New Approaches To Sustainable Development: The Way Forward To The Commonwealth Business Council

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His Excellency Mr Patrick Manning
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago

Mr. Paul Skinner,
Commonwealth Business Council

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today to address the Commonwealth Business Council on the New Approaches to Sustainable Development: The Way Forward. First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr Mohan Kaul, Director General of the Commonwealth Business Council for inviting me to share my thoughts with such a distinguish group of people. I am of the view that the Commonwealth Business Forum is an ideal platform for the business community to network, exchange valuable experience and knowledge, as well as explore business opportunities and collaboration in areas of interest.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

2. All definitions of sustainable development require that we see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time. The concept of sustainable development is rooted in this sort of systems thinking. It helps us to understand ourselves and our world. The problems we face are complex and serious—and we can’t address them in the same way we created them. But address them we must.

3. We meet today in a very challenging environment. The adverse economic crisis, climate change and natural disaster are putting unprecedented impact on the quality of social, economic and environmental conditions, especially in the developing countries. The various natural calamities that the world had experienced recently clearly show that climate change is currently one of the most critical issues facing mankind today. It strikes at the very heart of the sustainability of our life, crosses boundaries, impacting industries and governments, as well as consumers in every part of the world. The United Nations and international community have undertaken various commitments and formulated time bound goals for achieving sustainable development. Further, no one will argue that the task of ensuring the timely and full realization of the sustainable development goal is a shared responsibility among international community.

4. Since the Rio and Johannesburg Summits, all governments have undertaken to establish and implement national sustainable developments. The strategies for sustainable development called for are highly participatory instruments intended to ensure socially responsible economic development, while at the same time protecting the resource base and the environment for the benefit of our future generations.

5. Although a lot has been said about new approaches to sustainable development, especially after Johannesburg, in my view, given the challenging times that both the governments and the private sectors are facing today, we must strive to engage in a sustainable manner for the sake of our future generations. We should bequeath to our future generations a world that is environmentally sound.

6. In order for this to happen:

6.1 First, we cannot operate in the business as usual mode. Both the governments and the private sector need to make changes in the way we operate. Changes in industrial systems, business models, economic assumptions, market rules and governance frameworks are required to tackle the challenges posed by environmental degradation.

6.2. Second, the private sector and businesses should be an integral part of the solution. You have the technologies and the ability to innovate. You also have the capital, significant management know-how and inventive spirit. But in spite of all this, a critical ingredient is still lacking as there is still a lack of constructive collaboration between the business community with governments and civil society. No man, or business, is an island in today’s interconnected and globalised world.

6.3 And Third the private sector should build a sustainability component into their business strategy which would determine the difference between the winners and losers. I believe that only the companies that develop products and services that address global challenges such as energy supply and access, climate change, pressure on ecosystems, or water, will be around for the long haul.

7. Sustainable development as we all know calls for development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In this regard, I strongly feel that there is a necessity to ensure that our national economic growth strategies are environmentally sustainable. We should also utilise the opportunities provided by the domestic stimulus measures that a number of countries have introduced to mitigate the effects of the economic and financial global crises, to deploy climate friendly technologies and encourage energy efficiency.

8. In pursuing the objective of sustainable growth, we should also look at how trade can be enhanced to help ensure sustainable growth and how to help build capacities especially in developing countries. There is also the need to explore how trade can help support sustainable growth and related capacity building programmes. At the same time, we should ensure that the efforts to address climate change must be consistent with keeping global trade and investment open and free, without raising new barriers to trade and investment.

9. As such, I believe that the various commitments under trade have to be dealt with in a comprehensive manner to ensure that we address the development agenda of developing countries and as well as measures to mitigate climate change. There has to be a balance between adaptation and mitigation in order not to undermine the economies of the developing countries but we should endeavour to strengthen economic development in these countries. Therefore, any standard on the environment should be WTO-consistent and not be used as a disguise for protectionism.

10. It is also imperative that all climate change initiatives should be in line with the principles of common but differentiated responsibilities set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. These initiatives should also take into consideration the voluntarism and consensus of all countries. In pursuant of its obligation under the UNFCCC, Malaysia has taken specific and concrete mitigation measures to reduce the release of Green House Gases (GHG) by reducing or stopping the emissions of GHG. This includes improving energy efficiency and proposing to use renewable sources of energy that emit less or no GHG such as solar, wind, biofuel, hydro or biomass power.

11. Developed countries must take the lead and show stronger commitment towards the reduction of GHG emission. They should also provide assistance to developing countries in terms of funding, facilitating technology transfer and capacity building to help integrate the process of mitigation and adaptation efforts to climate change into development projects.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

12. As a developing nation, Malaysia firmly believes that national efforts are crucial in achieving the goals of sustainable development. The Government’s policies on sustainable development are mainly pursued through the 5-year medium term development plans. Since the Third Plan (1976-1980) it emphasized that the objectives of development and environmental conservation be kept in balance, so that the benefits of development are not negated by the costs of environmental damages. Towards this end, the Plan describes various policies, programmes and measures to ensure that the nation’s economic development over the long term be sustained.

