Text of speech by
Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis Yeoh,
Launch of Climate Change
Friday, 11 April
Tan Sri (Dr.) Francis
Managing Director, YTL
Friends from the Media
Ladies & Gentlemen
Thank you all for joining
us today for this exciting occasion, the launch of our second Climate Change
Week, taking place from April 29 to May 4th.
When I stood here just over
one year ago to launch the very first Climate Change Week, Malaysia had just
experienced its first bitter taste of global warming. Once an abstract topic
that affected faraway places like Antarctica, global warming came crashing onto
our doorstep with the devastating Johor floods, which saw tens of thousands of
Malaysians losing their homes, personal belongings and livelihoods, not to
mention the tremendous economic damage incurred.
Then, on its tail came the
release of the United Nation’s
landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC), the foremost authority on global warming, which stated with
certainty for the first time that human activity was the “most likely”
cause, that is with a probability of over 90%, of almost all warming in the last
While these were not happy
facts or events to ponder, it did help set the stage for Climate Change Week,
which aimed to create awareness amongst Malaysians for this critical issue, as
well as the serious implications of our non-action. Thus, it was truly
heartening for us to note that so many Malaysians supported its events,
including many who had never given a previous thought to environmental issues
One year on, we are still
in the early days in terms of widespread commitment to addressing this issue.
Despite the undisputable evidence, global warming is still perceived by many as
some vague threat. Unfortunately,
ladies and gentlemen, ignorance is not bliss. We have to face up to the
irrefutable reality of things, that climate change is indeed “An Inconvenient
Truth” that we have to accept and act on today. For those of you who saw the
incredible Al Gore documentary of the same name at Climate Change Week last
year, I’m sure you’ll agree that changing the way we think and live is a minor
inconvenience, given the horrifying certainty of weather related disasters that
await us if we don’t.
Recent Nobel Prize Winner
and IPCC chairman, Professor Rajendra Pachauri stated the ultimatum in no
uncertain terms: "If there's no action before 2012, that's
too late - what we do in the next two to three years will determine our future.
This is the defining moment."
YTL’s commitment to the
That brings us to the
reason we are here today, the official launch of Climate Change Week 2008. This
year, we have lined up a fantastic series of thought-provoking activities we
hope will inform and inspire more Malaysians to play their part in this fight
against climate change.
We have a world-class
business conference focusing on technological solutions; the international
launch of WASTEnomics, a new business guide to turning waste into
profits; a Climate Change fundraising Gala in aid of Malaysian conservation, a
youth workshop for high schools, and lastly, free public screenings of the
thrilling environmental documentary, “The 11th Hour”, narrated
by Leonardo Dicaprio. But I’ll leave my daughter Ruth, YTL’s very own
environmental ambassador, to tell you more about these exciting events
Sustainable development is a topic that is
very close to my heart, and has been a core issue at YTL for many years
now. It is not a “cause” that we
simply adopted, but instead a commitment that hinges on our responsibility as
one of the leading infrastructure conglomerates in Asia.
As I’ve shared on many
occasions, YTL strongly believes that environmental protection is not only a
moral issue, but an ethical responsibility, hence our long term
commitment and passionate involvement in conservation through the years. Across the Group, YTL has been working
to reduce our carbon footprint by conserving energy, cutting carbon emissions,
protecting natural resources, as well as supporting the development and
implementation of clean technology in our companies and
of Technology in tackling climate change
Ladies and gentlemen.
Today, I would like to
share with you some of YTL’s latest developments in emerging areas, which are
geared towards tackling the issue of climate change.
I’m sure many of you
followed the recent UN Climate Change Summit in Bali, which successfully
produced an agenda for negotiation amongst countries, as well as a roadmap and
deadline for tackling climate change in the next two years. One of the four key areas identified as
priority was the importance of technology and its role in tackling
Over a decade ago, YTL began innovating ways
to use clean technology, realising the implications of uncontrolled
carbon emissions into the atmosphere, as well as exploring renewable energy
sources, due to the heavy energy demands of the utilities and construction
industries. For example, as a key
utilities player, we insist that our equipment suppliers continuously work to
improve their technology, not just because we demand it, but also due to the big
consumer push for it.
Given the extremely urgent
deadline (of just one decade) that we have to solve climate change, there is no
doubt in our mind that technology is going to be a key “make or break” factor
for the world.
