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3j: Environment


Preamble

An overarching framework on climate change is needed to meaningfully address

cross-cutting environmental issues which are inter-disciplinary and wide ranging,

such as transparency, environmental and human rights impact assessments,

sustainable development and natural resources.

I: Climate Change Action

Climate change needs to be addressed as a top priority issue in view of its impact

on the economy and food security in particular. Public awareness must be raised

on how climate change could affect different stakeholders, especially marginalised

groups, and the urgent need to be prepared to deal with these impacts. We have

already witnessed the consequences of extreme weather patterns that led to

unusually heavy rainfall and unprecedented flooding in several states at the end of

2021 that caught us unprepared. The government, through effective policy

making, needs to develop plans to mitigate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

while responding and adapting to climate change, such as enhancing flood

mitigation systems and addressing coastal erosion due to rising sea levels, and

making financial provisions for loss and damage suffered by communities.

1. Declare a national climate emergency and mainstream climate change

in national development planning.

(Evelyn Teh, Jaringan Ekologi dan Iklim, Proposal 3J-1; Faris Ahmad Fadzil, Proposal 3J-2)

i. Mainstream climate emergency in all policy, governance and institutional

levels across agencies.

ii. Formulate laws and regulations that impose low-carbon development

and transportation, prevent further deforestation and ensure food

security.

iii. Ramp up national budget allocations for effective implementation and

enforcement of climate-related actions.

iv. Facilitate multi-stakeholder participation and representation, especially

from the indigenous, vulnerable and marginalised communities, in an

inclusive manner.

v. Adopt a holistic approach towards raising public awareness, which

includes having environmental education as a core component in the

school curriculum and increasing coverage by mainstream media and

through social media channels.

II: Transparency in Decision-Making Processes

An important principle of climate justice is that the voices of the most vulnerable

must be heard and accounted for. This requires open and participatory decision-

making processes, and accountability for decisions that are made, with emphasis

given to the well-being of local communities and the environment. A clear

example of opacity in the governmental decision-making process lies with the

degazetting of forest lands for resource extraction or development. At present,

this is frequently done by the state executive council, chaired by the Menteri

Besar or Chief Minister, without transparency and proper oversight by the state

legislative assembly, let alone the public.

2. Involve the public as decision makers in the development planning

process.

(Siti Fatimah bt. Jafar, Environment Cluster (Treat Every Environment Special (TrEES)), CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal 3J-3)

i. Provide complete information on development planning projects to

members of the public so that they are fully informed and have a chance

to review, express, propose and object to development plans.

ii. Use leading social media platforms as publicity channels to announce

development plans.

iii. Distribute full documentation online free of charge instead of relying on

printed documents.

iv. Make the project developer responsible for all publicity and distribution

costs related to public announcements as part of their corporate social

responsibility.

v. Encourage two-way communication which is safe, open and friendly at

all levels ranging from interpersonal communication to mass

communication.

3. Institutionalise the public involvement process and require state

legislative assembly approval for degazetting of forest reserves.

(Dr. Lim Chee Han, Agora Society Malaysia, Proposal 3J-4)

i. Make transparent the decision-making process for degazetting a forest

reserve by keeping the public informed of impending plans and making

it a requirement for project developers to first ensure that they have the

majority support of the local public citizens to proceed with these plans,

during public consultation sessions and through a local survey.

ii. Require state executive councils to prepare a bill at the state legislative

assembly prior to the state government making any decision on this. The

state executive council should be able to satisfactorily justify, explain and

defend their decision to degazette forest reserves to the state

government.


III: Natural Resources Conservation

Green budgeting contributes to informed, evidence-based debate and discussion

on sustainable growth. It uses the tools of budgetary policy-making to help

achieve environmental and climate goals.

4. Incorporate green budgeting and planning.

(Dr. Lim Chee Han, Agora Society Malaysia, Proposal 3J-5)

i. Have annual planning on the management of forests and natural

resources.

ii. Evaluate environmental impacts of budgetary and fiscal policies and

assess their coherence towards the delivery of national and international

environmental commitments.

iii. Present green budgeting in the same session with the state budget for the

approval of the state legislative assembly annually.

iv. Set annual green targets such as treetop coverage, carbon dioxide

emissions and pollution reduction.

v. Conduct inventory checks and engage in advanced planning for

utilisation of land and natural resources, which must be allocated,

debated and approved.

vi. Have state assembly persons (ADUNs) and the general public track,

monitor and question the process and purpose of utilising these

resources.

5. Protect water catchment forests.

(Rexy Prakash Chacko & Dr. Kam Suan Pheng, Penang Hills Watch, Proposal 3J-6)

i. Gazette entire areas of natural water catchments within permanent forest

reserves as water catchment forests under the National Forestry Act

1984 to protect them against logging and other unauthorised use.

ii. Enact state by-laws to enable legal enforcement against unauthorised

water extraction, logging and river contamination due to uncontrolled

agrochemical use.

6. Increase forest connectivity in fragmented landscapes.

(Aisling Usun Bagly, Save Rivers, Environment Cluster, CSO Platform for Reform,

Proposal 3J-7)

Connect forest reserves and national parks to increase the size of totally

protected areas, while recognising the rights of local communities who depend

on the forest for their livelihoods.

