WWF-Malaysia calls for greater efforts in combating the haze

Burning in neighbouring country is contributing to Kuching City's grim skyline. Photo credit: Michael Liew.

KUCHING, Sept 24: WWF-Malaysia has urged governments of Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Indonesia to continue to uphold, implement and improve decisions made on the 18th Meeting of the Asean Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution in May 2016.

WWF-Malaysia Conservation director Dr Henry Chan said now is the time for all stakeholders to come together and work towards a common solution for nature and people.

“We need to prevent such a major pollution through concerted, sustainable and long-term national efforts, and regional and international cooperation. We must all do our part to protect the planet,” he said in a media release today.

He was commenting on the recent statement by Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change, Yeo Bee Yin, on strengthening cooperation between Malaysia and Southeast Asian neighbours to find long-term solutions for the transboundary haze.

“The dire consequences for all of us in failing to do so is all too apparent, from health issues to the affected population, to the loss of biodiversity,” he added.

Chan pointed out that the dry weather was not the only cause of forest fires that brought about the haze, but also unsustainable agricultural practices such as the clearing of land through the slash-and-burn technique, which had contributed to create unsanctioned fires that were exacerbated by the dry weather, and some quickly ran out of control.

“This phenomenon is not a new occurrence but happens almost every year, resulting in a blanket of haze over Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. The haze, resulting from widespread forest fires, not only impacts the environment, but also the well-being and health of our people,” he said.

He added that sustainable agricultural productions, both at industrial scale plantations and subsistence farming by local communities, could help mitigate the haze.

This included strengthening policies and enforcing regulations to keep intact forests from being converted and limiting land clearance and conversion to degraded areas only, as well as supporting local communities from their dependence on the slash-and-burn method of agricultural land clearance.

WWF believed companies can be drivers of change to develop solutions for sustainably sourced agricultural products from within the value chain, continued.

“We applaud companies who are taking extra steps to work with others in their value chain to create and support models for sustainable production and best practices, including fire prevention and mitigation procedures as well as models that are inclusive of farmers and smallholders.

“We also strongly believe that companies should take on the responsibility to communicate their sustainability initiatives to consumers, in order to educate them on the importance of sustainable production and consumption,” he said.

Chan said more companies were needed to champion sustainability, rather than shy away from talking about it.

Companies who were lagging should be pressured to adopt environmentally-friendly practices by governments, financial institutions and consumers, he suggested.

“Consumers should also realise that they have the purchasing power and can collectively form a strong voice to demand more sustainable products to be made available on the shelves,” he said.

As such, WWF-Malaysia urged consumers to play a bigger role in sustainable consumption by exercising purchasing power towards buying responsibly.

“One of the way this can be done is by buying certified sustainable products, such as those with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications.

“When there is a demand for sustainably produced products, there will be a higher likelihood that producers and manufacturers will increase sustainability in their production,” he said .

Chan pointed out that one of the key element is that the governments strengthen the multilateral treaties such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change that will come into force next year, as well as a new framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that will be adopted in 2020. — DayakDaily