Political leadership brings GCoM to flood-hit P’pang
Published on: Sunday, July 28, 2019
By: Kan Yaw Chong

GCoM delegates representing more than 20 cities and local governments from Malaysia at Hyatt.
ON April 30, Penampang MP Datuk Darell Leiking made a quick decision: “Go ahead”.

On July 20, Darell, who is also International Trade and Industry Minister, witnessed Penampang District Council join the 10,000-member coalition Global Covenant of Mayors (GcoM) for Climate and Energy at the Kinabalu Hyatt Regency. Also present was Local Government and Housing Minister, Datuk Jaujan Sambakong.

Immediately, this puts Penampang on GCoM’s massive worldwide team who may help make its flood woes look a little less insurmountable.    

Everything happened almost like an immediate reward, fast and serious, thanks to Darell who used his clout, especially as a very senior national Minister to make that historic decision, “yes, go ahead”.

But a couple of prime movers behind the scene were individuals like Boyd Joeman, Environment Head of Iskandar Regional Development Authority Johor, and District Council member Freddy Ekol who convinced Darell, through Special Officer, Albert Jaua.

“The moment Datuk Darell agreed on April 30 to officiate, our District Officer (Henry Idol) gave me the greenlight to form our GCoM Committee Penampang to coordinate and chair the organising committee,” Freddy related.


Political leadership critical in climate actions: Secretary General  

These sequential events proved beyond doubt that the political leadership  of Darell really counts to make essential actions happen and fast.

The critical importance of political leadership in driving successful climate action was exactly what Dr Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi singled out for mention at the inaugural GCoM meet in Johor, March 19-21.       

Dr Bernadia, a bright and energetic Japan-trained Indonesian atmospheric scientist, is the Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific which is a partner of EU-sponsored GCoM in executing climate action initiatives in Southeast Asia.  


Historic moment: Penampang, KK City hall, Muar and Melaka join GCoM, witnessed by Darell, Jaujan, Pier, Freddy and others. Mayor Nordin Siman (2nd left) signed for City Hall, DO Henry Idol (3rd left) signed for Penampang.

Her mandate under the Bangkok-based UN Conference Centre gives her the responsibility to ensure successful institutional arrangements and mechanisms in empowering local actions in the region, in this case climate actions. 


Darell: I was once a critic of the great floods 

IN his speech, Darell confessed he was once a great critic of the Penampang big floods.

One reason is, his own house constantly got flooded.

Now that he is part of the new government, suddenly the duty to solve the problem becomes an imperative with political implications. Expectation hurts, should nothing be done.

There is no question that he needs to take the issue seriously, as does the Penampang District Council.      

An effective solution means understanding and tackling one sure major root cause – global warming and how it has magnified normal rainfalls into massive  deluge.


Penampang floods can’t be solved by sleeping on climate change    

One thing is certain, the flood issue cannot be solved by people who don’t believe climate change is real because all they do will be little or nothing. Matters will get worse with grave repercussions for leaders.

To those who think the monstrous Penampang flood have nothing to do with climate change, which has actually rapidly degenerated into a climate emergency,  says GCoM lead expert in climate action, Peir Roberto Remitti, consider what the science of rising atmospheric heat does to the famed water cycle that raises the volume of rainfalls.  


The great flood of Penampang. 


How soaring heat dumps extra volumes of rains worsened by hill cutting

It’s an established law in water cycle processes that an increase in average global temperature by 1 degree Celsius raises evaporation by 7 per cent.

Since the 1880s, surface temperature has risen at an average pace of 0.13 degree F (0.07 degree C) per decade for a net warning of 1.69 degrees F, that is, 0.94 degrees Celsius by 2016.

So what does that extra heat energy or near 1 degree C warming do? 

It intensifies upward movement of water or evaporation by some 7 per cent and the increase the volume of rainfall probably by that amount.   

Professor Ho, Head of the Low Carbon Centre Asia at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and an active Malaysian partner of GCoM, thinks that is what has dealt a big blow to Penampang.

Not only the volume of rainfall has increased greatly over the last decade or two, the speed of runoffs into the Moyog river had also increased greatly because of rampant hill-cutting. If these twin problems coincide with the coastal effect of high tide especially a king tide, it just turn Donggongon township and administrate centre into a huge water reservoir.


It’s in the interest of Penampang to act fast and serious  

Does this not make it clear that it is in Penampang’s interest to join the war against global warming to bring the excessive volume of rainfalls right down via a low carbon policy?   

According to Eu climate action guru Pier, the problem is not carbon dioxide but a runaway surge of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere which was 280 parts per million (ppm) before the First Industrial Revolution which started in the mid 1870s in England and soared to 411ppm just last month in June 2019. 

The safe level is 350 ppm, Pier says.

So, this extra 131ppm of C02 pumped into the air is causing the earth to overheat and anybody who owns a car knows how overheating will destroy the engine.      

Business as usual may lead to average temperature to rise beyond a catastrophic 4 degrees Celsius. The UN basically gives the world a very short window of 11 years to act on a low carbon goal to cap the rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2030.

So, Pier says it’s either now or never.    


