Malaysia Now Ambitious in Climate Action as Stated in 12th Malaysia Plan

Malaysia Finance Ministry

Malaysia Now Ambitious in Climate Action as Stated in 12th Malaysia Plan

As reported by CNA, Monday (10/11), Malaysia entered negotiations on global climate change talks that began in late October in Glasgow.

On paper, the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), put forward by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and passed in parliament on Thursday (10/7), is a bold statement with prominent climate change mitigation. The country aims to become carbon neutral as early as 2050 and overhaul its energy, transport and land use sectors.

Electric vehicles will dominate the highways, renewable energy will power the cities of the country, which will be shaped on green principles.

A carbon pricing scheme and a carbon tax will apply and no new coal-fired power plants will be built, under the plan.

They didn’t expect Malaysia to pursue net zero so quickly, a policy that places it among the most ambitious countries in Southeast Asia’s long-term climate strategy.

Indonesia, for example, is aiming to become carbon neutral by 2060, Thailand is even slower, while Singapore is aiming to reach its target “as soon as possible” in the second half of the century.

National policies centered on environment, climate change and biodiversity have yet to be updated, and details on carbon pricing frameworks, fuel economy standards and incentives for renewable energy have yet to be determined.

The 12th Malaysia Plan

12th Malaysia Plan Logo

 Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob  tabled the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) in parliament, with a pledge for Malaysia to “become a carbon neutral country by 2050 at the earliest” listed alongside other measures to accelerate green growth. The government would continue to fulfil its commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emission intensity of GDP by 45 per cent by 2030.
This would be based on the emission intensity of GDP in 2005, in line with the Paris Agreement in 2015. Greenhouse gas intensity is the ratio of a country’s emission to the economic value it generates. 

Malaysia is committed to becoming a carbon neutral country by 2050 at the earliest. Details for carbon reduction measures will be announced after the strategic long-term review of the low-carbon development strategies has been finalized by the end of 2022.

Carbon neutrality means that any carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed from it.

Malaysia’s 2050 carbon neutrality aim, various policies to accelerate green growth would be put in place. Here are the key announcements:


Photo taken from: Energy and Mines World Congress.

Mr Ismail Sabri said that economic instruments such as carbon pricing and carbon tax would be implemented. He did not go into the details. 

Earlier September, Environment Minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man was quoted as saying by Bernama that a Domestic Emissions Trading Scheme (DETS) was being developed by the Environment and Water Ministry. 

State government authorities and the private sector can leverage DETS to carry out carbon credit transactions at the domestic level. By comparison, trading in international markets would require high transaction costs and more stringent technical requirements, he said, according to the Bernama report.

Emissions trading, as provided for in Article 17 of the Kyoto Protocol, allows countries that have emission units to spare – emissions are allowed for them but not utilized – to sell this excess capacity to countries that exceed their targets. Among other carbon pricing approaches, taxes can also be imposed on greenhouse gas emissions to encourage polluters to reduce burning of fossil fuels.


Malaysia no longer build new coal-fired power plants.

The prime minister promised that the government would no longer build new coal-fired power plants.

Comprehensive National Energy Policy would soon be introduced to provide a long-term strategic direction to support the aspirations of a carbon neutral nation.

Mr Ismail Sabri said cleaner electricity generation will be implemented through the operation of several gas power plants in Peninsular Malaysia to replace coal-fired power plants. A law related to energy efficiency and conservation would be introduced to regulate energy consumption by high-intensity consumers in the industrial and commercial sectors.

Renewable energy generation from solar, biomass and biogas is targeted to increase to 31 per cent of the total installed capacity in the country by 2025, he said.

Additionally, a total of 120 cities are expected to achieve sustainable city status by 2025.


Energy-efficient vehicle (EEV).

The Malaysian government would also give priority to the development of the energy-efficient vehicles (EEV) production industry to support environmentally friendly mobility initiatives, according to the prime minister. 

Senior Minister Azmin Ali said in parliament that in order to support the electric vehicles (EV) ecosystem in the country, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry was identifying new strategies to promote the industry to investors.

The strategies included introducing a consumer-focused incentive package to attract investments into the EV ecosystem, he said, according to the Edge Markets. 


Economic blueprint illustration.

The Prime Minister also said that the government would introduce a blue economic blueprint to determine the development direction of coastal and marine areas.

According to a 2015 report by Malaysia’s National Hydraulic Research Institute (Nahrim), sea levels have been rising by between 0.2mm and 4.4mm annually in the country since 2010 due to climate change.

Several projects under the flood mitigation programme, integrated river basin management, coastal erosion control as well as flood forecasting and warning at a cost of RM16 billion (US$3.82 billion) would be implemented under the 12MP and 13MP, the prime minister added.

An ecological fiscal transfer mechanism would also be improved to support the state government’s efforts in conserving the forest areas, he said. “Sanctuaries for endangered wildlife such as tigers, tapir and elephants will be upgraded for conservation purposes.”

This Project is Doubted by Experts

Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Reported by, while there is optimism around the level of aspiration, there is also concern among experts that a lack of detail and limited capacity to implement complex policies could be obstacles to transformative climate action.

“Malaysia never lacks a long-term strategic vision. Ambitious planning is not a problem in Malaysia at all,” said Niloy Banerjee, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.

“The challenges here are always from plan to work plan, implementation and overcoming serious structural obstacles to implementation,” he said.

“Actually, we were very, very surprised. Because we had never heard of Malaysia thinking about carbon neutrality by 2050,” said Meena Raman, President of Friends of the Earth, Malaysia.

“It signals for the next five years, but we don’t have the details. We haven’t seen the roadmap yet. The devil will always be in the details,” he lamented.

“The lack of detail makes me wary,” said Darshan Joshi, an analyst with the Malaysian Institute of Strategic and International Studies.

According to Joshi, Malaysia’s climate action plan is a holistic document that shows the government’s understanding of all the steps that must be taken so that Malaysia can tackle climate change effectively at the domestic level.

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