September 29, 2022

Transport a big factor in global warming

3 min read

GLOBAL warming is at the worst it has ever been. Sadly, few Malaysians are paying serious attention to the matter. In countries like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, protests are organised on a large scale and play a big role in raising awareness of the issue among the population.

Just two months ago, more than six million people across the world joined a global demonstration to protest against climate change in their home country. More than one million Italian citizens took to the streets, while Spain and the Netherlands reported more than 3.5% of their population joining the demonstrations. And in Australia, thousands of school students walked out of their classrooms and onto the streets to kick off a global strike on Sept 20 (pic, Bloomberg).

It is time for Malaysians to take notice. Malaysia emits 254.6 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, placing it 25th on the list of countries that emit the most carbon dioxide in the world. Most of the CO2 emission comes from the oil and gas industry.

Researchers have found that given 30 years of inaction, Kuala Lumpur’s climate will be similar to that of Palembang today, where the Air Pollutant Reading (API) hit a record of 921 last month and the average temperature rose by 2.3 degrees.

Malaysia’s transport industry is partly to blame for the environmental problems that contribute to global warming. To address this, cheap petrol prices have to go. Just this year, the Malaysian government spent almost RM1.89bil to subsidise petrol. The “generosity” of governments (including Malaysia) in subsidising the production of fossil fuel may result in global carbon dioxide emission reaching 41 gigatonnes by 2040. This is four times the amount that could potentially cause the world to overheat.

High petrol prices will certainly put a strain on our economy. However, there are efforts that can be taken to help the economy adapt to this change, such as gradually reducing subsidies while simultaneously redirecting financial resources towards increasing grants for the uptake of electric cars, which have a much lower carbon footprint.

Many developed countries are encouraging the use of electric cars in their efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Electric cars function on batteries. By using electric cars, we can reduce our dependence on petrol.

There are significant challenges in increasing the uptake of electric cars among Malaysians, however. Currently, electric cars are expensive mainly due to the fact that they have to be imported.

There are two ways the government could reduce the cost, firstly by investing in the production of our own electric cars and secondly, by redirecting subsidies for petrol towards subsidies for electric cars.

Take the United Kingdom as an example. The UK government provides a £3,500 subsidy for individuals wishing to buy an electric car. An additional £500 is given for charging points to recharge the electric vehicles at home.

In Norway, the government encourages electric car uptake by allowing these vehicles to be driven on the bus lane and offering huge discounts on tolls. These incentives and subsidies could be adopted by the Malaysian government to make electric cars more affordable.

To maximise the reduction of our carbon footprint, we need to complement the shift towards cleaner vehicles with an improvement in our public transport system. To do this, we should firstly improve the existing public transport system. A major area in need of improvement is time efficiency. For example, the Rapid KL Bus service should consider using artificial intelligence to recognise traffic patterns to raise the accuracy of bus schedules.

Secondly, there should be more varieties of public transport in small cities. This would create a more efficient public transport system across the entire country, catering to both the urban and rural population.

Carpooling services, such as GrabShare, should also be encouraged to reduce the number of personal vehicles on the road.

The future of transport should rely less on personal cars and more on communal transport and electric vehicles. Making it easier and cheaper to move away from petrol-guzzling vehicles is a first step on the long and arduous road to battling climate change.