Green activist urges law reforms, boycott against companies over climate change

Terence Tang
Cetdem chairman Gurmit Singh speaks during the 12th Annual Climate Change Forum 2019 in Petaling Jaya June 25, 2019. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PETALING JAYA, June 25 — Eco-activist Gurmit Singh called today for Putrajaya to reform environmental laws, despite admitting that the country is over-regulated.

He said the current regulations contain numerous loopholes which enable authorities to assume discretionary powers and exempt certain parties.

“We are full of regulations, in fact, we are over-regulated. The problem with most of the regulations is they leave a lot of loopholes for discretionary powers,” Gurmit said, adding that this could be where abuse of power and corruption arise in environment-related enforcement.

The Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia (Cetdem) chairman was speaking today at the organisation’s 12th Annual Climate Change Forum, which had a discussion titled “The Role of Businesses and Industries in Addressing Climate Change”.

Pointing out that these loopholes might give certain authorities the power to exempt parties who commit pollution, he said: “So one of the ways is to reform legislation to remove discretionary powers. Make it clear that these are the standards. And there are no exemptions.”

As businesses that flout environmental laws have been exposed on social media, he also said that the Pakatan Harapan government, despite all its shortcomings, has allowed a democratic space to flourish on social media.

However, Gurmit noted that there is a need for social media users to practise self-discipline in order to prevent the spread of fake news. He believed that the Official Secrets Act should be repealed so that “real facts” can be revealed to the public.

While commending the younger generation for being increasingly aware of the need to address climate change, Gurmit said that the wider public need to get out of their comfort zone to fully address the issue.

“This is when consumers need to exercise their power, the power to boycott products [of companies that behave irresponsibly on climate change],” he said.

Also present at the forum was the former president of environmental group, Malaysian Nature Society, Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Nor, who emphasised the need to curb corruption when it comes to enforcing environmental laws among businesses and industries.

Another fellow speaker, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia environmental sociology senior lecturer and research fellow, Sharina Abdul Halim, believed that businesses and industries have already begun to address climate change.

To monitor the industries on a larger scale, she suggested that mechanisms such as sustainability reporting be introduced. However, she said this depends on the scale of a business or industry, as not all businesses require sustainability reporting.

The senior under-secretary for the climate change division of the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry, Jaya Singam Rajoo, was also present during the commencement of the forum.

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