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IPW: weak pledges on global warming, Malaysia’s 2022 budget and Hong Kong’s climate plan

02 November 2021

In this fortnightly blog, ICE's Director of Policy Chris Richards looks at developing policy landscape for infrastructure, what decisions mean, and their implications, so that infrastructure professionals can play their part in shaping the discussion.

IPW: weak pledges on global warming, Malaysia’s 2022 budget and Hong Kong’s climate plan
Malaysia's largest-ever budget includes further investment in the Pan Borneo Highway. Image credit: Shutterstock


UN report says pledges by countries completely off track to limit global warming

The UN Environment Programmes (UNEP) 2021 Emissions Gap Report highlights that "new national climate pledges combined with other mitigation measures put the world on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C by the end of the century." This is way off track of the 2°C target to avert catastrophic climate change agreed at COP21 in Paris and way off the 1.5°C countries aspired to target by COP26 which starts this week.

The report outlines the challenge:

  • New Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) reduce projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by only 7.5% by 2030, whereas to achieve the Paris target 30% is needed and 55% for the more aspirational 1.5°C target.
  • Covid-19 lockdowns led to a sharp decline in CO2 emissions in 2020 (down 5.4%), but in the long run, the impact will be negligible, with CO2 emissions expected to bounce back in 2021. Despite the 2020 slow in the flow of emissions, the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere still increased, growing by around 2.3 parts per million.
  • While more than half of global emissions are now locked into a net-zero target, a significant proportion of NDCs submitted to COP26 show ambiguity on the path to getting there, including short-term actions and targets.
  • Without significantly increased climate finance, emerging markets and developing economies are likely to become the world’s top GHG emitters.

However, there is a sliver of hope. The report notes that if net-zero emissions pledges are fully implemented alongside NDCs and other pledges, the estimated temperature rise by the end of the century is around 2.2°C.

ICE’s view

The UNEP report echoes the IPCC report from August 2021, which showed temperatures are rising faster than target. The Emissions Gap Report goes further to provide additional projections based on what governments around the world have pledged, those pledges are way off track what is needed, and bold pledges are not being backed up by action.

Infrastructure is responsible for around 70% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, either because of the processes that create it or the behaviours it enables. As a result, action in energy and transport is essential, but ongoing analysis of NDCs shows not enough governments are making pledges, or taking action, in these areas. Additionally, international aviation and shipping is excluded from most NDCs.

Malaysian finance minister outlines country's 'largest-ever budget' for 2022

Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul announced an annual budget of RM332.1 billion with a focus on wellbeing, business resilience and creating a sustainable economy. This was the first budget under the 12th Malaysia Plan and the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 and follows last month's first-ever Malaysian 'pre-Budget report'.

Spending continues to focus on recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and prioritises welfare, jobs and future skills.

The highlights for capital infrastructure investment include RM3.5 billion to continue infrastructure development programmes, including the Pan Borneo Highway and Central Spine Road, alongside further investment for digital rollout.

There will also be an allocation from RM2.9 billion for small and medium sized projects, such as maintenance and upgrades, and RM107 million to develop road infrastructure in villages and other rural areas.

ICE’s view

It is too early to tell how effective budget measures will be in delivering against the 12th Malaysia Plan, most of the figures were headline announcements and will be further allocated at department and state levels.

Another vital context to consider is this is the last budget before federal elections in 2023, which may bring further changes to long-term plans around investment.

Hong Kong publishes 2050 Climate Action Plan

In advance of COP26, the Hong Kong SAR government has published its 2050 Climate Action Plan intending to reduce Hong Kong's carbon emissions by 50% by 2035 compared to 2005 levels.

The Plan targets electricity generation, transport and waste for CO2 emissions reduction. These are the three largest sources of emissions in Hong Kong according to Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing.

The plan outlines four strategies for decarbonisation:

  1. Achieving net-zero electricity generation by 2050 through phasing out coal, increasing renewables and 'new energy' and working with neighbouring regions. Energy saving and greening buildings by reducing electricity consumption through greener designed buildings, improving energy efficiency and supporting public shift to a 'low carbon lifestyle'.
  2. Greening transport through zero vehicle and carbon emissions before 2050 by electrifying ferries, vehicles and improving traffic management. Banning new fuel and hybrid private cars by 2035 'or earlier' and trial hydrogen fuels cells for buses and HGVs.
  3. Reducing waste with waste to energy facilities, promoting recycling, introducing waste charging and regulating disposable waste.
  4. The strategies will be backed by HKD240 billion over the next 20 years and a new Office of Climate Change and Carbon Neutrality will be set up to provide coordination. Alongside a new advisory committee to encourage sectors and the public to participate actively in climate action.

ICE’s view

While the circumstances will be different in each country, the similarity of policy measures for climate action is coming to the fore - decarbonise electricity, reduce and electrify transport, look at new technologies for harder to abate sectors.

Electricity decarbonisation will be key, but Hong Kong's targets show how difficult it will be to achieve for some countries, with the plan placing a big bet on the trial of new energy sources. This is to make up for the limited opportunity for renewable energy which the plan outlines will provide 10-15% of the electricity mix as part of the 2050 net-zero electricity target.

The new Office of Climate Change and Carbon Neutrality will offer important lessons for other countries on how to improve the governance for climate action.

In case you missed it...

Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch. You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.

  • Chris Richards, director of policy at Institution of Civil Engineers