To illustrate its impact and importance,
lets take our ERL project or our proposed Malaysia-Singapore fast train project
- just imagine the reduction of carbon emissions saved as a result of the
millions of cars it will replace! Going a step further, imagine the carbon
reductions possible and the reduction in fossil fuel usage if clean technology
and renewable energy were implemented across all industries, especially major
ones like plantations, transportation, engineering, and manufacturing.
there are still many skeptics in government and business alike, who feel that
we should wait to cut back on fossil fuels only when greener
technology has been developed to supply our energy needs - which is what many
economists are advising their respective governments to do. Considering the
deadly consequences of such a waiting game, this is indeed a key issue that
needs to be addressed with the utmost urgency.
This, ironically, ladies
and gentlemen, is where the problem presents itself as the solution. Economics may once have been an
acceptable excuse for not adapting government policies and business strategies
to climate change challenges, but today, this argument no longer stands true.
Many major companies across
industries have been working hard to put sustainability policies and practises
into place, and have done so with results that prove the exact opposite. In YTL itself, we have seen firsthand
how sustainability programmes and policies have reaped outstanding results. To
illustrate, I would like to share some of the latest developments and results
from Wessex Water, our utilities company in the UK, which has been
recognised by the UK water industry regulator Ofwat, as the most efficient
operator in England and Wales, for three year
As a progressive utilities
company, Wessex is very much focused on reducing its carbon footprint, with
becoming carbon neutral as a major part of our sustainability vision. This is crucial because the water
industry happens to be an inherently energy intensive business. And this becomes
more challenging each year, due to the stringent water and effluent regulatory
standards in Europe, which require more advanced, hence energy intensive
treatments. As a sustainable
utilities player with a long term goal of working towards carbon neutrality, we
have countered this increase in energy use through an annually renewed carbon
management strategy, which helps offset some of this rise through our energy
To address this, our
strategy is two-fold. Firstly, we have a strong monitoring system put into place
to measure and track energy usage, and secondly, we are pursuing and steadily
increasing renewable energy usage, wherever possible.
For example, we
continuously monitor our treatment works and pumping stations to identify sites
where energy use is higher than expected, then seek energy efficient measures to
reduce usage. More importantly, we
have made excellent strides in increasing our usage of renewable energy from
various sources, with plans to increase in time.
Our renewable energy policy
1) Bio Gas energy
Wessex already produces 8MW
of electricity from biogas produced in digesters – which is 8% of our current
electricity use - and continuous improvements to plants will lead to more use of
biogas in time. Overall, these generators represent
about 12,000mt of CO2 savings per annum, which is quite
2) Biomass energy
Wessex buys cellulose waste
from various sources in the form of wood pellets which are then combusted to
generate power. This currently contributes to about 1MW of energy
3) Wind energy
Wessex currently has about
1MW of installed capacity and will continue to increase capacity in plant areas
where wind speeds are constant and strong. This will be particularly effective
during winter months.
Wessex has about 1MW of
installed capacity of PV cells at the moment. This is particularly effective during
summer months where there is sunlight till almost 10.00PM daily.
Ladies and gentlemen.
Finding new ways to
decrease our dependency on fossil fuels, and thus our contribution to climate
change, is a priority for Wessex, which is why using renewable energy has become
so important. This year, Wessex has
increased the total amount of renewable energy generated from 21GWh to
This is indeed significant
because it equates to almost 39% of our total energy use, compared with the
national water industry figure of 14% in 2005 and 2006. With our targets firmly in sight, by
2020, we aim to take 50% of our energy from renewable sources and eventually
grow that figure to 100%.
It is essential, if not
critical, that companies everywhere make energy efficiency a key part of their
business strategy. The impact we
would have on reducing climate change would be tremendous, and at Wessex, we
have seen how significant such efforts can be.
This year, our total level
of greenhouse gas emissions was the second lowest since detailed data
collection began over a decade ago, which is directly due to our increased
use of renewable energy. Since the advent of cleaner transport fuels, the key
contributor to atmospheric emissions is no longer transportation, but linked
instead to energy use, which now accounts for over 90% of our emissions.
