The Earth is warmer than it has been in 125,000 years. This has exacerbated and accelerated the occurrence of extreme weather events across the globe, sparing almost no nation and causing massive melting in ice sheets and glaciers. In the last year we have witnessed temperatures that frequently exceeded 39.4 degree Celsius (°C) which is considered "dangerous" for humans on the heat index, and above 51°C which is considered "extremely dangerous". With the heat dome effect, around 90% of the heat trapped by climate change goes into the oceans, and it is estimated that for every 1°C increase in global temperature, there is a corresponding 7% increase in moisture in the atmosphere. This has led to the catastrophic droughts and floods that we have witnessed over the summer of 2022. We are in this precarious position largely because we have removed billions of tonnes of CO2 out of the lithosphere and put it into the biosphere. Every year 15 billion trees are cut down, and only five billion are replanted.
However, this change in the climate has not happened without warning. Around 200 years ago Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859) advocated what was then a futuristic concept – human-caused climate change. His breakthrough understanding of the impacts of deforestation and other human activities on the climate was first made in Lake Valencia, Venezuela where he linked deforestation and unsustainable water management with falling water levels, dangerous microclimate changes and biodiversity impacts. Humboldt discovered that nature is perceived as a web, and that its vulnerability was obvious. He believed that everything hangs together, and that if one thread is pulled, the whole tapestry would unravel. The challenge in understanding climate change is due to the intricate mechanisms of Earth's climate, where continual warming is the menacing background noise against which numerous other patterns play out.
It appears that the threads are being pulled off the tapestry, and we have witnessed the full and devastating impacts of climate change in the summer of 2022 in Pakistan, home to almost 250 million people but responsible for less than 1% of global CO2 emissions. Pakistan has more than 7,200 known glaciers and more glacial ice of any area outside of the polar regions. They are melting at the fastest rate in recorded human history resulting in fast moving glaciers, floods and destruction from glacial outbursts. When combined with the unusually strong monsoon rains in 2022, the fatalities and destruction have been nothing short of catastrophic. On his visit to Pakistan in the aftermath of the floods, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reminded the world that the level of emissions of Pakistan is relatively low, "but Pakistan is one of the most dramatically impacted countries by climate change" calling the floods a product of "the intensification of climate change".
YTL'S DECARBONISATION STRATEGY
We fully recognise the threats and risks of climate change, and YTL Group has made a decisive and committed transition to the green and circular economy with the announcement of a 500 MW green data center in Kulai, Johor, Malaysia. It will be powered by locally installed solar photovoltaic (PV), and provide data storage services to clients looking for more sustainable and lower carbon solutions in South East Asia. To enable the sustainable growth of today's data-driven world, our plan is to power our data centers across the South East Asian region with 100% clean and renewable energy starting with the Green Data Center Park in Johor.
In addition to this extension of our data center business, we have also made the conscious decision to retire conventional fuel power plants and to transition away from other future high emissions intensity energy projects. YTL PowerSeraya is exploring and investing in several areas to shift from combined cycle gas turbines to lower emission fuels. We believe in breakthrough technologies and are also evaluating the use of carbon capture utilisation and storage, and alternative fuels or energy carriers such as hydrogen, ammonia, methanol and biofuels. YTL PowerSeraya is planning to extend the rooftop solar PV capacity over the turbine halls from the current 1 MW by adding additional capacity to other suitable rooftops and over the outlet cooling canal.
Wessex Water continues to expand its biomethane and fertiliser output and promotes nature-based solutions to reduce its carbon footprint. In an effort to tap all available renewable energy sources with no negative impacts on the environment or communities, the deployment of micro hydro systems at Wessex Water has generated 1.86 GWh of hydro energy in FY2022 from three locations including Maundown, Ashford and Hawkbridge.
There are still parts of our heat and energy mix that pose significant decarbonisation challenges, and YTL Group is looking at several business models and green products, accelerating decarbonisation and climate adaptation efforts as well as undertaking research and development that focuses on energy efficiency, digitisation, responsible material sourcing, resource recovery and clean energy solutions for a low carbon and climate resilient transition. YTL Group works closely with industry experts including our in-house carbon consulting company YTL-SV Carbon (YTL-SVC) to measure and manage our emissions, price carbon for future exposure, and explore mitigation, avoidance, in-setting and offsetting options.
