Ladies and gentlemen,
1. It is a pleasure to be here today, and to welcome you to Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is an inspired choice for the Energy for Tomorrow Conference: a modern, vibrant city, at the heart of one of the world’s most dynamic regions.
2. KL is growing fast. The energy here is tangible. Every corner of the city is alive with construction – new homes, new businesses, new trains. And that’s why this is such a good place to talk about new development models.
3. In many ways, Malaysia is a test case for the future energy economy. In less than sixty years, we’ve gone from an agricultural colony to a fast-developing modern nation. Today, we’re a key player in a 600-million strong regional bloc, home to global technology makers and the world’s oldest forests. And our growth story continues, as we prepare to become a high income nation by 2020.
4. As we transform our economy, we face substantial challenges: marrying economic development and environmental protection. Building future-proof energy infrastructure. Preparing our people and our businesses to compete in a low-carbon global economy.
5. These issues are not unique to Malaysia – they’re some of the world’s most difficult public policy questions. But they are being asked, and answered, right here. And the way we respond will affect livelihoods and lifestyles everywhere. The fight to shift the world onto a sustainable development path will be won in countries like Malaysia.
Ladies and gentlemen,
6. Too often, the climate and energy debate is presented as a problem. Instead of asking who can win big in the new energy future, we squabble over who’s going to lose the most. Instead of looking at the limitless potential of human ingenuity, we finger-point over historic emissions. It’s all stick, and no carrot. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
7. The new energy economy presents a huge opportunity. I want Malaysia to see the low-carbon future for what it is: a chance to leapfrog those who are stuck on the technologies of the past. I want us to be one of the winners in the new economy. And I think we’re starting from a position of strength.
8. Malaysia is a developing country that’s on the brink of becoming a high-income nation. And although we didn’t get the funds or technology we were promised at Copenhagen, we stuck to the pledge we made there. We’ve cut the emissions intensity of our GDP by 33% in the past five years – and averaged 5.7% growth.
9. Countries like ours – fast-developing nations in favour of ambitious action on climate change – are living proof that economy and environment can prosper together. And we have structural advantages that will allow us to capitalize on the changes to come.
10. Fast-developing nations aren’t wedded to the same old ideas and ideologies, like some industrialised nations are. We don’t have the same vested interest in the Victorian economy, the same sunk capital that holds us back by constricting our ability to move forward. We don’t necessarily believe that the best way to generate energy is to set fire to something.
11. Countries like Malaysia are flexible and fast-moving. We see new technology as an opportunity, not a threat. A changing world is something that we like. It’s something that we embrace, because it plays to our comparative advantage.
12. That’s one of the reasons why we are acting on climate: promoting climate transparency with a new corporate emissions reporting policy. Encouraging more clean vehicles onto our roads and rationalising fuel subsidies. Supporting public transport, with a new mass rapid transit project designed to reduce carbon emissions. And committing to energy efficient construction – earlier this year, my own Department was recognised as one of the greenest buildings in Malaysia.
13. We’re also investing in the startups and entrepreneurs who will make the next generation of energy technology. We’ve launched a venture capital fund to finance clean energy projects across South East Asia. Malaysia already builds much of the new energy infrastructure – from solar panels to energy-efficient lightbulbs.
14. But we can be more than just the factory that builds the future – we can be the design studio, too. We want our green industries to deliver jobs, and to help us create a deeper knowledge economy. So we’ve got a range of policies to help our young entrepreneurs get the skills and support they need, and to help our SMEs to do green business.
15. For all the progress, we haven’t always got things right. I was appalled by the recent floods in the Cameron Highlands, which were driven by illegal land clearance. This goes against the grain of everything we are trying to achieve – whether in the Heart of Borneo, where we are working with our neighbours to protect one of the world’s largest and oldest rainforests; or the Central Forest Spine project, which aims to link four of Peninsular Malaysia’s largest forests into a single wildlife sanctuary. We have to learn from our mistakes, as well as our successes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
16. I believe fast-developing nations like Malaysia have an important role to play in driving climate action. We can demonstrate that sustainable development isn’t an indulgence but can be a precursor for success. We can show other developing countries that economic growth and carbon emissions need not be correlated. And we can help bridge the trust gap between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries at the UN climate change negotiations.
17. The next round of those negotiations is less than two weeks away. So it’s not just the location of this conference that’s appropriate – the timing is right too. We are about to embark on a year of global climate action, as the rhythm builds ahead of the 2015 Paris talks. And in the past few days, we’ve seen the first signs that nations are willing to look beyond the dead-end negotiating strategies of the past.
18. First, the two biggest economies – and biggest emitters – in the world stepped up to the plate. The US-China agreement on emissions releases some of the toxic mistrust that has built up around the negotiations. The elephants have left the room. With the two most important players committed to climate action, the prospects for Paris look brighter.
19. And on Monday, $4.5 billion was poured into the green climate fund – money that will help developing nations cut emissions and raise resilience. A strong climate fund – as promised at Copenhagen – is essential: not just for getting developing countries on side, but for making real investments that can slow climate change, and help nations adapt to its destructive effects.
20. So the stage is set for a positive outcome in Paris. But to get a deal, and to make that deal work, we need governments, businesses and people to really get on board with the possibilities of the new energy economy. And that is what this conference is all about.
21. In the year ahead, Malaysia will play its part. We will look to work with other fast-developing nations to show that climate action can be part of national development; that ambition brings opportunities, not costs. As the chair of ASEAN next year, we will advocate for sustainable growth and climate action. And we will enter the negotiations in Paris optimistic about securing cleaner energy for tomorrow.