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3RD JUNE 2021


Every 5th of June is dedicated for our environment. This year’s the theme is Only One Earth. The theme reflects the cold hard truth that there is no other place we can take refuge and we need to buckle up to protect this one earth. Are the nations of this earth moving towards that? The global solution for climate change has been on the extreme side and failed to look at the holistic picture as climate change is just one of the multipronged environmental issues like deforestation, pollution, water scarcity, etc.

Imagine, if our education system only recognises students who excel in mathematics and the rest as deemed incompetent, this would not be the right way to measure a student’s capability and it will lead to serious human capital problems in years to come. Similarly, if sustainability and solution for climate change are only measured via Global Warming Potential (GWP), it is deemed to cause more harm to the environment.


In coming years we will see more transition solutions flooding the market. Technology evolves and older matured technology will be replaced by new evolving ones. For example, Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) has carried out a study on energy efficient lighting products and concluded more than a decade ago that government should not carry out any campaign using taxpayers money to promote Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) as Light-Emitting Diode (LED) technology will eventually takeover the market. A LED lamp that we switched on for testing in 2011 is still operating without fail. However, newer LED products do not last even a year. That brings to the bigger question of product quality and durability. When electronic products spoil faster, it will increase electronic-waste (e-waste) generation. E-waste is scheduled waste and harmful to the environment.

On the energy front, natural gas will continue to play a significant role to be a “climate friendly” partner while Renewable Energy (RE) plant up will also be ramped up to fill the gap left by phasing out of fossil fuels like coal. Hydrogen is another fuel that will shape the future and its availability also uses considerable amount of energy.

On the other hand, mining sector expansion via natural capital destruction will fuel more smart homes, electric vehicles, batteries and many more. Vague slogan like “sustainable mining” and deep sea mining are already flooding the opinion pool to meet the vast resources need.

At the end of the transition, this chaotic situation will also see phasing out of products, services, businesses and jobs that are tagged with higher GWP. However, all of these come with considerable amount of risks which all of us must face moving forward. Are the poorer segments of global population ready for this?


Meeting the base load for energy demand is a vital step in ensuring energy security so that economies can function seamlessly. The coal industry is already being made a dying sector and financing a new coal power plant is not an easy task. The intricacy of energy resources’ demand and supply is linked to few factors including higher RE blend in fuel mix, liberalised electricity market, cartel play by OPEC+ (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries-OPEC and non members), unclear transition path to Net Zero and now the Ukraine-Russia war. A small tilt of any of the factor causes energy prices to breach unprecedented marks and these situations also have proven the inability of RE to fill the gap left by fossil fuel. Thus, intermittency of RE is a major risk.

Destruction of natural capital
Net Zero is a path where replacing and retrofitting all the gadgets, industrial tools and vehicles take place and this will need vast amount of resources in a short time frame. Energy storage that is spear headed by battery technology will play a very important role to bridge the gap left by phase out of fossil fuel. To meet such technology advancement, resources need to be mined and converted into useful materials to catch up with demand growth. Mining will leave a huge destruction to our forest and other ecosystems and proposals for deep sea mining that will destroy sea ecosystem and reliability of sea produce is already making its way. Forest clearing will give huge impact to climate adaptation and mitigation as water scarcity and floods give huge economic impacts. This will be made worse by impending food security issues which are related to land-use.

Exploitation of Poorer Nations
New mining zones will be developed in poorer nations to meet the demand of richer nations due to stronger opposition in developed and richer nations. Due to global “blinded” Net Zero target by 2050, the demand for technological solutions will meet a “policy induced” bottleneck situation now onwards. Increase in demand will eventually increase the cost of technology. Seamless supply chain is also vital in keeping cost of production low. Cost increase in transition and Net Zero technologies will cause the poorer nations to be left to the mercy of low quality products which we have seen clearly during the phase-out of non-energy efficient products that begun more than a decade ago.

A Toxic Future
The surge in e-waste generation is already happening. AWER did capture this issue and suggested a holistic e-waste management a decade ago. The transition and Net Zero phases will multiply generation of e-waste and other forms of waste as more non-climate friendly operations and technologies will be phased-out. Failure to mitigate increase in e-waste generation will lead to probable exposure of these wastes to water and produce harmful leachate that may contaminate the water and food chain. In longer run, this situation will aggravate the dumping of such waste to poorer and developing nation under the disguise of “recycling”. Thus, different types of Minamata disease like situation may be a new norm post 2050 success of Net Zero inanity.


Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
Using LCA approach, businesses can evaluate resource input, waste generation, by-products and waste disposal in a facility holistically. Alternatives, optimisation and resource recovery can be developed via LCA within the same facility and this is known as “gate to gate” approach. Moving up and down the supply chain, we can combine many “gate to gate” approaches from resource to final disposal to form “cradle to grave” approach. Eventually, Design for Environment (DfE), resource recovery and waste to resource can help to create a “cradle to cradle” solution. “Cradle to cradle” solution can create a cycle in our consumption pattern that is now known as circular economy.

Let Science Speak
We all remember that during primary school we were taught that destruction to forest and natural ecosystems gives negative impact in very simple words. Yet, lately we have government officials coming up with new theories that destruction of forest does not cause certain problems or it is not associated with some problems. I strongly believe the primary school science facts will prevail as truth above such lies. Similarly, GWP is a fact that we need to take into account but it is not ethical to use only GWP as a measurement to solve climate change crisis and downplay other global environmental problems. Globally, it is vital that an aggregated data and evaluation is done (like the LCA process) to develop holistic views of solutions that are coming forward. This will assist in identifying more reliable and sustainable solutions to reach Net Zero targets that will also contribute to solve other environmental problems.
Furthermore, the attempt to qualify nuclear energy as green energy is scientifically flawed as some technology owners and nations that support this technology are now using “Low Carbon Technology” as a platform to qualify not only nuclear but also natural gas as green energy. The radiation related negative impacts to environment of nuclear spent fuel, nuclear disaster (eg. Fukushima Daiichi) and decommissioning process are largely not measurable under GWP. Therefore, a holistic view of technology and its environmental impacts based on science and data is vital to ensure unscrupulous entities do not misuse fight against climate change to their economic advantage at international stage.

Stop Environmental Scams
The transition phase to Net Zero is a very critical phase where many old and newer technologies will try to qualify and benefit economically from the existing situation. Nuclear Power is clearly trying to make a major comeback using “low carbon” keyword accompanied by the fossil fuel powered natural gas technologies. Similarly, many technologies or solution will try to use a quick fix like carbon trading and carbon capture and storage (CCS).


Net Zero target should be based on more holistic data compared to an extreme GWP measurement. Globally, we need sanity so that the world leaders can to come to senses and look at the holistic picture before irreversible damage is inflicted to the environment. The pledge made by developed nations to ensure developing and poorer nations can enjoy a fair treatment to mitigate climate change and other environmental risks is a pledge made in Paris Agreement. They should not shy away from the promises they have made using “strings attached” solutions to bind the developing and poorer nations. By the way, we need to act fast because this is the Only One Earth!

Piarapakaran S.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER)

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