Once upon a time the human race was faced with a problem of exchanging an exact number of cows for an exact number chickens. Then the problem mutated and became complicated, because people by nature like to disagree or haggle. So they solved this problem by introducing pieces of paper which was a bit odd because not only they had to ravage huge tracts of forest for it, but sacrifice the ecosystems of both the macro and micro-world which was the very basis of their survival
Eventually these pieces of paper came to assume different names for the role they play in our society such as GDP, per capita income, high-income, derivatives, or leverages. In these days and age it has modernity as a close cousin taking on physical structures of mammoth size and design as if announcing a celestial race for the sky. Or super highways for that matter on the assumption that people from point A are keen to rush to point B and vice-versa, without considering where people would like to be. Or even big dwellings which in this part of the world we call bungalows. These are generally taken as indicators of progress and quality of life in the making, whether rightly or wrongly.
But one fact that eventually cannot escape anybody’s attention is that running the highways, flying airplanes, powering complexes, homes, offices and factories are dictated in large measure, by fossil fuels derived from decomposition of remnants of exotic but dead plants and animals since hundreds of million years ago.
The strange thing nowadays is fossil fuels are still cheap in terms of these pieces of paper because they do not take into account the true cost to society, such as the potential danger to climate change in terms of pollution and green house emission. It is therefore useless to argue for a high income economy when producers and heavy users of fossil fuels are progressively choking others to death, and making the public and future generations pay for their transgression on the carbon foot-print and emission problems. It reeks of a fundamental environmental injustice or a right to life issue under Article 5 of the Federal Constitution.
Consider then, lobbying for some sort of green tax whereby corporations that raked in massive profits from generating energy from fossil fuels are held accountable and taxed progressively on each measurable unit of gas, oil, or coal that is produced or marketed at source. This should constitute a pool of fund for remitting dividends to all Malaysians because the environment belongs to everyone, to be channelled into their individual accounts. It will be a big incentive to solving the climate change and carbon foot-print crisis, if all the talk about being interested in leaving a decent environment for our future generations is to be tested at a level of serious commitment.
The carbon-free dividend payout to Malaysians should be a pretty neat idea because those who can adjust their lifestyles such as less monthly usage of electricity, using hybrid vehicles, or less fossil fuels should be credited for their effort towards upholding the environmental justice of others. On the other hand those who own large houses with lighted bulbs all over the place and meters running like an express train, or flying all over the globe every now and then should have to bear the added cost over what they can get back in dividend.
Towards a carbon-free dividend for all Malaysians.
Roger Chan Weng Keng
KL Bar Environmental and Humanities Committee