Let Paris climate accord inspire action to fight haze in Southeast Asia

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 January, 2016, 5:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 January, 2016, 5:05pm

Should some Southeast Asian polluters be allowed to continue to destroy human health, the economy and the forests? There is now a glimmer of hope for our future generations.

Congratulations to the leaders of 195 nations who have finally reached accord in Paris on a concerted effort to limit climate change by reducing heat-trapping man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, common sense and the protection of our environment have prevailed – no mean feat in the world of convoluted politics and narrow national interests.

With the example of the world before us, now is the time to stop for all time the annual, debilitating, health-threatening haze from the wanton burning of the tropical rainforests in our region. People in Sarawak have suffered this for years. Last year, the haze reached Singapore and mainland Malaysia on an unprecedented scale, and also Thailand. The source? Mainly from Kalimantan and Sumatra in Indonesia.

Whilst we understand the niceties of our international relationships, at the height of the deadly haze, it was pointed out that the widespread burning of rainforest was an intentional illegal act adopted as a cheap way of clearing tropical rainforests, mainly for planting oil palm trees.

Now that the 2015 haze has finally cleared, and disappeared from the headlines, if past years are any guide the issue will fade from the public view and face inaction until it reappears once again in 2016. This must not ever be allowed to happen. If we have the will and the determination, we can stop it.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris recognises the need for international action to prevent global warning caused by we humans.

The Malaysian government could seriously consider setting up a group now to work with Indonesia to stop the clearing of tropical rainforest by burning. Agreement with Indonesia must be reached well before the annual burn-off ritual recurs this year. If this involves the widespread use of monitors on the ground with the power to impose crippling fines and order immediate extinction, so be it.

We have noted Singapore’s relentless pursuit of those responsible for the 2015 haze and bringing them to account, whatever their nationality or status. This approach may express the views of millions of Malaysians, Singaporeans and Indonesians who are not involved in any way with this destructive ritual, but are most concerned with the health of millions who suffer due to the selfishness of people who are motivated purely by material benefits.

Let us make a small contribution to the Paris accord and do our part to avert climate change.

Ang Lai Soon, Sarawak, Malaysia