MyGovt Reform Tracker

Environmental Governance

A healthy environment is fundamental to the wellbeing of a country and her people, and environmental justice is key to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Corruption and poor governance are major threats to the environment as they enable environmental crime through corruption risks present in licensing systems, monitoring and enforcement, and import/export border controls, among others.

Illegal activities that harm the environment include pollution crimes, unlicenced logging and mining, wildlife trafficking, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, and uncontrolled production and trade in ozone-depleting substances. 

The Environmental Quality Act 1974 is the primary federal law to control pollution and protect the environment, but the complex landscape of environmental legislation in Malaysia also includes the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007, International Trade of Endangered Species Act 2008, Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, National Forestry Act 1984, National Parks Act 1980, Fisheries Act 1985, Water Services Industry Act, as well as various state and local government laws including the Environment Protection Enactment 2002 and Forest Enactment 1968 in Sabah, and the Forests Ordinance 2015 and National Resources and Environment (Amendment) Ordinance 2001 in Sarawak.

Time is ripe for Malaysia to reform environmental laws, which should incorporate climate change mitigation and adaptation, emerging toxics and pollutants, more stringent standards, higher penalties, and clearer definitions and jurisdictions. The laws should also integrate general principles of international environmental law such as the “prevention principle” and the “precautionary principle”, and switch focus from pollution control towards ecological conservation and sustainable development. 

Importantly, good environmental governance relies on participatory decision-making processes, effective and accountable institutions, transparent policies and data-sharing, strong whistleblower protection, and well-enforced laws and standards. Fighting climate change demands a fight against corruption.