Malaysia needs independent authority to monitor climate change, says UN rights expert

Malaysia’s landmark Petronas Twin Towers are seen shrouded in haze in Kuala Lumpur August 10, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Malaysia’s landmark Petronas Twin Towers are seen shrouded in haze in Kuala Lumpur August 10, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 23 — Malaysia needs to set up an independent authority to monitor and devise policies on climate change, according to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Phillip Alston.

This is crucial as Malaysia’s lack of policies on climate change could hurt the nation’s economic and social development.

“Climate change is about government policies and a country that is heavily dependent on oil, a large part of the national budget is linked to oil, a country that is significantly dependent on palm oil is going to find itself in a very difficult situation as international policies evolved in order to move away from such products.

“What Malaysia needs to do is to set up an independent climate change authority now which will start looking at, first of all the emergency measures that will need to be taken when climate change starts to get even more severe and secondly to stimulate a discussion within government about the necessary sorts of restructuring otherwise Malaysia would be caught off guard and be way behind other countries,” he said during a press conference at the JW Marriott hotel here today.

Alston is part of the UN Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council and was in the country for the past 11 days, from Aug 13 to 23, to investigate the country’s efforts to eradicate poverty, among other things.

In his preliminary report today, Alston said that the country’s poverty rate might range from 16 to 20 per cent instead of official government data in 2016 which placed only 0.4 per cent of households as living below the poverty line. To date, Malaysia calculates households of four living below RM980 per month as those living in poverty.

He also said that failure to address climate change in a holistic manner would leave the country’s poor as the most vulnerable group.

“As far as I can see, Malaysia has no policy on climate change and the reason for concern is that we know that the people who suffered most and first from climate change are those living in poverty,” he said.

“They are the one who can’t escape, they are the ones who have fragile houses, they are the one who doesn’t have access to air conditioning, they are the one who lives in coastal villages where the sea level will rise, they are the one who is exposed to the temperature extremes which are going to affect Malaysia in the next decade and beyond.”

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