. It is already looking into revising the rate.
"Similar mechanisms could be used here, by putting a cap on the permissible GHG emission and charge those that breach this limit. The money collected could be used for public infrastructures to benefit the people," she said in an interview with the New Straits Times.
She said the United Kingdom had similar law to regulate GHG emissions by sectors and provides people with legal recourse taken against the government for failure to meet the carbon reduction targets.
The carbon reduction plan should also provide a legal pathway and environmental rights for the people, she said.
Ili Nadiah is one of the representatives from Malaysian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) involved in an engagement series organised by the Environment and Water Ministry in November and December last year.
Other proposals discussed during the sessions were ensuring data accessibility and on climate education.
"We need accessible data that is understandable to the public, including projection of the carbon and why it is relevant to the people and sectors urgently.
"There is also a need to review the education system to include climate education. We need a specific provision to make sure that climate education is at the forefront and could start as soon as possible."
During the engagement sessions, the NGOs also inquired about the roles and functions of the commission, set to oversee and enforce the Act, she said.
"While the appointments of personnel are made by the government, the organisation should be represented by the community and NGOs. The law should emphasise on inclusiveness to make it effective.
"We also raised questions on disaster response because another law, the Disaster Act, was also proposed to cover insurance for natural disasters. We'd like to know who's going to govern that – either the Climate Change or Disaster Act?" she asked.
Climate refugees should also be addressed in the new law, she said.
"With the rising global temperature and sea levels, many places are being inundated, leaving people displaced.
"KAMY also brought up a specific question on displacement issue. There has to be set of rules for displacements, including government compensation, that should be debated and decided in the parliament."
She said climate refugees are people who were displaced due to natural disasters, either domestically or internationally, citing Maldivians, who were among those at risk of being climate change refugees due to sea level rise.
"The rising sea level will especially affect island nations such as Maldives. Some countries are creating a pact (such as the Alliance of Small Island States or AOSIS) to address the situation, should it become a reality.
"This should be part of the conversations. What about Malaysia? Will we be affected by this problem? There is really no time to lose," she added.
Ili Nadiah lamented the lack of information on the climate change framework legislation and hoped more discussions on the proposed Act would be held soon.