13. Building on these sound policies and recognizing that the time has come for Malaysia to go green, I have created the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water. We are cognisant of the need for better and more efficient use of technology which would also be less harmful to the environment. As a way forward for Malaysia, I have launched the National Green Technology Policy on 24 July 2009. This policy serves as the basis for all Malaysians to enjoy an improved quality of life, by ensuring that the objectives of national development policies will continue to be balanced with environmental consideration.

14. The National Green Technology Policy covers the elements of energy, environment, economy and social policies. A Green Technology Council which monitors and advises on the policy has been established. The policy outlines five strategic thrusts towards implementing the framework including strengthening institutional frameworks, providing a conducive environment for green technology development, intensifying human capital development in green technology, intensifying green technology research and innovations as well as ongoing promotion and public awareness.

15. Among the goals of the National Green Technology Policy are to increase foreign and domestic direct investments in Green Technology manufacturing and services sectors, increase production of local Green Technology products, expansion of SMEs and SMIs businesses on Green Technology to the global market and expansion of Green Technology applications to most economic sectors. In the 2010 Budget, the Malaysian Government has established a fund amounting RM 1.5 billion (US$ 430 million) to provide soft loans to companies that supply and utilise Green Technology

16. Malaysia is of the view that Green Technology is essential for national economic growth towards achieving sustainable growth. Green Technology principles should be incorporated in developing any country’s economy. This could help facilitate the development and application of products, equipment and system used to conserve the environment and resources.

17. Malaysia’s seriousness to go green is also based on the vast opportunities that lie in a green future. For Malaysia, moving towards a greener market can provide benefits that include savings on foreign exchange, increased competitiveness of industries, expansion of export markets, new job opportunities and a better environment. For example, up till June of 2009, Malaysia had attracted almost RM12 billion (approximately USD 4.5 billion) in investments in the solar photo-voltaic (i.e the use of solar cells for energy by converting solar power directly to electricity) industry through FDIs. The potential of creating a new generation of green collared workers is also an incentive.

18. In short, a robust green policy can be seen as helping to overcome technological barriers, create a level playing field for these technologies and open new markets. While the role of public policy is clearly important, it is certainly not enough to turn around the market, particularly an emerging one. The business community should harness these policies and develop more strategic approaches to benefit from these opportunities.

19. For example, in terms of products, companies need to capitalize on the demand for green products which will grow exponentially. The opportunities for innovation are immense and much stems from a deeper understanding of life-cycle and environmental implications of their products. The innovation would lead to enhanced competitiveness.

20. Another important element in enhancing sustainable development is human resources development. Emerging long-tern visions of sustainable development have begun to acknowledge the specific role of human capital in the strategic analysis or process towards sustainable development. While striving to achieve a developed nation status and high income economy by 2020, Malaysia recognises the crucial role of human capital for the successful transition towards a sustainable model of development. In order to answer sustainable development challenges, it is a prerequisite to develop human capital by integrating the latest knowledge and scientific achievements regarding the concept of sustainability. Therefore, Malaysia’s strategy in human resources development, among others, has focused on improving access to quality education and training as well as strengthening the education and training delivery system. Access to quality education and training is important due to the fact that if a country’s level of basic education is low, then it would severely hinder development options and plans for a sustainable future.

21. National initiatives must be supported with additional resources from developed partners, be it financial, technology and capacity-building. We must also ensure that the financial assistance and transfer of related technologies is equally accessible to developing countries on a favourable term. Developed nations must be urged to establish cooperation with developing countries in the areas of research and development in order to improve technology access for developing countries to further develop environmentally sound technology.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

22. The Commonwealth countries represent an important component in Malaysia’s global trade. Malaysia’s total trade with the Commonwealth countries for the period January to September 2009, amounted to RM159.6 billion (US$47.88 billion) or 22.7% of Malaysia’s total trade during this period. Malaysian companies are present in practically all member countries and this provides an opportunity for business collaboration.

23. While striving to achieve a developed nation status and high income economy by 2020, Malaysia recognises the crucial role of human capital for the successful transition towards a sustainable model of development. In working towards this effort, I firmly believe that we must “correct inequalities” and identify critical gaps to achieving sustainable development. We must full our commitments in economic, social and environmental spheres in a coherent, balance and integrated manner.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

24. Let me reiterate this. The green market provides vast opportunities for business to innovate and grow as well as develop new paths of competitiveness. Governments are slowly taking the lead in providing the policy frameworks but if companies fail to harness the potential paved by such policies, it is an opportunity lost. While there are multiple complexities particularly in developing competencies and the accompanying technicalities, the challenges are more scalable with ongoing public-private interaction.

I thank you.

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