PETALING JAYA: Environmental experts and activists say education, awareness and active participation from the community are equally crucial components towards tackling climate change.

President and chief executive officer of Ecotourism and Conservation Society Malaysia Andrew Sebastian said self-awareness and the practice of responsible action were important steps to deal with the issue.

“People are now realising the importance of nature where we can see the public thronging greenery and the highlands to get away from urban areas.

“With the public’s growing interest and acknowledgement of the importance of nature, they now have to take the next step, which is learning to implement a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

“This can include initiatives such as saving water, electricity, using less plastic, using reusable face masks, or even recycling as every bit helps.

“Policies on educating students on the importance of climate change from an early age should also be introduced,” he said when contacted.

He said there were also simple ways for communities and housing development projects to minimise their carbon footprint.

“It can be as simple as separating kitchen waste from recyclables.

“This means the local housing management, councils or communities will have to play their part in ensuring the success of this initiative,” he said.

In terms of new policies, Andrew said it was especially important to protect water catchment areas, highlands, river reserves and natural forests.

“There are also current policies which remain just policies, whereby states have been running amok in terms of opening up more areas or forest reserves for logging.

“This has to be stopped and the Federal Government has to step in and possibly reimburse the states to find alternative sources of income, such as ecotourism and so on.

“Other policies include making it mandatory for all government buildings to be eco-friendly, for all buildings to have a limited carbon footprint, alongside schoolchildren being better educated with regard to nature,” he said.

Environment and waste management specialist Dr Theng Lee Chong also said that education, along with one’s personal attitude, was crucial towards allowing society to actively combat climate change.

“This has to start from the public themselves knowing the role they play towards tackling climate change.

“Everyone knows that we have to dispose of waste responsibly or to separate our waste, but who is actually practising it?

“We need to be more serious and begin taking action on it,” he said.

Theng echoed Andrew’s call towards the education syllabus should also include topics on climate change in order to promote an active understanding among students from a young age.

“Apart from education, the role of the government in enforcing regulations along with the responsibility of those from the commercial sector is equally important.

“If there are unwanted situations occurring among entities within the commercial sector, the government has to step in to regulate them.

“Similarly, all businesses ranging from multinational corporations to small and medium enterprises should step up to practise sustainable initiatives as a whole.

“This ensures a consolidated and committed approach is taken to tackle climate change,” he said.

Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia president Puan Sri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil stressed the importance of society being able to realise the essential role of the environment in society.

“It is important for members of the public to collectively advocate for the cessation of destructive practices, and begin restoring degraded areas as much as possible,” she said.

“We have to see and realise how important and essential our natural environment is towards our survival and existence.

“If society implements a consolidated effort toward handling environmental issues, it will lessen potential disasters while providing a better chance for future generations to survive.

“Unless we can get everyone to stop using plastic, stop driving, stop wasting food, stop wanting more than we need, all so-called green practices are not going to really mean much.

“If all the countries along the equator get together and put a stop to such activities and immediately begin efforts to help nature recover, the effect will be much greater.”