7b population using one-and- a-half Earths to sustain lifestyle
Published on: Friday, August 23, 2019
By: Kan Yaw Chong
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KOTA KINABALU: According to Global Footprint Network (GFT), the earth’s current seven billion people are actually using one-and-a half earths to sustain their lifestyle – the extra half is needed to absorb their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

But if all the seven billion people live like Americans who use seven global hectares each to support their lifestyle, two-thirds of it composed of CO2 emissions, then four earths are needed while almost every critical natural cycles like the nutrient cycle has been damaged and rendered incapable of breaking down industrial plastics which is now building up the  poisoning the oceans with toxic chemical.

If that recklessly extravagant and wasteful consumption and production is the goal of all seven billion, they will bankrupt the one and only earth eventually.      

There have been warnings about the spectre of ruins and the UN is the one body that has reminded all 149-member states to look at the big picture and act comprehensively on its set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals to avert the inevitable.   

So seeing the big picture is vital. It means grasping the entire perspective on an issue and how it is connected to the overall in a holistic manner. 

Very few individuals exhibit that global sense, especially in Sabah. But Marinah Embiricos is a rare breed – she epitomises it.  

Truth be told, I have never come across anyone who enjoys such a solid grasp of the official global, regional and sub-regional sustainable goals at her fingertips, and how her local battle against plastic waste fits in until I was assigned to interview her on the coming of the Race for Water Foundation trimaran.

“Let me just give you a global picture,” she said in reference to the 17 global goals set by the UN General Assembly for the years 2015-2030.  

“We know we have an environmental problem, so in 2015 the United Nations adopted what they called Sustainable Development Goal (SDG),” a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, including life under the oceans, affordable and clean energy, climate action and sustainable cities, among others.   

“Okay, we have sustainable development goals, how do we treat it here locally? How do we sustain earth? The way it is? The way we are treating the world we will need four to five planets for consumption. 

“That’s why they are trying to achieve these sustainable development goals but we don’t look at it or take it seriously because for us we say, ah, we still got many years-lah, it’s not so critical at this point in time but actually it is coming so OK this is the world picture.”

“As a global body of nations and governments you have these goals, the Paris Agreement.”

“Then, you have Asean. How are we in Sabah related to that?” Marinah asked.   “Well, Asean is a regional co-operation right?”

“So they have created something called the Asean Sustainable Urban Strategy (Asus), so at the UN-level, the global initiative is SDG while the regional initiative adopted by the Malaysian Government through Asean is Asus,” Marinah noted.

“The question is how does it affect us in Sabah on the sub-regional level where you have BIMP-EAGA comprising Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and in Peninsula Malaysia they have West Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand which is the IMT Triangle.

“Through these regional and sub-regional cooperation and initiatives, they know that by 2025, 70 million people will move to urban centres. This is where you are going to have a lot of challenges,” Marinah asserted.

“So, there is a regional cooperation. They know there is a problem, the governments know, the States know, people know there is a problem.”  

“There is regional collaboration between cities. They call it how to create green growth cities: Let’s create a green growth.”

“I am happy to say they created this green growth and they are saying why green growth is important and why they want to do it in cities because cities are the roots, they know if you are dealing with the development of cities, how are you going to deal with the challenges of pollution, sewage, wastes and environmental pollution.”

“That is why they are promoting this green city initiative – the BIMP-EAGA Green Cities Initiative.”   

“All actions need money so the Asian Development Bank gave funding to the cities basically through BIMP-EAGA, and in a meeting which was held in Palawan on July 14, 2017, they selected Kota Kinabalu as the first pilot city for the Green City Action Plan,” Marinah noted.

“So there was an international consultant commissioned by the Asian Development Bank to prepare for the Kota Kinabalu Green City Action Plan and it’s done!

“They have done their study under the previous government and they know their problems. So now with this new government, Stanley Chong, Head of City Planning of DBKK has been looking at it and they are presenting it to the new Cabinet in October for the Green City Action Plan’s formal launch even though the study has already happened,” Marinah said.

“This is why the Mayor and DBKK are also supporting this project because the title of this project we are calling it Race for Water Odyssey Kota Kinabalu Stopover, Kota Kinabalu Green City Action Plan Environmental Awareness Initiative. That’s actually the title.

“In other words, because Kota Kinabalu was awarded the Pilot City by BIMP-EAGA under the BIMP-EAGA Green City Initiative back in July 2017, the Asian Development Bank sponsored Iclei (International Council for Local Environmental Initiative) – the main global consultant for environmental audit and assessment for cities to look at one, what are the problems and two, how to turn them green,” Marinah said.

“They came to Sabah and spent six months going through all the stakeholders. They did their study… this was approved by the previous government so the idea is the new government has to approve the action plan. They did the mobilisation, and they did all kinds of things and came out with 130 pages of findings. 

“For example, information on greenhouse gas emissions amounting to 257 million tonnes, we have all these. They also know the heat and how they scored it – residential buildings, transport etc. So they have different sectors that contribute to it. This is what they have done to create a way forward.

