Monday, July 16, 2012

Implications of Corruption in Environmental Protections

SEDA (Sustainable Energy Development Authority Malaysia) recent scandal is not a big scale scandal from monetary perspective. However, for those who are concerned about global warming and mindful of our national carbon emission, it is definitely a piece of news that worth follow. 

To be fair to SEDA, let's first assume that there is no element of cronyism there, that is, it was just a matter of competency that SEDA did a series of wrong decisions in awarding the feed-in approval certificates to the wrong companies. If this is the case, my advice is, we better don't run the FiT system as the net effect to the environment may not be much better than business-as-usual case. 

When it comes to carbon reduction, it is not as simple as changing from non-renewable to renewable energy. Please do not be mistaken, our carbon footprint per capita does not drop immediately after the installation of PV panel system.  PV panel itself is a carbon-intensive product, that is, it takes a lot of energy (therefore the associated carbon emission) to mine the raw material, manufacture, and assemble it. The embodied carbon (in term of kg CO2/m2) for PV panel normally has a carbon pay back period of 3-4 years. In another word, the energy generated by the PV system can only be considered 'clean' 3-4 years upon installation depending on a number of factors. Therefore, selecting competent companies to become Feed-in Approval Holder (FiAH) become very important. Any shortcomings in management will contribute to the opportunity cost lost in potential carbon emission reduction. For serious negligence, we may even end-up contributing more to the carbon emission running the program. 

Just like any governmental project, without a clean and transparent FiAHs selection system, the companies that run the PV systems will not be the truly competent ones. At current state, the program is not just a waste of Rakyat's money but also a disappointment to those who want this program to reduce our national total carbon emission. 

Corruption has never gone well with environmental protection. In fact, researchers have found direct correlation between corruption perception index, CPI vs environmental sustainability index, ESI. Malaysians should never forget about how timber tycoons and the political elites have ruined our rain forest in Borneo ( 

With BN still in power and rampant rent-seeking happening, our natural resources and environment will still be at risk of exploitation of power for money, our environmental objective such as  carbon emission reduction will be at risk of being used as an instrument to channel Rakyat monies to the cronies without giving much positive environmental impact (just as SEDA case). 

For those who care about our environment, environmental protection and sustainability can only be effective when the government is clean and accountable. So vote wisely in the 13th General Election.