By Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Pledging anything out on an international stage is not something to be taken lightly. Once a pledge is given, the giver is duty-bound to stand and act accordingly.

By all rights, Malaysia, having now taken the pledge, must fulfill them not only for climate change but more for ourselves and the future generation.

However, it would seem that the present Malaysian government does not take climate change or natural environment issues seriously.

Our Prime Minister had pledged that Malaysia will meet her carbon goals by 2050 yet our Minister for natural environment failed at COP26 to address the most urgent issue!

The pledges made were not realistic and merely greenwash. We could only guess that it was done deliberately to avoid taking the international pledge to stop deforestation at COP26 with a bit of face saving.

Our government has never taken the natural environment seriously, approaching it from an exploitative stance instead of a conservative stance.

The natural environment is seen as a form of money earner, an ATM, to be used and depleted as they see fit. One must understand that there is little illegal logging or mining in Malaysia. It is all approved!

We, Malaysia, as one of the tropical countries encircling the equator, must not only take the deforestation pledge but must act without reserve to achieve all the conditions stated in that pledge.

Banning all logging, mining and all other harmful practices and immediately start recovery works eg re-planting and protecting the natural environment and all its related biodiversity.

Replanting 100,000,000 trees but then only maintaining 50% forest cover is at best an oxymoron and illogical from a conservation point of view.

As far as Peka is concerned, reforestation is the cheapest and fastest way to help in mitigating climate change. If all the countries along the equatorial belt were to move on this act alone, it would show a vast improvement in our climate conditions.

This is not high-powered science; it is just logic.

History tells us that the tropical forest had faced depletion throughout its history, but it had always been able to recover as the rainforest bulk was still there to absorb carbon and all the other gases produced by human activities.

However, these last 10-20 years have seen enormous tracts of the rainforest being depleted at an alarming rate – all in the name of ‘For the good of the people’!

And this practice is still going on. It is unfortunate there are people who still believe that climate change is either bogus or ‘an act of God’ or natural evolution of the planet.

Mental apathy is one of the most difficult to dissuade and change. Peka had always tried to shift this apathetic mental paradigm, but it had been slow and arduous with many obstacles, mostly stepping on the toes of the governing powers.

Malaysia had been an agricultural economy for a very long time. We were, at one time, the biggest producer of rubber.

We are now one the top producers of palm oil and now vying for the biggest producer of durians in the world!

Constant protest and demands to change the existing forestry laws as well as the constitutional laws to slow down the rate of deforestation have fallen on deaf ears.

For the Malaysian natural environment to have a fighting chance, a moratorium on logging and mining for at least 20 years must be put in place immediately. That is to give the rainforest a chance to breathe and rejuvenate.

The Malaysian people must act and demand the governing bodies to do their due diligence on all environmental matters and not hide behind the banners of federal, state, or royal banners.

On this matter, we demand that the governing representation for the natural environment must be a voice of reason, someone well-versed on the issues, who would not shy away from high powered intellectual forum, and finally, not those who only listens to illogical and ill-advice from so called experts who thinks that logging has nothing to do with climate change.

Barring that, it will not be surprising if Malaysia becomes the next Brazil for wiping out our natural forest and all its biodiversity under the pretext of ‘Planting a 100 million trees’.

Regarding COP26, we hope that the deforestation pledge will see positive action from the pledge countries and that it will not result in just talk.

*Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil is President of Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (PEKA) which was formed to stop the destruction of natural resources, to defend the rights of environment and be the voice of nature.*