Text of speech by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, CBE
YTL Corporation Berhad
Climate Change Week 2008
Climate Change Gala
JW Marriott Hotel
3 May 2008
Tan Sri Francis Yeoh
Managing Director, YTL Corporation Berhad
· Yang Bahagia Datuk Suboh bin Mohamad Yasin, Secretary General, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment
· Dato-Dato, Datin-Datin
· Members of the media
· Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for being here tonight for this very special occasion, the first YTL Climate Change Gala held in conjunction with Climate Change Week 2008.
One year ago, YTL embarked on the first Climate Change Week to create awareness for this critical issue. At the time, awareness on the issue was relatively low; with many detractors arguing that climate change was a normal part of nature and a false threat.
Then came the landmark UN report in end 2006, which confirmed once and for all, that not only was climate change a direct result of man’s abuse of the environment.
When you consider the environment degradation that has occurred to date, together with the unparalleled population growth of the last few decades, it is clear that we are now facing something more than just a crisis of the environment. With unchecked economic development causing fast depleting natural resources like water, land and fossil fuels, the real issue at hand has become one of human survival on this planet.
Indeed, living in our modern man-made society, it is easy to understand how we have become so disconnected from Nature, putting humankind’s needs above all other living creatures who share our planet. However, the stark reality is that the health of our natural environment has got everything to do with us, specifically our own survival as a species.
Due to mankind’s thoughtless and uncontrolled destruction of the environment, we are now facing unprecedented rates of extinction than ever before. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), we are facing extinction crises, losing around 55,000 species each year. The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a five-year study by 1400 experts worldwide on consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being, also concluded with scientific certainty that every single ecosystem on the planet, such as oceans, lakes and rivers, forests, and biodiversity, were not only endangered, but actually in serious decline.
Ladies and gentlemen.
In our haste for economic progress, we have discounted Nature’s gift of life to us, as well as the perfection of its design. If a humble spider can create a substance that, ounce for ounce, is 5 times stronger than steel, clearly we should be humbled by Nature’s wisdom, and strive to protect God’s creations.
Let us be reminded of all the priceless services that Nature performs for us for free, such as pollinating flowers, or absorbing CO2 and providing us with oxygen. Bearing in mind that we depend on Nature’s services for our very existence, it is astounding how we not only take it for granted, but also deem it irrelevant in our everyday lives.
In considering how Nature does twice as much for us than all the global economies combined, it is nothing short of negligence how its value is not factored into the modern economic equation.
As a leading construction conglomerate in Asia, we are proud that YTL has long been in support of conservation and environmental protection. Psalm 24 verse 1 of the Bible says “The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it”, which speaks clearly of our spiritual, ethical and moral obligation towards the environment.
As a long time member of The Nature Conservancy, one of the largest conservation groups in the world committed to protecting nature's most precious ecosystems, I had the privilege of working alongside people like US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr., to strategise, build partnerships and projects, as well as open doors to resources. In fact, YTL recently donated US$500,000 to support conservation efforts on forest protection and on coral reef conservation in South East Asia, primarily Indonesia.
And just last year, YTL awarded WWF-Malaysia and Rare Conservation individual YTL grants of US$100,000 each for tiger conservation and community conservation programmes, respectively. These two groups work closely with local communities, as well as local governments to help conserve precious habitats and to help communities co-exist peacefully with wildlife.
This year, we decided to extend our passion for conservation by hosting the first ever YTL Climate Change Gala in support of three highly deserving local Malaysian conservation groups, namely:
- Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), who have been conserving important habitats, raising public awareness for climate change, and advocating environmental policy for almost 70 years;
- Reef Check Malaysia, an international conservation group who conserves and protects priceless local coral reefs; and lastly,
- TrEES (Treat Every Environment Special), a local conservation group who has been working on community recycling, environmental education, climate change, and conservation programmes for 13 years.
I have learnt often that the shortest distance between a problem and a solution is the distance between your knees and the floor. Tonight our prayers are indeed answered.
With this Gala, we have invited other concerned corporates, institutions and individuals to be part of the solution, by supporting important local conservation to ensure our priceless environmental heritage will be preserved for future generations. And your support has been overwhelming.
At this juncture, therefore I want to extend my deepest thanks on behalf of YTL to all the generous sponsors and supporters who have made this night possible through their contributions. I am proud to say that together, we have managed to meet our fundraising target of over RM500,000 through table sales and special donations alone! I would like to point out that a full 100% of all proceeds of the silent auction, as well as table sales, will all be donated to these 3 groups. I hope all of you will support the silent auction fully, as you will be supporting these passionate conservationists who are selflessly working towards a more sustainable future for all Malaysians.
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is clear we have been given a great gift by God, in the bountiful blessed life He has created especially for our happiness. Thus, the fundamental call of humankind, whatever our individual religious or personal beliefs are, is to promote the welfare of all creation.
I pray that each and everyone of us will use our God given talents, abilities and conscience, to do the right thing in being responsible for our actions towards the environment. If not for ourselves, then for our children and grandchildren, who will have to live in the world we have left for them.
I have faith that God will guide each and everyone of us to do the right thing and to protect His creations the best we can, keeping in mind also that humankind is his beloved creation.
Once again, we thank you wholeheartedly for your kindness and generosity, in supporting this important initiative on Earth’s stewardship. I thank you for your hearts as they are enlarged tonight. Your enlarged hearts will I am sure enable you to contain more happiness and joy as it has mine.
Thank you and God bless you.