YTL-SVC has key personnel sitting on the Industry Working Group convened by Bursa Malaysia for the Voluntary Carbon Market formation, conducting capacity building workshops in partnership with Bursa Malaysia, for various listed companies. We believe that robust and transparent market mechanisms can play a critical role in accelerating decarbonisation by supporting emerging technologies, protecting vulnerable ecosystems and communities, and injecting climate finance where most needed. We therefore continue to develop our capacity and knowledge sharing in this area.
However, it is not all smooth sailing and the carbon markets are far from perfect. Whilst companies representing 90% of the formal global economy have signed up to net zero, only 11% of the world's listed companies have aligned with future global warming of 1.5°C. For YTL Group, last year we stated our aspiration to be carbon neutral in our operations by 2050, with YTL PowerSeraya aiming for 60% emissions reduction from power plant operations, from 2010 levels by 2030, and to be carbon neutral in operations by 2050. For MCB, we are aiming for 2050 carbon neutrality, whilst Wessex Water has published a routemap to achieve net zero operational carbon emissions by 2030 and full decarbonisation by 2040.
YTL Corp has also maintained its inclusion in the Bursa FTSE4Good Index for the sixth year in a row. The index is designed to highlight companies that demonstrate a leading approach to addressing environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks. As Bursa Malaysia states "the Index is regularly used by large, mainstream institutional investors looking to meet an ESG mandate. In addition, many companies use their inclusion in the Index as a way to show their commitment to having strong ESG performance."
THE NON-BINDING ROAD FROM RIO
Exactly 30 years ago, during the Rio Earth Summit, countries agreed to a host of treaties and signed up to Agenda 21, a non-binding action plan of the United Nations with regards to sustainable development. Whilst anthropogenic impacts were recognised after the 1990 summit, it was only 10 years later that there was more conclusive scientific proof of human impacts on ecosystems and the climate. Due to the non-binding nature of the agreement, targets are consistently being missed. Throughout YTL Group, we continue to champion initiatives related to issues tabled at the Earth Summit linked to protecting life on land and life below water, managing water as a resource, and sustainable public transportation. As Albert Einstein said, "the world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who do nothing about it".
CONSERVATION AND BIODIVERSITY IN YTL GROUP
In our turtle hatcheries at Tanjung Jara Resort on the east coast of Malaysia, a total of 95,748 eggs have been saved from 297 nests and 49,820 hatchlings released since we launched the programme in 2016. In addition, in the last 12 months, 22,354 eggs were saved from 96 nests and 4,821 hatchlings released with a 22% success rate where most of the eggs were still in the incubation stage.
Similarly, in Pangkor Laut Resort (PLR) on the west coast, wooden nesting boxes for hornbills were made from recycled wood and provided breeding and nursery habitats for hornbills. A total of three juvenile hornbills were successfully bred in 2022, making up a total of 12 juvenile hornbills bred since 2018. The naturalist team at PLR is also conducting a population survey for the Oriental Pied Hornbill in preparation for future population control measures in order to maintain balance in ecosystems. In another resort in Sabah, Gaya Island Resort, our colleagues have identified and recorded a total of 384 species of flora and fauna on Gaya Island, and the Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre (GIRMC) has rescued 23 turtles, with nine released and two injured turtles treated under rehabilitation. GIR has also recognised the importance of seagrass as one of the main staple foods for sea turtles, and also how green turtles play a vital role in maintaining seagrass meadows. They continue to expand their seagrass nursery and planting programme, adding two more species of seagrass to the previous two. They also support a thriving mangrove planting programme nearby.
The rescued and rehabilitated turtles were commonly found with injuries from either propeller strikes or the ingestion of plastic waste. This has further motivated us to accelerate the SNAP (Say No to All Plastic) campaign across YTL Group where we are running ahead of the 2025 deadline to eliminate all avoidable single use plastic (SUP) from our operations. In the last 12 months, more than 1.77 million units of avoidable SUP was saved by replacing plastic and disposable straws, bottles, cutlery as well as containers, amenities and toiletries with environmentally friendly alternatives.
The use of waste in operations also continued during the year in Malayan Cement Berhad's (MCB) cement plants where they co-processed and used 596,617 tonnes of materials which might otherwise have ended up in landfills or municipal solid waste treatment facilities. In addition to the continued efforts in circular economy, MCB continues to extend their protection and rehabilitation of native flora in and around the cement plants and quarries with focus on improved understanding of the environments around our operations in the hopes of developing more effective conservation plans. Other initiatives by MCB include the promotion of concrete roads, which last 2-3 times longer than asphalt roads, are more durable and have a lower life cycle carbon footprint.
