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Speech at Sustainable Mobility Conference in Kuala Lumpur

This world location news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Political and Economic Counsellor Nigel Boud delivered a speech on the importance of sustainable transportation policies during the conerence in Kuala Lumpur on November 25, 2014

Honourable Minister, Senator Dato’ Sri Abdul Wahid bin Omar, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department; His Excellency, Holger Michael, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany; Mr Alexander Stedtfeld, Executive Director of the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry; expert speakers and moderators; Tan Sri-Tan Sris, Datuk-Datuks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good morning. It is an honour to be here with you today, speaking alongside such distinguished guests.

Your programme will have led you to expect a speech by the new British High Commissioner to Malaysia, and my first job is to convey her apologies to you all. She was very much looking forward to this event, but at short notice has been called to present her credentials to the Yang Pertuan Agong this morning, to mark her formal start in the role of High Commissioner. I’m sure you’ll agree there are few better reasons to miss an event than an appointment with the King!

The British High Commission is delighted to be involved with this conference, and this vitally important discussion on sustainable mobility.

It’s a discussion that involves every level of government, from municipalities to states and federal governments. And one that affects every community, town and city. A discussion that concerns every business and employer and must engage everyone who has an interest in building a strong and competitive economy.

Minister, Ladies and gentlemen,

The issue of sustainability, is rightly rising to the top of government agendas around the world.

Consumer trends are demanding it. People are increasingly conscious of environmental issues. And addressing the urgent and unavoidable challenges of climate change is undoubtedly a key part of ensuring sustainability.

But, we are conscious of the fact that sustainability means so much more than simply ‘carbon reducing’ or protecting the environment. Sustainable solutions have, of course, first and foremost to be environmentally sustainable.

But they must also be fiscally and economically sustainable - affordable to the people in the long-term and compatible with an economic growth agenda.

And they must be socially sustainable as well - promoting social mobility and recognising the aspirations of the least-advantaged in our society and of the millions of people trying to improve their quality of life in many parts of the world.

Cutting carbon - as important as it is - is relatively simple. Doing it in a way which supports economic growth, is fiscally sustainable and promotes social mobility and sustainable development is a far tougher challenge.

One worthy of the deliberations of this distinguished gathering!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must reject the proposition that we somehow face a stark choice in transport between supporting economic growth and supporting environmental objectives.

There is no either/or choice between generating growth and protecting the environment. Because neither growth which undermines our environmental agenda, nor environmental measures that stifle economic growth, will be sustainable in the medium term.

And the technologies are already emerging from the laboratory and onto the factory floor that will help resolve the apparent dilemma.

By embracing them - renewable energy, low carbon or electric vehicle technologies, sustainable bio-fuels - we can not only make progress towards our carbon reduction targets, but can also build the basis of a more diversified and sustainable industry, based on these new technologies of the post-carbon era.

That doesn’t mean that technology alone will deliver sustainability: behaviour change will also be necessary - in the short-term because technological change alone will not get us where we need to be fast enough on the urgent agenda of greenhouse gas reduction, but in the longer-term because other elements of a sustainable transport solution - in particular, dealing with congestion - cannot be solved by technological advances alone.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is something that the government in the UK has been focused on since we passed our Climate Change Act in 2008 - to develop a set of transport policies that will contribute to a genuinely sustainable society: promoting green growth within a framework of local devolution, fiscal stability and social mobility. These include:

  • contributing to fiscal consolidation through the effective prioritisation of public spending in the transport sector and the vigorous pursuit of efficiency;
  • supporting growth by improving the links that move goods and people around our economy;

  • tackling climate change through policies which deliver technology and behaviour that will decarbonise mobility as we progress through the 21st century;

  • and perhaps most important of all, embedding these changes by moving away from the top-down command and control system that has characterised government in Britain since the second world war and distributing power back to individuals, families, communities and local government - devising solutions to our many challenges from the bottom-up, rather than from the top-down.

You will hear more on what the UK has done and will be doing going forward on the subject matter when our expert speaker from the UK Energy Saving Trust takes the floor later in the morning.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Malaysia’s major cities are growing fast, and so are their carbon emissions. Maintaining good air quality remains a challenge.

Cities need to take the lead in taking action to ensure that they are liveable for the long term.

The transportation sector in many cities of the world is a major carbon emitter. And Kuala Lumpur is no exception, of course.

As our cities have sprawled, we have responded by building more homes, businesses and expanding our transport networks to widen the geographical reach of our economic centres.

Travel to work areas has stretched, and it is now common for someone to live over an hour, or even two hours, from where they work (some of my own team are doing this daily!).

This comes with inevitable costs to the environment and employee wellbeing, not to mention the impact on congestion.

The challenges are significant, but I am encouraged that this conference comes at a time when the Malaysian government is acting to reduce fuel and energy subsidies, and pouring strategic investments into improving its public transportation systems.

I understand that the local market for energy efficient and hybrid cars is growing, and the development of an ecosystem to support the electrical car industry is underway.

I am also encouraged to see Malaysia’s own journey into the low carbon city framework in the last few years, exemplified by a number of initiatives undertaken in major cities around the country.

The new partnership between the Petaling Jaya City Council and the UK Carbon Trust established recently comes to my mind.

I am equally excited by the new joint initiative by the UK and Malaysian governments on the Newton Ungku Omar Fund, worth up to 40 million pounds (or 200 million ringgits) over 5 years for research and innovation in Malaysia, which amongst other priorities, is looking to explore joint innovative research work on Future Cities.

As the German Ambassador has just said, we are here to share our experiences and expertise. This global exchange of ideas is vital as we devise solutions to common challenges. We hope that today’s discussions will add momentum to Malaysia’s own journey in realising its sustainable mobility agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen, I leave you with these thoughts…

The status quo in the global transport sector, and indeed in the energy sector, is unsustainable in the context of emissions reductions and pollution control. Electrifying transport while continuing to burn coal is not the answer. Investing in public transportation while promoting urban sprawl is also counter-productive. And of course attempting to change the paradigm of personal transport, without actively managing demand through financial and other incentives, will simply not work.

Let us make the more difficult choice, and look at these issues holistically, addressing the full range of environmental, economic and social challenges in one go, aspiring to a truly sustainable transport policy.

We must be daring, and we must be innovative, and I hope these can be the guiding principles of our discussion today. Once again, I take the opportunity to thank Minister Wahid for sparing his time to be here with us this morning.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your kind attention.