Michelle Yeoh delivers touch of glamour (and a serious message) at Saref 2019

Yeoh receives a souvenir from SAREF 2019 chairman Datu Sharbini Suhaili, as Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg (right) and others look on.

KUCHING, DEC 10: At Sarawak Energy’s Sustainability & Renewable Energy Forum (Saref) 2019, it was somewhat inevitable that all eyes were drawn to Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh instead of the other distinguished VIPs as she entered the hall.

The world famous Malaysian actress was at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) to deliver a special address at the Saref 2019 opening ceremony as the as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) goodwill ambassador.

“Boosting renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency will not only help to reduce carbon emissions, but will improve the health, living standards and clean energy access in communities in remote areas, such as Pacific Small Island Development States,” Yeoh told a 500-strong audience comprising local and foreign delegates.

To address this, she said the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 7 is currently implementing close to 200 sustainable energy projects in over 100 countries.

“Over the past two decades, UNDP has mobilised over US$1 billion in grant financing leveraging close to US$6 billion in co-financing from private and public sources. However, as we all know, no one organisation or country can solve this problem by itself. To achieve a vision of a zero-carbon, climate-resilient future, we need everyone to work together,” she said, adding that governments need to team up with international organisations, the private sector, academia, and global citizens.

As she stressed on how affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy for all is vital to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people can enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030, Yeoh also emphasised that it would also mean increasing energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

She noted that while almost everyone in Malaysia has access to electricity and Sarawak will achieve 99 per cent electrification by next year, most of the developing world is not as fortunate.

“Although all the technologies exist, life without electricity is still a reality for about 840 million people around the globe. Some 3 billion people around the world still rely on polluting, unhealthy fuels for cooking including firewood. That’s unsustainable and unacceptable.

“Our current energy use is the main contributor to climate change, producing around two third of global greenhouse gases. As economies and populations grow especially in developing countries in places like South East Asia, global energy demand will continue to increase,” she asserted.

Yeoh addresses an audience of about 500 local and foreign delegates at Saref 2019.

Yeoh also emphasised the need to transform global energy sectors in order to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and the climate targets under the Paris Agreement.

“We cannot achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, without investing in renewable energy to reduce our emissions. From solar power to wind energy to renewable hydropower, we have the technology to make this work. Renewables are commercially viable, cost competitive, and deployable on a large-scale. They solve our energy trilemma of achieving sustainability, reliability and affordability.”

However, current global energy investments are falling short of the mark.

Yeoh revealed that current investments at US$514 billion a year are a far cry from the US$1.3-1.4 trillion needed to achieve SDG 7 — access to affordable, clean energy for all by 2030.

Since clean energy investments are cheaper than the cost of climate change and they make sense, she added that organisations present here are looking at sustainable energy solutions.

“Investing in renewable energy boosts the economy, creating millions of sustainable jobs. In 2018, there were 11 million jobs in the renewable energy sector. It improves people’s lives and health. And it protects the environment and reduces our greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, and praised Sarawak for clearly demonstrating and getting serious about it.

Yeoh, 57, commanded the spotlight after she started performing her own stunts in a series of popular Hong Kong action movies in the early 1990s.

She won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant in 1983 at age 20, and represented Malaysia at the Queen of the Pacific beauty pageant held in Australia.

She has also appeared in many English, Mandarin and Cantonese language films including James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Reign of Assassins (2010), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2016), Star Trek: Discovery (2017) and The Lady (2011) In 2018, she starred in the American romantic comedy-drama film, Crazy Rich Asians. — DayakDaily