FOOD, WATER AND COMMUNITIES
In the next 30 years we will have to produce more food than has been produced in human history. An area twice the size of India or 5% of the world's land will have to be cleared and cultivated to support the world's population unless there is a massive change in the way food is produced. Apart from land use, we will also need to be far more careful and circumspect with water management and use.
Water scarcity is fast becoming a flashpoint for trade, agriculture, energy and manufacturing as precipitation patterns change. Last year I wrote about devastating floods in Europe, and this year it is a prolonged drought instead. The UK experienced unprecedented heat and dry weather which transformed the landscape of the south and east of the country. In Europe, hunger stones have now become visible in some rivers, and one famous example is in the Elbe river in the Czech Republic, with the chilling words carved into it "Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine" ("If you see me, weep").
Our water treatment and supply business, Wessex Water in the UK is constantly innovating and finding ways to reduce negative impacts on catchment areas such as nitrates with the EnTrade nitrate trading scheme, working with farmers, treating waste to produce chemical free fertilisers, and other initiatives. They utilise human waste and food waste to produce biomethane and fertilisers from digested sludge, and are able to supply biogas to the grid, to be used in gas turbines or in flexible-fuel vehicles.
We also recognise the need to support customers and communities during the recent surge in energy and living costs. Wessex Water has continued its tailored assistance programme, Assist, where customers can apply to receive a reduced bill based on their ability to pay. Community support also runs through other business units. Apart from the cumulative RM461 million we have disbursed in pandemic relief, we have also extended the Learn From Home programme and supported communities and our employees in all areas where they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather events such as floods. Over 800,000 smartphones and SIM cards were distributed along with 1,400 online lessons and 45,000 online quiz questions with lessons accessed over one million times. The Learn From Home programme was awarded the People's Choice Award at the Constellations Awards 2022, by Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), Asia's leading social investment network, and as YTL Foundation celebrated their 25th Anniversary, they also chalked up over 500 scholarships given out to individuals.
The culture of volunteerism and charity was similarly supported by Express Rail Link, E-MAS and YTL Construction employees who volunteered to clean office premises and the houses of employees who were affected by floods in Malaysia in December 2021.
CONCLUSION – TIME FOR ACTION
The recent catastrophic climate events around the world might be compared with the massive earthquake that shook Lisbon in 1755. Whilst the devastating earthquake and tsunami took thousands of lives and destroyed perhaps one of the most powerful colonial capitals in the world at the time, it is also thought to have ushered in an era of enlightened thinking and the Renaissance. The Portugese King's right-hand man, the Prime Minister or The Marquis of Pombal, initiated a strand of study that is now known as the science of seismology and an era of free thinking. It radically changed the way science was used to predict, understand and plan for such future natural events.
The point in history at which we find ourselves now needs to be where we radically shift in terms of mitigation and adaptation. The way we employ both technology and science to implement rapid but orderly transition in the way we use resources, generate energy, produce food, manufacture products, and manage waste has to be scaled up and accelerated. Whilst technology alone won't get us out of this predicament, it will accelerate progress in the right direction. For instance, the price of a lab grown burger was over USD300,000/kg in 2010 and now costs just USD9/kg. Similarly, it took 70 years for solar PV to bridge 1 TW of installed capacity, and as solar installation costs have fallen by more than 90% since 2010, it is expected to take just another four years to reach 2 TW. There is no time to lose and we need to change the way we do business.
In Her Majesty, the late Queen Elizabeth II's speech to world leaders at COP26 at the end of 2021, she said "None of us underestimates the challenges ahead: but history has shown that when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope. Working side by side, we have the ability to solve the most insurmountable problems and to triumph over the greatest of adversities." She added: "It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit - written in history books yet to be printed – will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations. That you left this conference as a community of nations with a determination, a desire, and a plan, to address the impact of climate change; and to recognise that the time for words has now moved to the time for action."
The planet is at the same time enduring and fragile, and it is our duty to protect and nurture all life, and sparingly use its precious resources. May God continue to guide us on this mission and journey to Making a Good Future Happen.
TAN SRI (SIR) FRANCIS YEOH SOCK PING
YTL Corporation Berhad