Addressing climate change

Lyna Mohammad

Asian climate champion Dr Renard Siew feels that he sometimes shoulders a lot of responsibility because in this part of the world, people are still grappling with facts on climate risks and their impact.

“The reality is that we live in a vulnerable part of the world exposed to extreme weather events, especially prolonged floods and droughts, which affect a range of economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism, transportation and logistics,” he said. “The need for urgent climate adaptation is real and we need to get people to move from awareness to action.”

Dr Siew highlighted that most people don’t seem to have a sense of urgency and aren’t prepared to embrace the impacts of climate change. He noted that some have said COVID-19 is just a dress rehearsal for the looming climate crisis which will be worse.

His many years of work and commitment in sustainability and climate change have rewarded him with significant achievements such as being a Generation Tatler recipient and being selected to be trained by ex-United States Vice President Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.

A member of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Expert Network, Dr Renard was appointed as First Community Champion for Global Shapers Southeast Asian Hubs and was the Co-Chair of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-FI’s Commitment Towards Climate Action working group representing developing countries.

Dr Renard Siew speaks during a forum. PHOTO: DR RENARD SIEW

He is also a Global Lead for the Climate & Action Steering Committee in Asia Pacific and has served on numerous councils such as the Global Basel Infrastructure Stakeholder Council and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) drafting frameworks to drive the low carbon and sustainability agenda.

For his work in sustainability, he was named one of Asia’s 21 Young Leaders by Asia Society, a Young Leader by the World Cities Summit and was recently appointed as Climate Champion during the Sustainable Development Impact Summit last September this year.

Dr Siew, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, works with marginalised and displaced communities through the network platform.

He explained that the 2020 Sustainable Development Impact Summit Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Champion cohort comprises action-oriented voices whose work has achieved concrete progress towards the sustainable development agenda.

“Nominated from both WEF communities and external networks, I feel honoured to be part of such an inspiring group, uniquely positioned to act as ‘infectious’ catalysts for SDG action. It’s a great recognition for our work on climate action,” he said.

The forum is usually by invitation only. However, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, all the sessions have been conducted online, especially on the progress they have made in achieving the SDGs, which consist of 17 goals and 169 targets agreed upon by 193 member countries in September 2015. He added, “They are taking stock of how much they have achieved leading up to its fifth anniversary.”

Dr Siew works holistically on the issue of climate crisis and holds a number of portfolios.

“I am a Climate Change Advisor to the Centre for Governance and Political Studies (CENT-GPS). I look into recommending effective climate policies for Asia, something that is definitely lacking in this region. I am also a Co-Lead for the Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group under the Global Young Academy, a group of top notch scientists under 40 who are very passionate about seeking solutions to this problem and run Accelerating Climate Action (ACA), which seeks to engage the start-up scene and train ‘climatepreneurs’ to propose innovative solutions to address the climate crisis.”

As the regional climate lead for the Global Shapers Community, Dr Siew seeks to encourage youth participation and engagement on climate issues and is also advocating for Southeast Asian countries to make climate literacy mandatory, which is one of the agendas that they will be taking to COP26 in Glasgow this year.

Sharing his thoughts on Brunei Darussalam’s initiatives and efforts towards this issue, Dr Siew said, “Brunei as a country is making strides in the right direction, taking for example the launch of Brunei Darussalam National Climate Change Policy (BNCCP), by the National Council on Climate Change.”

He noted that the policy serves to guide the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and already looking into mandatory carbon disclosures for industrial greenhouse gas emitters, which he believes other Southeast Asian nations appear to be lagging behind.

Ten key strategies have been identified by the policy as part of Brunei Vision 2035: industrial emissions; electric vehicles; power management; forest cover; renewable energy; carbon pricing; waste management; climate resilience and adaptation; carbon inventory; and awareness and education.

Dr Siew believes it is not just about focussing on climate mitigation by reducing emissions but also climate adaptation by studying how different sectors will adapt to a rise in temperature.

“In terms of climate adaptation,” he pointed out that “different sectors have the opportunity to leverage on the use of technology (artificial intelligence and robotics) to develop resilience”.

He cited combatting prolonged droughts as an example.

“There is a lot of innovation around the use of ‘precision agriculture’ which monitors the exact amount of water and fertiliser required by crops and vertical farming indoors so that crops are not exposed to severe heat among others.

“Cities near coastal areas need to be prepared for rising sea levels and have built-in early warning systems, contingency plans and integrated response,” he said.

On the future, Dr Siew is focussing on climate literacy. His mission is to advocate for governments worldwide to make climate education mandatory in schools.

“As mentioned, we will be raising this agenda in the upcoming COP 26 meeting, so we are campaigning and lobbying governments now to embark on this,” he said, adding that his “other focus area is on climate financing in Asia. In order to help cities with their climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, a lot of financing is required. I’ve just recently joined the Global Future Council on SDG investment to learn from key players on some of the best practices when it comes to developing financial initiatives and to make sure that our voices are represented at this international platform”.