• Madani Sahari

Automotive sector must play lead role in environment agenda

Malaysia is expected to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement by the year end.

The agreement, signed by almost 200 countries, aims to limit global temperatures to well below two degrees Celsius through an international deal that will come into force by 2020.

The issue of environmental protection standards had gone through many challenges in the last few decades.

In fact, the latest summit in Paris went through a long and arduous process spanning 24 years, since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted and opened for signatures in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.

It is however important to note that environmental agendas are one of the most contentious and politically diverse, particularly due to its success, or failure, depends largely on economic priorities.

In general, environmental policies usually take a back seat to the economic situation of the public at large.

Despite Malaysia’s continuous commitment to global environmental initiatives, many nations are unwilling to prioritize environmental policies when its implementation affects the costs of living for its citizens.

The case for "climate change deniers", which have seemed to receive significant airtime in recent global political movements, have also contributed to this contention.

Nevertheless, it is quite reassuring to see an equal, even arguably stronger, political will from a large portion of nations in support for the implementation of a standardized eco-policy that benefits all players following the summit in Paris.

Regardless of political progress or digression, the automotive sector must play a leading role in environmental preservation.

Undeniably, carbon emissions from vehicles have been reported as a major contributor to air pollution globally.

Although most calculations point to vehicles on the road, it is also important to look at the vehicle manufacturing process and aftermarket activities -  which undoubtedly, also contribute to carbon emissions in addition to the aforementioned above.

Numerous articles in this column have pointed to the vastness of the automotive industry, consisting not only of OEMs, vendors and raw material producers, but also the after market sectors of vehicle service, recycling and remanufacturing.

While technology has been utilised to produce more fuel efficient and experientially immersive transportation, the same technology, and development approach must take into consideration its impacts to the ecosystem.

As mentioned,  economic conduciveness must be present to allow existence of the will to preserve the environment.

These conditions are most prevalent in the within the automotive industry, as it is one of the few industries that has created an ecosystem where the talents are not only scientifically equipped, but also have the necessary framework of standards and technology to create a sustainable environment.

This is proven through the rapid introduction of eco-friendly vehicles, seen in the development of hybrid, electric and fuel cell technology within today’s global automotive market.

Despite still being a relatively small player, Malaysia is still one of the few nations in the world with full fledged vehicle design and manufacturing capabilities.

As awareness of environmental protection agendas grow within the global community, it is important for the domestic automotive industry to play a strong participative role in leading the environmental agenda within the region and the world.

After all, this is not just a good cause, it happens to also be an economic activity of the future.

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