“What I am saying is that how is this connected to the overall. For me, every initiative that you do that supports sustainability, whether this is a local action from NOW (No More Plastics in Our Water) point of view, we are just private citizens working with different companies.”

“If we can support Race For Water Foundation to help and bring awareness to this plastic issue and how do we help solve this issue, I can see how awareness of their global perspective and campaign actually ties in very well with Kota Kinabalu trying to be green. We are bringing in schools so that the more they learn the more they support.”

Being a pilot Green Growth City means the focus of action will be in Kota Kinabalu.

The only question is whether this sustainable development goal at city-level is taken seriously.

Said John Embiricos: “That is where your role in your journalism profession has immense value in contact. This is a perfect example.” 

And, yes, preparation of Sabah action on the global sustainable development goals are ready to row.

The Sabah Government approved the visit of the Race for Water Foundation trimaran one month ago, Chief Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal has been invited abroad, Marinah said.

“We have spoken to Datuk Christina Liew, Deputy Chief Minister-cum-Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister who said: oh, that’s very good. NOW (No Plastics in Our Water), which we created in 2014 as a private-public platform for the private sector to lobby everybody to work together to solve the plastics problem, now have as partners in the Ministry of Environment and DBKK with the Mayor as the lead coordinator. We have also asked the Ministry of Education because it involves a lot of children,” Marinah noted. 

“What I am saying is this event is supported by the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and DBKK.” 

The visit portrays an all renewable energy capability which powers the 100-tonne and 130ft trimaran around the world for five years, basically to tell the world that an unstoppable industrial revolution transition is under way. To also say goodbye to dirty energy and welcome a new era of affordable renewable clean energy.

As the avowed mission of Race for Water is to transform plastic waste to energy, I asked Marinah whether the foundation has a plant in place to do that job?

“Yes, in Europe,” she said. “The plant is being tested in Paris under EU certification,” she said. Does it work?

Embiricos, Marianah’s husband, said: “It works even two-and-half years ago when we saw it and they were working to bring the cost down because the objective is it mustn’t be subsidised.”          

Marinah chipped in: “But now they have brought the cost down to make it financially viable and economically feasible. So now they are confident. That’s why they are going around the world. 

“They believe so, and we will have a workshop, we will have people into this technology and business people and Ministry of Local Government and Housing in the interactive workshop when everybody should ask questions and grind it down and see if it makes economic sense.”                   

Marinah said her ardent wish is to see one first machine brought here, either subsidised or bought with a warranty that it works and if it doesn’t it could be a matter of discussion.

Since the plastic waste issue involves common interest, the government should invest where the profit-driven private sector fails as a matter of public interest to solve the problem, as far as Daily Express is concerned.

“This is why we have invited people like heads of District Councils like Penampang, Papar to come. If they like it maybe they can convince the government and say, hey, can we buy one plant and try it?”

Embiricos opined: “One thing that is very helpful is all the knowledge and people network that Marco Simeoni and his team has in Europe and other parts of the world will now be available to Sabah so that is a very positive event which Sabah can take advantage.

“It means Sabah is a part of what this fellow and his team are trying to be at the leading edge of technology because it is a very strong trend in the world now, stronger than 10 years ago, of course, stronger than 20 years ago when people in government, private sector and NGOs that we really need to pay a lot of attention to this issue (plastic waste).

“It is very damaging. The good news is that large institutions which have the financial capacity have really recognised this and even more important to Sabah is not to fall behind this trend because that will be tragic. That’s a danger that can happen to anybody if you are not current with what is going on as new and important.” 

Marinah said Race for Water is certainly an extremely good partner to meet direct and be bonded to secure a direct link with the creators of this machine.

She added: “If they are not sure of the machine, they can go to Paris to check it out. The question I have for them personally is if we need it what is the technology, is it difficult to maintain, what if it breaks down in places like Gaya Island, can we maintain it and what is the cost? 

“All these nitty-gritty issues because obviously we don’t want to bring in a machine we can’t maintain and lose the investment, we don’t want to give people false hope and that’s why I really want really interested people to please come to the workshop and ask these questions and really get down to it on the basis that this works and I am pretty sure this works because they are quite thorough and they have been going around the world. 

“This Foundation is 10 years old and they have been doing this machine and it’s now being tested, it has been tested for the last four years in different parts of the world,” elaborated Marinah who said she hoped companies and GLCs will really look into renewables instead of looking back to conventional energy.

Embiricos: “Look, which are the most valuable companies in the world today? Not the oil companies, it’s the new technology in the world like Jack Ma. That’s your point, for the government whose responsibility is the welfare of the people and they really be mindful of this.”       

Added John whose professional background is finance: “There is an expression in the financial market you got to be very mindful of now in making now in making investment on the part of the government to not invest in something called a ‘stranded asset’. 

“Imagine how difficult it is for oil companies now – what are they to do? They can’t stop producing oil, can they really invest in a 30-year project?”



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