7. Redefine forest protection.

(Ken Lee, Agora Society Malaysia, Proposal 3J-8)

i. Promote habitat conservation management as a high-income profession

with generous remuneration.

ii. Change the paradigm of conservation from conventional resource

extraction to one that instead emphasises data extraction relating to

biological species, habitat, water resources and emergence of diseases.

iii. Encourage participation of rural residents, especially indigenous

communities, to escape poverty through the transformation of livelihood

practice, while forging a unique type of enterprise capital with their

traditional forest knowledge.

iv. Amend the Federal Constitution to solve problems related to forestry

policy and land law, which currently fall under the absolute control of

state governments.

v. Raise public awareness on the importance of conserving forests.

vi. Invite different social groups to participate in decision making to

enhance ecosystem protection.

vii. Limit timber production to areas outside forests and observe strict

demarcation between plantation estates and forestland.

8. Enable sustainable forest conservation.

(Faris Ahmad Fadzil, Proposal 3J-9; Muhammad Sha’ani b. Abdullah, Environment Cluster, CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal 3J-10)

i. Classify forests according to their environmental functions in the

National Forestry Act to determine the best management practice for

each composition.

ii. Amend the National Land Code to strengthen governance of all land

management and land use by state authorities by incorporating

meaningful public consultation procedures.

iii. Amend relevant laws to make the degazetting of permanent forest and

wildlife reserves the purview of state legislative assemblies.


IV: Environmental Impact Assessment

Gaps and weaknesses in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

regulations prevent the adoption of a holistic and comprehensive approach when

assessing proposed projects. There is a need to give weightage to social impacts

and human rights components, proper stakeholder consultation, access to

information and the independent appointment of consultants.

Additionally, the practice of the project proponent appointing the EIA

consultant leads to a conflict of interest which tends to favour the developer.

There is often a lack of project oversight, monitoring of compliance and

mitigation measures, as well as follow-up after the EIA report is approved. It is

worse in Sarawak where an EIA is not required for the logging of virgin or

primary forests, thus leaving primary rainforests exposed to unethical and

destructive logging methods without regulation.

9. Review the approval and evaluation processes for the EIA.

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 3J-11; Celine Lim, SaveRivers, Environment Cluster, CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal 3J-12; Dr. Lim Chee Han, Agora Society Malaysia, Proposal 3J-13)

i. Provide the public and other stakeholders with free and easy access to all

documents produced including the EIA and social impact assessment on

any planned development.

ii. Enable the public and other stakeholders to present their views and

inputs before a decision is made to approve the project.

iii. Ensure the authorities or developers respond to objections or feedback

within a stated time and before the project is approved.

iv. Restrict the minister's power to "prescribe any activity" that requires EIA

study by re-formulating transparent and clear criteria for an EIA study.

v. Require project proponents to set aside and contribute a certain amount

of funds for EIA purposes to a central consolidated account, for the

Department of Environment to act on behalf of the project proponent

and hire the most suitable candidate as the independent EIA consultant,

with the EIA report used as a key reference source for project

evaluation.

vi. Revise EIA procedures and requirements to follow international

standards of logging and forest management. This should be enacted

across Malaysia to promote uniform standards of logging and ensure

sustainable practices and better management of the country’s rainforests.

Enlist the help of national, regional, and international civil society

organisations as a committee to produce solutions to mitigate loopholes

and grey areas.

10. Revise Sarawak’s EIA logging standards.

(Zarris, Environment Cluster (TrEES), CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal 3J-14)

i. Amend the Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance 1958 to

stipulate strict and clear EIA logging requirements for primary and

secondary forests of a reasonable size.

ii. Increase emphasis on conservation and careful management

requirements of forest resources.

iii. Legislate national laws to regularise implementation within state

jurisdictions.

11. Replace the EIA with an environment and human rights impact

assessment system.

(Ng Yap Hwa, Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, Proposal 3J-11)

Revamp the Environmental Quality Act 1974 to make human rights impact

assessment enforceable.


V: Sustainable Development

As the Malaysian population grows, human demands for social, cultural,

economic and environmental resources increase, which can affect the quality of

life. A green approach involving solid waste management, limiting urban sprawl

and conserving public green spaces, among others, is needed.

12. Improve solid waste management.

(Aisling Usun Bagly, Save Rivers, Environment Cluster, CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal 3J-15)

i. Raise public awareness on the need to make solid waste management a

lifestyle practice, such as to ‘go green’ and be ‘zero-waste-friendly’.

ii. Educate packaging companies, supermarkets, restaurants and food

vendors to roll out programmes to encourage zero waste.

iii. Develop proper waste management systems, especially for communities

in rural areas.

13. Inhibit urban sprawl to protect forests.

(Wong Tsu Soon, Agora Society Malaysia, Proposal 3J-16)

i. Set urban growth boundaries in local plans.

ii. Relax zoning restrictions in the cities to encourage mixed development;

introduce policies that treat such zones as residential, e.g. by applying

residential rates to utility bills and relevant taxes, and rehabilitating

shophouses as residential housing.

iii. Provide housing rental and purchasing subsidies that encourage people

to live within a closer radius to the workplace, instead of living further

and having to commute long distances to work, which in turn

contributes to urban sprawl.

14. Increase infrastructure for pedestrian walkways and efforts to conserve

public green open spaces.

(Siti Fatimah bt. Jafar, Environment Cluster (TrEES), CSO Platform for Reform, Proposal 3J-17)

i. Develop pedestrian walkways which are integrated with green

infrastructure within and among cities or towns.

ii. Encourage public participation from local communities and local

business owners, within local authority jurisdictions, to contribute and

achieve neighbourhoods which are resilient and sustainable.

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