Brunei can lead in environmental protection

ALTHOUGH Brunei is a small country, the forest-rich nation can be a leading example in environmental protection efforts in the region as part of the initiative to address climate change.

Khairunnisa Ash’ari (pictured), co-founder and the community engagement director of Green Brunei, stated this in an exclusive interview with The Brunei Times, sharing that the world is seeing dramatic effects of climate change in various parts of the world, including rising sea levels, extreme weather shifts and severe flooding.

“With disasters hitting Myanmar and the Middle East last month, climate change is becoming a pressing reality… Our recent trip to Singapore to attend the ASEAN Power Shift last July has shown us how serious the issue has become and how little action has been taken to combat this issue,” she said.

“Areas of concerns were highlighted, including financial resources, capacity and political will. Various solutions were proposed, including sharing of resources, investing in environmental education, as well as strengthening adult-youth partnership to enable young people to participate, not only as beneficiaries but as actors in tackling climate change,” added Khairunnisa.

Reiterating the titah of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit in New York last year, Brunei is committed to combat climate change and promote sustainable development, including cutting down energy consumption by 63 per cent by 2035 and lowering demand for fossil fuel.

“Brunei is blessed to have our rainforest, which has the capability to reduce the impact of climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide in the air and preventing an increase in global temperatures,” stated Khairunnisa.

However, she questioned why logging still persists even after the Minister of Industry and Primary Resources has recently announced that the Forestry Department will stop logging at forest reserves to protect the environment during the Legislative Council meeting earlier this year.

“Why are our peatswamp forests still being cut down? Do the economic benefits outweigh the environmental impact? Are there no other solutions to commercialise our rainforest resources without destroying them?”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, between 67,000 and 110,000 people have been “severely affected” by floods.

Other parts of Central Asia were also in the midst of one of the hottest heat-waves ever recorded. Iran recorded 74 degrees on their heat index.

This comes in the wake of recent heatwaves which have killed upwards of 2,000 people in India and Pakistan earlier this year, shared Khairunnisa.

“This could happen to us. Look at how weather patterns have changed in the country. Look at how unprepared our homes and roads are in the event of strong winds and heavy rainfall that has occurred several times these past couple of years.”

She added, “We have only felt a small impact of climate change in our country. But we need to look beyond our borders. Disasters happening in the region may affect us severely when we think of food security and other areas of regional concerns.”

Khairunnisa said that if drastic action is not taken, climate impacts have the potential to affect every aspect of human lives.

The founder and community engagement director of Green Brunei then highlighted the role of young people who are committed and passionate in addressing this issue.

“We may be a group of young people with limited experience and resources, but we, and our future generations, will be the ones who have to pay the price in the future if we do not take concrete actions now.”

Green Brunei is a non-profit organisation (NGO) that promotes environmental education and creates awareness on environmental conservation and clean technology through media, activities and projects.

“However, it seems what we have read in the news, it is not only the future generation who is in trouble. As Obama notes, ‘Climate change is not a problem for another generation. Not anymore’.

“With COP21 coming up in Paris, we hope that Brunei will commit itself to stronger measures in protecting our environment. But we need more than just government action, everybody has a role to play,” she added.

Source: The Brunei Times