Malaysian cities – a powerful vehicle in reducing emissions

By Gan Pek Chuan & Nasha Lee, UNDP


Saloma Link Cyclist bridge, Kuala Lumpur. Photograph by Amar Syazwan Rosman via Unsplash.


Today, more than 70% of the Malaysian population live in cities or urban areas. People go about their daily lives, travelling from their homes to work or school, cooling their homes and offices, eating, and more.

These daily activities use energy and contribute to the carbon footprint of cities. Data shows that cities consume 78% of the world’s primary energy and generate more than two-thirds of all carbon emissions. By these numbers, cities are no doubt the biggest contributors to climate change. Yet, they are also our best bet for tackling climate change.

The Green Technology Application for the Development of Low Carbon Cities (GTALCC) project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Water together with UNDP and the Sustainable Energy Development Authority. The project started in 2016, with the aim of addressing climate change through cities. It champions climate action at the city level by demonstrating mitigation options with systemic impacts, and mainstreaming climate change concerns into sustainable development strategies.

Cities are a powerful driver for solutions that simultaneously address climate change and advance development. Such has been witnessed by the GTALCC project, who has worked with crucial government and private sector partners in nine localities (cities/ municipalities) in Malaysia to drive the low carbon cities agenda. As of 2020, the suite of solutions has achieved 331,714.17 tCO2eq emissions reduction. 

Currently in its penultimate year, the suite of solutions implemented by the project together with its partners at the national government, its nine partner local authorities and private sector partners have reduced carbon emissions by 331,714.17 tCO2eq1, within reach of its end of project target of 346,442 tCO2eq.

Among other interventions, three main areas of focus by the GTALCC project have contributed to reducing emissions both directly and indirectly, within selected cities in Malaysia: mobility, sustainable energy & waste management, and national policy support.


Moving people, not cars

Cars have occupied the bulk of road space in Malaysian cities, causing congestion, air and noise pollution, and accidents. Given the percentage of time that cars are left idle (95%) and the high cost of car ownership, private vehicles as a mode of transport are often a waste of resources.

GTALCC is changing the narrative of transportation by advocating for transportation infrastructure that moves people instead of vehicles. A centerpiece in this approach is the focus on public transport to reduce the carbon footprint of cities.

Rail transportation is among the most efficient mode of transportation – transporting 8% of the world’s passengers and 7% of cargo transportation but using only 2% of energy from the entire transportation sector. GTALCC has collaborated with MRT Corporation on a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) study to calculate carbon emission reductions based on mode share estimates and average distance travelled by passengers using the MRT Kajang Line. The study provided a reference for establishing GHG inventories and mode share surveys on other public transportation modes in Malaysia such as the Iskandar Malaysia Bus Rapid Transit (IMBRT). An estimated 54,605 ktCO2eq carbon emissions were reduced for the year 2019 from MRT Kajang Line’s operations, which is based on an average ridership of 175,205 passengers per day.

Rail transportation is among the most efficient mode of transportation – transporting 8% of the world’s passengers and 7% of cargo transportation but using only 2% of energy from the entire transportation sector.

In cities where rail networks are not financially viable, Bus Rapid Transits (BRT) offers the same services of light rapid transit services – the only difference is that they share the same stretch of road as other vehicles. GTALCC has supported the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) to conduct an independent review of the planned major new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, the Iskandar Malaysia BRT or IMBRT in Johor Bahru. The peer review was conducted based on the internationally accepted BRT Standard evaluation tool, lessons learnt and best practices. It provided important system-wide design recommendations for BRT stations and policy proposals on key related urban transport policy areas for the IMBRT including on zoning, parking, service planning, and non-motorized transport improvements to be carried out within the BRT corridor. Recommendations on design enhancements have been adopted for incorporation within the IMBRT. GTALCC is also supporting IRDA and IMBRT in an awareness programme to promote IMBRT to the public through a design competition that will be held in 2021 in conjunction with IMBRT Bus Technologies Pilot that has launched in April 2021.

The launch of the IMBRT Bus Technologies Pilot (April 2021). The pilot phase will test electric and biodiesel buses to determine the buses capabilities and demonstrate the use of green technology.


GTALCC is also working with private sector partners to embark on a pilot programme for low carbon public transport buses involving ten buses under MRT Corporation operated by Prasarana’s Rapid Bus. The pilot will explore the feasibility of a clean and renewable substitute for diesel in public buses in the form of 100% biodiesel blend (B100) and analyze the carbon emissions reduction from the trial period.

While public transit remains the most efficient means of moving large numbers of people, very often the challenge is to get people to and from transit. In Putrajaya, GTALCC is addressing this through a design study for a dedicated bike lane in Putrajaya which will assist to solve first-mile/ last-mile challenges between Putrajaya Sentral, the housing areas and Precinct 4 by identifying the best route for a dedicated bike lane. In support of cycling as a zero-carbon mode of transport, GTALCC has also installed bike access ramps at the stairways of two bridges in Putrajaya, which is currently being used to provide easy access for cyclists and their bikes up and down the stairways, ensuring connectivity between the promenade and housing areas along the lake to Precinct 4, Putrajaya.