Following the increase in
our use of renewable energy over the last 2 years, the levels of all
emissions have fallen considerably. For example, the level of sulphur
dioxide we emit each year has been reduced by over 60% in the last
With these results, we are
pleased to say that Wessex Water is currently meeting our target path of
reducing emissions by 60% between 1990 and 2050, as prescribed in the UK Climate
Ladies and gentlemen.
Perhaps a few years ago,
such achievements could have been written off as exceptions to the rule.
However, major global trends in the last year or so are telling a very different
story. In parts of Asia and across Europe and America, there is a boom in clean
technology investments, thanks to increasing market interest and demand in this
In a recent issue of TIME
magazine, clean tech was identified a prime target
for the smartest — and richest — investors in the world. Green investment by
American venture-capital firms reached $2.6 billion in the first three
quarters of 2007 alone, the highest level ever recorded, and nearly 50% more
than the total for the whole of 2006. In China, the country unquestionably set
to be the world’s largest consumer of energy, almost a whopping 20% of all
venture capital went towards clean companies in 2006 — double the percentage in
Simply put, we have no
doubt that energy and green technology is set to be
the largest economic opportunity we've
seen so far this century. The potential of clean tech as an investment
opportunity has no ceiling. Even better, it comes with the side benefit of
potentially saving the world, which is what I call plain, good old-fashioned
Given the importance of
technology and its role in tackling climate change, YTL would like to reaffirm
its commitment to pushing for more investments in this field, as financial
support and investor interest are going to be major success factors behind its
adoption and widespread application.
A year ago, we championed the Asian
Renewable Energy and Environment Fund (AREEF), which posted a 28% return in
2007. Today, we have taken our
commitment to clean tech development a step further and are proud to announce
our participation in the new Renewable Energy and Environment Fund, or
REEF, an Asia-Pacific green investment fund that is set to create tremendous
opportunities for far-sighted investors who want to participate in climate
Given that Asia is now contributing the most
to global growth and unfortunately to global pollution as well, tremendous
opportunities exist in the renewable energy and environmental sectors,
especially as more affluent Asians are demanding a better environment to live
in. These demands have led to the formulation of green policies and legislation,
and this Fund hopes to profit from these trends.
We hope we will see strong
interest from institutional investors in this field, as their support for the
development and implementation of renewable energy and clean technology will
have a major impact on how fast solutions to climate change are put into
In line with that, I urge all far sighted CEO’s, senior
managers and interested Malaysians to actively participate in the upcoming
Climate Change Week, as it promises to offer many opportunities for learning.
The business conference, for example, is bringing together both international
and local experts from the fields of alternative energy, waste management,
electronic recycling, banking, investment, and of course, clean tech, to share
their successful insights, strategies and solutions for tackling climate
change. I assure you it will be
very much worth your while to attend this event.
As I come to a close, I want to mention one particular aspect of this
year’s activities - the YTL Climate Change Gala. This is a fundraising event
that we are organising in support of three highly deserving Malaysian
conservation groups: Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), who have been conserving important habitats, raising public
awareness and advocating environmental policy for almost 70 years; Reef Check
Malaysia, who conserves and protects priceless local coral reefs; and
TrEES (Treat Every Environment Special), who promote sustainable
lifestyles at the local community level through programmes like community
As stewards of God’s green
earth, YTL has long supported conservation via international groups like The
Nature Conservancy, as well as WWF Malaysia and Rare Conservation Malaysia. Just
last year, these two groups received individual YTL grants of USD100,000 each
for tiger conservation and community conservation programmes, respectively. With
this Gala, we hope other concerned Malaysians will come forward with their
generous support to ensure our priceless environmental heritage will be
preserved for future generations.
So far, we have received
encouraging support from quite a number of generous “greenies” who have pledged
support to our fundraiser. We pray
that we will not only meet, but also surpass our target of raising RM500,000 for
these three groups, who are selflessly working towards a more sustainable future
for all Malaysians.
Before ending, I want to
thank all our friends in the Media who have kindly attended our event
today. We are grateful for your
support, and hope you will continue to cover the climate change issue
extensively, because it is only though awareness that change can come.
As a parting thought, I
will leave you with an excerpt from the closing comments of the Indian
delegation at the recent UN Summit in Bali, which I feel expresses the spirit in
which climate change will be overcome:
“What is at stake is saving
our future generations. And therefore, it is not a question of what you will
commit, or what I will commit.
It is a question of what we will commit together to meet that
Thank you and God