Towards Green Growth in Malaysia: Lessons Sharing Conference

Apr 21, 2015

Yang Berbahagia Datuk Seri Dr. Rahamat Bivi binti Yusoff, Director General, Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department,

Her Excellency Mrs. Victoria Treadell, British High Commissioner to Malaysia,

Excellencies and esteemed guests,

Representatives from government agencies, academia, civil society organizations and private sector,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Selamat pagi and a very good morning to all of you.

Welcome to today’s Lessons Sharing Conference on green growth strategies.  The conference is intended to provide an opportunity to share experiences and knowledge and to explore options for addressing issues and challenges in pursuing green growth.

I am very pleased that so many of you - prominent representatives from government, academia, businesses and civil society organizations – accepted our invitation; and I thank you for joining us in this effort with the Government of Malaysia to find ways to quickly shift to a more sustainable development pathway – a pathway that is more green and more inclusive, as Malaysia pursues its vision of a high income, advanced nation by 2020.

Now, we all know the concept of green economy is not new.  Green economy policies have been discussed and analysed for decades by economists and academics, and also have been discussed at length in international negotiations, including UNCED in Rio in 1992; in Agenda 21 and subsequent agreements and international expert meetings.

Over the decades, these global agreements and action agendas have urged countries to change the way their societies produce and consume.  They have emphasised the need to promote social and economic development within the carrying capacity of the environment, delink economic growth and environmental degradation through improving efficiency and sustainability in the use of resources and production processes, and reduce resource degradation, pollution and waste.  Negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) also have seen detailed and prolonged debate on potential economic, regulatory and market‐based measures to address climate change through low‐carbon development, and agreement, recently, that adoption of appropriate policy measures for low carbon development are indispensable for achieving sustainable development.

So we have known what is necessary, but that does not mean it is easy to do.

Looking ahead to 2020, Malaysia has decided to break away from business as usual – to change the game.  The government has indicated its clear intent to be a front runner in the green economy.

We hope that our collective efforts over these two days will contribute to and help refine Malaysia’s thinking and strategies as the country makes important and transformative choices about how it will realise its Vision 2020 aspirations – how it will maintain the average 5-6% growth needed, continue to provide decent jobs for its people, narrow gaps in income and asset ownership and enable and equip the bottom 40% of the population to engage in the new green economy and see improvements in their well-being; and do all this in a way that  effectively manages the country’s natural resources and fosters sustainable development of its cities and urban areas, at the same time it delivers greater development to rural areas.  

Development, growth and the environment do not have to be competing priorities.  More and more evidence points to both short term and long term benefits in economic growth, environmental protection, and poverty reduction that can be generated in the shift towards green growth.

Green growth can enhance efficiency and productivity. Green, resource efficient technologies and practices often save resources and money compared to conventional alternatives. They enhance competitiveness over the long term, and sometimes in the short term.

Green growth can underpin industrial policy and macroeconomic goals. Growing demand for green technologies, products and services – domestically and internationally – offers countries opportunities for developing new industries and markets that create good and long-term jobs.  Many business opportunities can be reaped in growing markets such as organic agriculture, renewable energy and eco-tourism; and new opportunities, in green, resource efficient technologies and practices arise in areas such as waste management, green chemistry and bio-based products.

China, for example, allocated a significant share of investments to green sectors, with an emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency under the 11th Five Year Plan 2006 – 2010. As a result, the energy sector as a whole generated output worth US$17 billion and employed an estimated 1.5 million workers at the end of 2009, of which 600,000 were in the solar thermal industry, 266,000 in biomass generation, 55,000 in solar photovoltaics and 22,200 in wind power.  China’s experience provides an example of policy-led green growth in renewable energy that has created jobs, income and revenue streams for budding low carbon industries.

The transition to green economy can also lead to more sustainable management of natural resources. For example, Costa Rica pioneered the payment for environmental services (PES) more than two decades ago to conserve critical biodiversity such as watersheds. Landowners are rewarded financially for actions that maintain environmental services that benefit other people, who then pay for that gain. Lowland water users would, for example, pay highland communities that plant or protect forests and so maintain the flow of water downstream.

But, as I said earlier, transitioning to a green economy will not be an easy process, which is why we are here to share experiences and knowledge and learn from each other.  Shifting consumption and production patterns is difficult; technology and financing can be a challenge; and governments, private sector and Labour may reach a negative calculus, in the short term, in shifting away from their country’s or company strategies and plans, despite long term benefits.  However, once costs and long-term benefits are taken into consideration, several solutions provided by a green economy are seen as being more attractive.

UNDP is committed to support Malaysia’s efforts to advance green growth agenda from planning to implementation in the upcoming 11th Malaysia Plan by putting green growth model into practice in sectors, as well as subnational and local levels. This event is part of UNDP’s continued policy and technical support in Malaysia’s efforts towards inclusive and sustainable growth and development.

We thank the UK Government, whose partnership is making this event possible, and we look forward to fruitful discussions, with a view to identifying concrete proposals for action to support the implementation of Malaysia’s Green Growth Strategy.

Thank you.

Terima Kasih

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