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What is Malaysiaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Last update: September 2021

Ambition gap

Malaysiaʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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Displayed values
Reference year
Net zero GHG excl. LULUCF*
Reference year
1.5°C emissions level
NDC (conditional)
NDC (unconditional)
Ambition gap
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions

*Net zero emissions excl LULUCF is achieved through deployment of BECCS; other novel CDR is not included in these pathways


Malaysia’s NDC aims to reduce the GHG emissions intensity of its GDP by 45% by 2030, relative to the emissions intensity of GDP in 2005. The first 35% of this reduction is unconditional. The final 10% is conditional on climate finance, technology transfer and capacity-building to be provided by developed countries.

1 Malaysia Government. Report on Peninsular Malaysia Generation Development Plan 2020 (2021 – 2039). (2021).

2 The Edge Markets. Environment ministry to develop LT-LEDS for UNFCCC consideration. The Edge Markets. (2021).

3 Global Forest Watch. Malaysia Interactive Forest Map & Tree Cover Change Data. (2021).

4 WWF. Deforestation Fronts, Drivers and Responses in a Changing World. (WWF, 2021).

5 IEA. Malaysia. International Energy Agency. (2021).

6 Ministry of Environment and Water. Malaysia Third Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC. (2020).

7 Greenpeace. Southeast Asia Power Sector Scorecard.(2020).

8 British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce. BMCC Sector Report 2018/2019: oil, Gas & Energy. (2018).

9 Susskind, L. et al. Breaking Out of Carbon Lock-In: Malaysia’s Path to Decarbonization. Front. Built Environ. 6, 21 (2020).

10 KeTTHA. Green Technology Master Plan Malaysia 2017-2030. (2017).

11 Mustapa, S. I. & Bekhet, H. A. Analysis of CO2 emissions reduction in the Malaysian transportation sector: An optimisation approach. Energy Policy 89, 171–183 (2016).

12 Malaysia Government. Malaysia Third National Communication and Second Biennial Update Report to the UNFCCC. (2018).

13 Using Global Warming Potential AR4.

14 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches which developed countries will need to implement in order to counterbalance their remaining emissions and reach net zero GHG are not considered here due to data availability.

15 LULUCF emissions are projected to be -227 MtCO₂e in 2030 following a business-as-usual scenario reported in Malaysia’s Second Biennial Report.

16 As stated in the NDC. However, Malaysia participated in the Clean Development Mechanism and Voluntary Carbon Market, but these are not accounted as national mitigation actions as noted in the Biennial Report 3.

17 Fuel-efficient vehicles is defined as hybrid, electric vehicles and alternatively fuelled vehicles such as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen and fuel cell.

18 The total financial support required totals USD 71,900,000, in additional to technical and capacity building support.

19 In some of the analysed pathways, the energy sector assumes already a certain amount of carbon dioxide removal technologies, in this case bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

Malaysia’s unconditional NDC is equivalent to an increase in emissions of 15% above 2015 levels (or 412 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030) excluding LULUCF, and its conditional target is equivalent to an increase of 11% above 2015 levels by 2030 (or 349 MtCO₂e/yr when excluding LULUCF).13

Cost-effective 1.5°C compatible pathways show that Malaysia would need to reduce its emissions by 49% below 2015 emission levels by 2030 excluding LULUCF (or 150 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030). The implementation of Malaysia’s domestic emissions pathway will be made possible through the use of international support to close the gap between its fair share level and domestic emissions level.

Malaysia is not on track to meet its NDC target under current policies, with emissions expected to increase 29% from 2015 levels.

Malaysia is currently developing its Long term Low Emissions Development Strategy, and could use this as an opportunity to align with a 1.5°C pathway.2 1.5°C compatible pathways would require Malaysia to reach GHG emissions reductions, when excluding LULUCF emissions, by 85-90% below 2015 levels by 2050 (or 36-56 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050).14 On the road to net zero, the country will need to balance its remaining GHG emissions through the use of carbon dioxide removal approaches such as land sinks. With its historical net LULUCF emissions of 127 MtCO₂e from 2001 to 2020 and projected sinks under BAU up to -227 MtCO₂e/yr, Malaysia will need to implement stringent deforestation policies to reach net zero GHG.3,15

The island of Borneo (Malaysia/Indonesia) has been identified as a deforestation hotspot due to large scale agriculture and tree plantations, as well as small holder farming, fires, and transport infrastructure.4 Malaysia should implement policies to safeguard and expand forests in order to reach net zero GHG.

A key opportunity for decarbonisation is through scaling up renewable power and ‘sector coupling’ – that is, electrifying transport and industry. Policies are also required to tackle waste emissions, particularly from palm oil mill effluent.


Key power sector benchmarks

Renewables shares and year of zero emissions power Including the use of BECCS

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A 1.5°C compatible pathway would require Malaysia to reduce its power sector’s emissions intensity by 73-79% from 2017 to 2030, (i.e. from 650 gCO₂/kWh to 140-170 gCO₂/kWh). The energy sector contributes 75% of Malaysia’s emissions, with the lion’s share coming from the power sector.

Aligning with a 1.5°C pathway would mean for Malaysia to focus on renewable energy and energy storage policies to decarbonise the power sector rather than following the past trends and current plans of replacing fossil fuels with fossil fuels.

Several policies support renewable uptake including a feed-in-tariff and the Green Technology Financing Scheme, however the latest Generation Development Plan (2021-2039) anticipates that fossil fuels will dominate the power supply for the foreseeable future.

To be 1.5°C compatible, renewable energy generation needs to reach 73-77% of the power mix by 2030. Malaysia’s current renewable energy target aims for 40% installed capacity by 2035.

Malaysia has 2.8 GW of coal in its pipeline, scheduled to replace decommissioned coal capacity which stands in contrast with the need to phase out coal by 2035, followed by a gas phase-out by 2035 to 2038.1 This would need to be replaced by renewable energy alternatives to avoid risks of stranded assets, high costs and carbon lock in.