Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM), provided a platform on 18 October 2022 for the nation’s top thought leaders to share their insights on strengthening the National Planetary Health Action Plan. The hybrid forum was an engaging series of discussions on Planetary Health between the esteemed panellists, who covered various perspectives, ranging from the road transportation industry, medicine, gender, and legal aspects.
During her opening remarks, ASM’s president, Professor Emerita Datuk Dr. Asma Ismail said that the health of humanity is intrinsically linked to planetary health, but our actions now threaten to destabilise Earth’s key life support system. Without planetary health, we will face exponential economic shocks, societal collapse, and environmental degradation. She urged that it is time for us to understand and act upon addressing human health in balance with animal health and environmental health in a transformative manner.
Realising how important planetary health is, ASM has forwarded a proposal to develop a National Planetary Health Action Plan (NPHAP) to the National Science Council. To ensure the effective implementation of NPHAP in the future, ASM will develop an integrated monitoring and impact tracking system for planetary health. Another development is the National Environmental Genomic Database through Malaysian Genome and Vaccine Institute and the network of collaborations with all other institutes and agencies. ASM hopes to lead a people-centric, nature-based, and value-driven National Planetary Health Action Plan (NPHAP)to develop practical solutions for our planet, a transformation within reach.
The first panellist, Datuk Azman Ismail, the Managing Director of PLUS Malaysia Berhad mentioned how PLUS has its own sustainability agenda with the mission to connect communities to shape a safe and sustainable future by adopting green technologies and practices. Some examples of green practices that PLUS employs are the Energy Pyramid Approach to achieve an increase in energy savings and embedding Electric Vehicles (EVs) into the highway through the PLUS Green Roadmap 2.0, which aligns with the Low Carbon Mobility Development Plan (LCMB), the Green Technology Master Plan Malaysia 2017-2030, and the 12th Malaysia Plan. PLUS is also advancing the UN’s SDGs in energy management, air pollution, labour rights and practices, as well as ethics and integrity (PLUS Sustainability Report 2020). However, there are several challenges faced, which include the acceptance of sustainability practices in Malaysia and the high cost of biodegradable materials due to economies of scale.
The second panellist, Professor Tan Sri Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, the Director of Sunway Centre for Planetary Health highlighted the word ‘Anthropocene’ that was mentioned in the recent UN Report on the Human Development Index, and means that humankind is impacting the planet in both good and bad ways. She mentioned that in the present day, the uncertainties in the environment have led to more people with anxiety and depression. What is needed now is a great transition in the production and consumption of food, manufacturing of products and energy, construction of cities, as well as the management of natural landscapes and resources. Without health, there is no economy, social, gender equality, or political stability. There is a need to protect the nine planetary boundaries, of which six of them have already been breached. She emphasised that everyone has a stake in our planet, therefore we must not just shift the blame, but instead acknowledge the problems and find the right solutions.
The third panellist, Professor Emerita Dato’ Dr. Rashidah Shuib, the Honorary Professor in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) started her presentation by providing a glimpse of the past with examples of how gender has always played a role in shaping our economy, helping the audience understand better what gender is all about. She stated that as policies must be transformative, they should be based on gender analysis, where the collection of data must be sex-disaggregated and its breakdown used to understand the impact of gender on sectors. This data will tell the reality of the ground, which will eventually shape the course and impact of any action plan on men and women, as well as human development as a whole. Before she ended, she emphasised that without women leaders, a gender-just planetary health agenda will not become a reality.
The final panellist, Mr. Kiu Jia Yaw, co-chair of the Malaysian CSO-SDG Alliance and partner at the law firm Kiu & Co, provided a civil society perspective. He mentioned that we need to get better at incorporating different perspectives, values, and interests into our policies, systems, or frameworks, which our lives may depend on. The biggest challenge in addressing planetary health in Malaysia is the lack of express recognition of the right to a safe and healthy environment in the Federal Constitution. He then mentioned that there are two priority areas that should be focused on to advance planetary health in Malaysia in the next five years:(i) access to information and (ii) meaningful public participation. He said that people can contribute to making a difference through civil society groups working on anti-corruption, business, and human rights.
The term ‘Planetary Health’ is still relatively new and this forum is only the start of the conversation. Going forward, there is a lot more that needs to be done. Some of the key points from the forum were:
- Individually, people carry a huge responsibility as every little action makes all the difference.
- There is a need for a new education revolution, that includes promoting planetary health, which will provide a solid future for the next generation.
- In terms of governance, it was highlighted that there is a lack of ESG approaches in the public sector and the government was called upon to create more transformative policies.
This report is a summary of the Planetary Health Forum, entitled “Forging Commitment and Gaining Insights for the Development of the National Planetary Health Action Plan to Drive Malaysia’s Sustainability”. To watch the full session, click here.
Written by Nur Fatin Inani