A cyclist utilizing the bike access ramp to make her way up stairway of the Putrajaya bridge.


Revolutions in transportation such as shared mobility and electrification are already fundamentally changing the future of transportation around the world, while decarbonizing travel and making it more efficient. GTALCC is guiding decision making by the government and industry to better understand the impacts and action points of the electrification of buses in Malaysia, through the formation of a National Electric Bus Roadmap for the National Transport Policy 2019-2030.


Sustainable energy and waste management


The potential for renewable energy in Malaysian cities is abundant, especially when the number of buildings within cities with solar rooftop potential is taken into consideration. GTALCC has conducted feasibility studies for three solar photovoltaic (PV) proof-of-concepts, to test out innovative approaches to utilize urban spaces such as public car parks and walkways for the installation of PV systems to generate power for self-consumption or supply to neighboring buildings, while providing shade and shelter.

The GTALCC project also supported the development of the Putrajaya Waste Management and Minimization Study together with the local authority in Putrajaya, which proposed suitable solutions and actions to help Putrajaya for the next two decades from 2020 to 2040 to reduce 50% of the solid waste sent to landfill.


National policy support


Fully unlocking the benefits of low carbon urban development requires coherent policy-making and governance at multiple levels. National policy support plays an important role in complementing the low carbon initiatives by cities, in support of climate goals.

Together with the Ministry of Environment and Water, GTALCC has worked with the relevant government ministries and authorities, in consultation with stakeholders, to develop a National Low Carbon Cities Masterplan which will be launched in 2021. The Masterplan puts in place and overarching strategy and plans for the transition towards low carbon cities in Malaysia, while coordinating implementation actions required by the Federal, State and Local Governments to promote low carbon cities agenda. Importantly, the Masterplan outlines targets for selected cities to meet a net-zero emissions target by 2050, in line with the global call for emission to reach net-zero by mid-century to keep global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius or below.

Initiatives under GTALCC hold great promise but cannot deliver the necessary change alone. Rather, GTALCC acts as a catalyst for a holistic approach towards low carbon development and planning in cities.

Cities are our secret weapons to meet our climate goals. We must rethink and transform the physical places where we live and work, with people’s experience, the planet’s health and sustainability objectives at their core.


The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on clean energy progress

The Covid-19 pandemic is having a major impact on energy systems around the world, curbing investments and threatening to slow the expansion of key clean energy technologies. Looking at all the data so far on how the Covid-19 crisis is impacting clean energy transitions, 10 key themes emerge – and this article examines each of them.


CO2 emissions: Short-term shock does not guarantee sustained decline

The global pandemic has imposed unprecedented constraints on social and economic activity – particularly on mobility – with severe impacts on energy use. Global energy demand is expected to contract by 6% in 2020, the largest drop in more than 70 years. Global CO2 emissions are expected to decline 8% in 2020, falling to their lowest level since 2010. This drop in emissions is no cause for celebration, since it is the result of a global health crisis, surging unemployment and tremendous economic hardship. Even the flattening of CO2 emissions during the robust economic growth of 2019 was far from the annual 6% reduction required in the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), which is fully aligned with climate goals of the Paris Agreement.


Furthermore, after past economic downturns, emissions recovered rapidly as economies regained their footing. While the current crisis may have accelerated some structural changes – such as the decline of coal in Europe – the temporary drop in energy use resulting from mass restrictions on movement is far from sufficient. Smart and ambitious government policies will be needed to bring about the kind of sustained structural adjustments needed across a full range of sectors to achieve long-term climate goals.


Renewables have been resilient so far, but government support remains key

Renewable power sources have so far demonstrated resilience in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. The share of renewables in global electricity supply reached nearly 28% in the first quarter of 2020, up from 26% during the same period in 2019. 

Despite this resilience, renewables’ growth is expected to slow down in 2020. The world is set to add only 167 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity this year – 13% less than in 2019. This decline reflects delays in construction due to supply chain disruptions, lockdown measures and social distancing guidelines, as well as emerging financing challenges. The majority of delayed utility-scale projects are expected to come online in 2021, but installations of rooftop solar PV for businesses and households may continue to be depressed in the medium term without strong government support.

The share of renewables in global electricity supply reached nearly 28% in the first quarter of 2020, up from 26% during the same period in 2019.

Beyond electricity, renewables have been less resilient. Transport biofuel production is expected to contract by 13% in 2020 – its first drop in two decades. Renewable heat consumption is also likely to decline in 2020, mainly due to lower activity in the industrial sector. Adding to these difficulties, low oil and gas prices are making biofuels and renewable heat technologies less cost-competitive.

Governments have an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate clean energy transitions by making investment in renewables a key part of stimulus packages to reinvigorate their economies. Investing in renewables, whose costs continue to fall rapidly, can stimulate job creation and economic development while reducing emissions and fostering further innovation.


Read more>>>>>HERE