13 October, 2010

Official Opening of the International Greentech & Eco Products Exhibition & Conference Malaysia (IGEM2010)


1.        Around this time last year, while tabling the 2010 Budget at Parliament, I made a suggestion that we should have an international exhibition and conference to move the national green agenda forward. I am delighted that my suggestion has been taken up and today we see the beginning of an exciting exhibition here in Malaysia. I wish to thank the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water and the organizers of this International Greentech and Eco-products Exhibition and Conference 2010 for following through with my suggestion. This exhibition and conference represents an important milestone in Malaysia’s march towards sustainable development.

2.        This mission of global environmental sustainability is as much a moral obligation, as it is a noble calling. It is our moral obligation to bequeath to posterity, an environment that is as pristine as we inherited from our forefathers. Environmental sustainability is a high calling as the world is in crisis. By crisis, I do not refer to the doomsayers’ prediction of a double-dip economic recession, which is obviously a matter of concern.   In this context, the crisis that I refer to is climate change.

Ladies and Gentleman,

3.        We are at a crossroads in human civilization. Where previously mankind’s predominant concern was mere survival, today, material pursuits cause us to consume resources at a rate far greater than they can ever be replenished. Now, our profligate use of these resources has brought the world very close to the brink of a global environmental catastrophe. Signs are beginning to appear that earth cannot take much more of modern man’s wanton disregard of his environment. If we do nothing, it is only a matter time before we shall all suffer the most disastrous of consequences.

4.        To me, the choice is obvious. It cannot be more of the same or ‘Business as usual’ as far as the environment is concerned. We must make substantial changes, especially in the way we consume energy, in order to reverse the environment’s downward spiral. While fossil fuel will remain the dominant source of energy in the coming decades, we must begin to critically and realistically examine how energy from renewable sources such as wind, water, solar, biofuels and geothermal heat can progressively and satisfactorily meet global energy demand. The fact of the matter is that, although renewable energy demand will double by 2030, its share will only be a paltry 6% of total energy demand in that same year. A global revolution is needed in the way we source and use energy.  The world needs a new economic driver – one that is built on green technology.

5.        Some people feel that the difficult financial circumstances that the world now faces mean that the climate-change agenda would be relegated to the back-burner, against other “more pressing” issues confronting the world. I believe otherwise. I believe that climate change, brought on by the uncontrolled emission of carbon, must continue to be a priority agenda of any government; as it is in the case of Malaysia. This is because when it comes to the global environment, no nation is an island. Damage to one part of the environment affects the entire world. The melting of the polar ice-caps, for example, causes sea levels to rise everywhere, constituting a threat to all littoral and coastal states. So, when it comes to environmental sustainability there are simply no two ways about it -we are all in it together.

6.        As such, Malaysia joins the world in our concern about the environmental threat arising from carbon emission. Accordingly, the adoption of low carbon emission and environment-friendly technologies is the new economic driver in Malaysia’s sustainable development strategy. Indeed, green technology is one of the key tenets of Malaysia’s recently-unveiled New Economic Model which underpins the nation’s sustainable development efforts.

7.        To underscore further our commitment to environmental conservation, at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen in December last year, I, on behalf of the nation, made a voluntary commitment to the world, to reduce our carbon emission intensity per GDP by as much as 40% from the levels prevailing in 2005. We shall work hard at making good on this pledge despite the conditions we laid down on the role of the Annex 1 countries in achieving the target.

8.        To realize our commitment of low carbon growth, we look forward to the help of developed nations in bridging the technology gap. Such help can be through the transfer of cutting-edge green technologies, which will expedite the rate of adoption and proliferation. In this regard, I am happy to note that many countries – namely, Germany, France, UK, Italy, South Korea, Japan and China – have committed to help Malaysia develop and apply green technology. To these countries, we say thank you and we look forward to working closely together in the development and usage of green technology.

9.        We believe that international collaboration across the spectrum of green technology will be mutually beneficial to all of us. While it receives from other nations the technology to spearhead its green growth, Malaysia offers a ready market in green technology and eco-products for them. This exhibition and conference is among the many vehicles by which Malaysia forges international collaboration in pursuit of environmental sustainability.

Ladies and gentlemen,

10.       Our national competitiveness is quite inter-related to our capability to conserve our natural resources while safeguarding the environment. Today, the global marketplace offers immense opportunities to businesses that employ green technology to produce and supply eco-products and services. Therefore, employing green technology, as our new growth engine, is no longer an option. It is a must. Such is now the demand of an increasingly environmentally-conscious marketplace.

11.       And So, while the last fifty years we have had ‘brown growth’, the next fifty years will be an era of ‘green growth’. Such growth will help sustain the quality of life of our citizens, in line with our third strategic development thrust. And, aligned to the first strategic thrust of moving up the economic value chain, green technology and renewable energy will allow Malaysia to enter into higher value-added industries.

12.       Having said that, I must add that greening the economy is more than just a development strategy. It is about transforming the way society thinks and treats the environment. We need to foster green values that promote environmental sustainability. The old mind-set that grips our society is that the earth is so large we shall never run out of resources. We have to inculcate among us the new mind-set that resources are in fact finite – which indeed they are. People must know that we cannot continue to consume natural resources, without making efforts to conserve them. We cannot keep on taking without giving back, in terms of conservation.

