According to the United Nations Environmental Rule of Law: First Global Report published in 2019, despite a 38-fold global increase in environmental laws and agencies, plus a massive investment in environmental agreements by donors since 1972, there was no equally pronounced improvement in the enforcement of those laws.
The benefits of environmental rule of law extends not just to protecting the environment, but also to protecting public health as well as ensuring resource sustainability. Climate change adaptation, pollution control, sustainable resource management and wildlife conservation are all affected by environmental rule of law.
Failure to fully implement and enforce these laws is one of the greatest challenges in mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss. As such, a strong political will is needed to ensure effective implementation and enforcement.
In response to this, the Embassy of Sweden in collaboration with the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) has organised a Dialogue on Environmental Law, featuring the esteemed Dr Christina Olsen Lundh, Swedish Environmental Law Expert and Judge. This event aims to promote the sharing of knowledge and best practices between Sweden and Malaysia. Dr Lundh is in Malaysia to attend the Malaysian Judges Conference from 16 to 18 March 2020 in Langkawi Island.
Joining Dr Lundh in the Dialogue were Professor Dato’ Dr. Aishah Bidin FASc, ASM Council Member and Co-chair of the ASM Local and Transboundary Pollution Act Feasibility Study Taskforce as well as Dato’ Dr Nadzri Yahaya, Chairman of the Environmental Quality Council (EQC).
Sweden currently ranks fifth in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, while Malaysia ranks 75th. The Swedish environmental policy is defined by its unique “Generation Goal”. The aim of the “Generation Goal” is to hand over to the next generation a society in which the major environmental problems in Sweden have been solved, without increasing environmental and health problems outside Sweden’s borders.
In an effort to fortify Malaysia’s environmental law, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) appointed ASM in November 2019 as a Strategic Partner to review the Environmental Quality Act (EQA) 1974 and the Local & Transboundary Pollution Act Feasibility Study.
In-depth discussions were carried out during the review to identify key areas for improvement. This includes the review of the enforcement mechanism, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, transparency of the government’s environmental management plans, the framework of cooperation between state and federal governments over pollution issues, new instruments to encourage green/circular economy, as well as biomass and organic waste management. ASM is determined to prevent reoccurrence of pollution incidents like those in 2019 involving Kim Kim River and Pasir Gudang.
A comprehensive report based on the Local and Transboundary Pollution Act Feasibility Study chaired by Professor Dato’ Ir Dr A. Bakar Jaafar FASc has been submitted to MOSTI on 14 February 2020. The report proposed the drafting of a new Transboundary Pollution Act that would address the recurring haze issue in Southeast Asia.
Despite the current shifts in political power, ASM will continue to review the Environmental Quality Act 1974 and be prepared to advise the incoming Minister on how to best protect the environment for the health and wellbeing of generations to come.