Prof Ho: Comprehensive understanding needed before jumping into action

However, Prof Ho cautioned jumping into conclusions on solution with regard to the Penampang flood.

“A comprehensive understanding of the problem must first be established before recommending options and this is where GCoM can come in to help develop a comprehensive action plan.”

But will that take years?

“No, it can be done in one or two years.”

So Penampang’s newfound GCoM  membership with this coalition of 10,000 cities is clearly raising hope there might be a quicker answer to this miserable scourge than previously thought.

For this reason, it pays Penampang folks to do their best to understand that the main devil is global warming and give full  support to GCoM’s chase for a low carbon society.


The two prime movers behind getting GCoM here, Boyd (left) and Freddy. 


The mission of Global Covenant of Mayors explained 

Asih Butiati, who works for both the International Urban Cooperation Asia and Surabaya-based GCoM Secretariat, explains in her introductory speech at the Hyatt event on July 18.

First and foremost, a budget of 20 million Euros makes it possible for IUC programme to come down to this level to boost international urban co-operation with EU partners in Asia to support the main international climate agendas under Habitat III goals; the Paris Agreement and UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development goals.

So what is GCoM?

“It was announced on June 22, 2016 and ‘live’ since January 2017, GCoM became an international coalition of local and regional authorities with a shared long term vision of promoting and supporting voluntary action to combat climate change and move to low carbon society, based on the following core principles : a)  local governments are the key contributors; b) city network is the critical partner; c) a robust solution agenda; d) reduce greenhouse gas emission, foster local climate residence and access to energy; e) standardising measurement approaches and reporting for cities,” she noted.            


So, the IUC is an EU-funded programme to support the international implementation of the IUC agendas.

“In this case we support the establishment of GCoM in the region, and here we come, Penampang and Kota Kinabalu City Hall, ” she said. 


The biggest coalition of local government will reduce 17 billion tons CO2

“GCoM is currently the biggest coalition of local governments in the world. It is a merger between two big local government networks – the Covenant of Mayors for Climate based in Europe and the Compact of Mayors based in the US. 

“These two big local government networks merged into one to become the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy to promote actions to combat climate change and to move to a low carbon society. 

“Currently, 10,000 cities have already become members of GCoM in 131 countries. What we believe is with all the governments joined together in this initiative it could reduce 17 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030,” Asih said. 

GCoM Southeast Asia is working in three countries – Indonesia with 18 members, Malaysia seven and Vietnam one local government.          


What GCoM requires from Penampang and KK City Hall

What is required for cities to join GCoM?

The first requirement is to sign an agreement on GHG reduction and climate adaptation with GCoM, she said. 

“What is required is the local government commits to do a GHG reduction at least following the nationally determined contribution which in the case of Malaysia is to reduce GHG emission by 45pc by 2030,” Asih said.

“Secondly, after the local government has signed the agreement, they would submit a climate action plan within two years, including an emission inventory, target setting or mitigation and adaptation, the actions and then of course the implementation of the climate action plan. 

“As I have said, the Malaysian national target is based on the Paris Agreement where Malaysia has committed to GHG reduction by 45pc in by 2030. So we hope Malaysian cities that had committed to signing to GCoM make an effort o reduce GHG emission at least following their national targets,” Asih added. 

What is GCoM doing in Malaysia? 

“We are providing different activities. One is capacity building on climate action plan development which we provide up to 25 cities, which include those that are not members,” she noted.

“We gather cities from across Malaysia to provide technical assistance on specific topics. 

“The second one is direct technical assistance for the development of climate action plan and this is specific to only five local governments called Pilot Cities that we select together with the Ministry. We work with local experts in Malaysia who understand the local context.” 


Special direct technical assistance for Pilot Cities Penampang and KK  

By virtue of the enthusiastic interest from Sabah, particularly quasi city Penampang, GCoM picked Penampang District Council as one of the five Pilot Cities to be given specific, focussed direct technical assistance. 

The other four are City Hall of Kota Kinabalu, Kg Baru near Kuala Lumpur, Muar and Ipoh, Asih announced. 

“Direct technical assistance specific to the five Pilot Cities means we go down to these cities and then our technical partners from the universities here which include UTM Professor Ho will assist the five that have committed to the project.

“The climate action plan that we will do together with these cities include the baseline carbon emissions, the inventory, risk and vulnerability assessment.  

“Then we help these cities to do a target setting each, as I have said – a 45pc reduction – and then we help these five identify action projects to support this target reduction of GHG emission,” she said. 

But, in the end, funding is needed.

“GCoM will try to help cities link up for climate financing and then do the monitoring,” Asih said. 

The four modules of training 

“So the first activity or capacity building is we have four training modules : 1) Adaptation and Mitigation, Risk And Vulnerability assessment ; 2) Emission reduction and low carbon society 3) Target setting and climate action plan  elaboration and  4) Climate finance and implementation.”

“Module 1 was done in Johor Baru in March 2019 with 50 participants, Module 2 was done in Kuala Lumpur City Hall with 67 participants t, Module 3 done here in Kota Kinabalu with more than 30 participants and Module 4 we plan to do in Seberang Perai in October together with the Asia Pacific Urban forum in Penang and we will do it before the PAUR,” Asih said. 

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