13.       These ethics of conservation are as much a matter of stewardship as they are a matter of trusteeship. As stewards of resources, we are entrusted to use and conserve the earth’s resources responsibly. As trustees, we are accountable to our future generations for leaving to them a world that is as habitable -if not more so- as the one that was left to us. These ethics of conservation require society to become so involved with the environment that it is always seeking ways to minimize societal impact on the environment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

14.       I am proud to share with you the fact that Malaysia is one of the first countries to introduce a law to protect the environment, coming in the form of the 1974 Environmental Quality Act. Sustainable development has been our clarion call since the early seventies, long before it became a world-wide mantra. Since 1979, we have had the National Energy Policy to ensure our energy supply is adequate, secure, cost-effective and to ensure an efficient energy use while not forgetting the environment.

15.       The Malaysian Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement Project (MIEPP) and the Biomass-based Power Generation in the Palm Oil Industry Project were initial efforts by the government to walk its talk in managing our resources efficiently and diversifying our energy resources. These projects have yielded positive results, making the government more receptive towards the efficient use of energy resources and more serious about the quest for large-scale deployment of alternative fuels. Making this transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy will create a firm foundation for a greener economy. To facilitate this, we have formulated the Fifth Fuel Policy that aims to diversify energy resources for power generation.

16.       To ensure the systematic development of green technology in this country, the Government introduced a National Green Technology Policy. The Green Technology Council, under my chairmanship, ensures that this national green technology policy is implemented effectively. GreenTech Malaysia – a Government owned company- will function as a focal point for setting standards and formulating a roadmap for promoting green technology. Additionally, GreenTech Malaysia acts as the secretariat for the Clean Development Mechanism that addresses issues of climate change.

17.       To ensure all our efforts are well-coordinated and streamlined, we have established a dedicated Ministry – the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water. This Ministry will also formulate policies and promote research and development in green technology. The New Economic Model and the 10th Malaysia Plan will take the pursuit of alternative energy further.

18.       Additionally, the Government has approved the Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan to spur the growth of renewable energy industry in the country. A dedicated statutory body called the Sustainable Energy development Authority, or SEDA Malaysia, and the Renewable Energy Act will facilitate and regulate the growth of renewable energy in the country. Through the Renewable Energy Policy and Action Plan, we are targeting that by 2015 about 6% or 985MW of the national energy mix will be from renewable sources. By 2020, we expect renewable energy to comprise 11%, or 2 gigawatt of the overall electricity generation in the country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

19.       The government, the private sector and the public must work together in forging a green economy. Of course, we are well aware that in order to encourage wider adoption of green technology across different industrial and economic spectra, incentives must be given. Accordingly, we offer tax breaks and financing for businesses that manufacture and supply green technology and eco-products and services. The government has also initiated a RM1.5 billion investment fund for green technology financing, under a scheme which will provide soft loans to companies that supply or use green technology. For suppliers, the maximum loan will be RM 50 million while consumer companies will be eligible up to RM10 million. The Government, while bearing 2% of the interest rate, will guarantee 60% of the loan amount. The rest will be guaranteed by the banks. We are encouraged by the response of foreign and local banks to this green financing initiative. By 2012, it is hoped that the scheme will have benefited over 140 companies.

20.       In the pursuit of the envisioned green economy, investments in green technology are critical. Research shows that green technology investments will be able to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30% come 2020 without harming business profitability and economic growth. Increased investments in green technology will make available a wider scope of eco-products and services.

21.       That being the case, over the next decade, we intend to focus on increasing the flow of foreign and domestic direct investments in green technology. The government is determined to make Malaysia the regional centre for green energy, specifically solar energy. Our investment-friendly policies, coupled with the availability of the necessary skilled human resources, have led to an increase in the number of large investment projects in this field. To date, Malaysia has attracted over 12 billion Ringgit in foreign direct investments to the solar photo-voltaic industry.

22.       Indeed, I feel that it can attract even greater investments in green technology if we offer the right incentives. One key area of opportunity is in green-tech research and development. Academic institutions, in particular, must be roped in, and their capacity to contribute in this area strengthened, if we want to make headway in innovation and commercialization towards environmental sustainability. Partnerships need to be intensified between learning institutions and businesses to ensure the commercialization of research findings across a wider segment of the economy.

Ladies and gentlemen

23.       While we are definitely moving forward, the finishing line is nowhere near. The journey is still far and the challenges are enormous.   When it comes to nature, everything is interconnected. We cannot approach the problem of environmental sustainability in isolation. We need to take a holistic approach that encompasses the development of green technology and green energy, the enhancement of resource productivity and conservation, and the inculcation of green values.

24.       In climate change, perhaps more than any other issue, it is clear that we must work co-operatively across the globe to find solutions. This is because the policies of one country to reduce emissions will have little impact if the rest of the world does not act in tandem. International consensus over the nature of action to counter climate change is a daunting challenge. But, with commitment, cooperation and perseverance, I think we can attain the future we seek – A future where our global environment is protected and nations are energy-secure. We shall learn as we go along. And, through that experience, we shall inch closer to our goal of a low-carbon resource efficient economy.

25.       This conference and this exhibition is a step in that direction. I congratulate the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water Malaysia for successfully convening this important event. I wish all participants a fruitful and beneficial meeting of minds and I look forward, in fact, I am willing to lend my personal support to future exhibition of this nature. This will certainly underscore our international commitment towards “greening” the world and putting our money on green technology. On that note, it is with great pleasure that I declare open the International Greentech and Eco-products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia 2010.

Thank you.

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