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Ambition gap

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

1.5°C compatible 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.

For Malaysia to be on a 1.5°C compatible trajectory, its NDC would need to target GHG emissions reductions of around 57% below 2015 levels or to be around 141 MtCO₂e/yr (excluding LULUCF) by 2030. This stands in contrast with its current conditional NDC targeting a reduction of GHG emissions of 8% above 2015 levels, equivalent to 349 MtCO₂e/yr excluding LULUCF, which is close to double the emissions levels required to meet a 1.5°C pathway in 2030. With international support, Malaysia will be able to implement a 1.5°C compatible domestic emissions pathway and close the gap between its fair share level and modelled domestic emissions level.

Long term pathway

Malaysia does not have a long term emissions reduction target, although a Long-term Low Emissions Development Strategy is currently under development.1 A 1.5°C compatible pathway would require GHG emissions to reduce by 85-90% below 2015 levels by 2050 (or 33-48 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050).18 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.

While the government projects a net sink under a “business as usual” scenario, this appears unrealistic compared to the historical LULUCF net emissions of 127 MtCO₂e/yr from 2001-2020.2,19 Malaysia will need to implement more ambitious LULUCF policies, that would amongst others, address deforestation, which has resulted in the loss of 278 thousands hectares of forests in 2021.

All analysed 1.5°C scenarios show substantial decreases in emissions across all sectors. Some scenarios show that energy efficiency and electrification will be key in the decarbonisation of transport and industry sectors.

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

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

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

4 Malaysia Government. Report on Peninsular Malaysia Generation Development Plan 2020 (2021 – 2039). (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 Shaikh, P. H. et al. Building energy for sustainable development in Malaysia: A review. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 75, 1392–1403 (2017).

13 Suruhanjaya Tenaga (Energy Commission). Malaysia Energy Statistics Handbook 2019. (2019).

14 PIK. The PRIMAP-hist national historical emissions time series. (2021).

15 Lee, J. Affordable EVs in Malaysia – how cheap can electric cars be priced with zero import, excise and road tax? (2021).

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

17 Using Global Warming Potential AR4.

18 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.

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

20 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.

21 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.

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

23 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).


Malaysiaʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

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
2030 emissions levels
Current policy projections
NDC (conditional)
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 2015

Energy system transformation

Renewable energy accounted for 3% of the total primary energy supply in 2017. Our analysis shows renewables can be scaled up to 14% by 2030 and 66% by 2050 in a high energy demand low carbon dioxide removal (CDR) reliance scenario.

This scenario would require a ramp up of renewable energy, and the electrification of the transport, industry and building sectors. Renewable energy can displace fossil fuel use and support Malaysia’s energy independence. Well planned sector coupling strategies and roadmaps can decarbonise sectors simultaneously, and support grid stability from variable renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind with batteries or storage solutions and demand side management. This strategy would also support the reliability and efficiency of the grid.

Malaysia indicates in tis NDC the level of international financial, technical and capacity building support required to meet its target.6,9,18 Amongst others, some interventions that could be supported includes the scaling up of solar and energy storage project, the adoption of high efficiency motors, the development of a model and roadmaps for electric transport and an incentive mechanism.

In all scenarios, energy remains the largest source of emissions. The electricity sector can be decarbonised through renewable energy technologies backed up by storage and supported by energy efficiency measures. Malaysia would need to scale up efforts to support renewable energy installation beyond current policies and targets.

Establishing clear signals through ambitious targets would improve the bankability of renewable energy projects and increase investor confidence. At present, the lack of government policy leads the Malaysian finance sector to be uncertain about profitability and scalability of renewables.9

Other studies have identified means for decarbonising the transport sector such as improving urban design, expanding rail networks, improving fuel efficiency, electric vehicles and higher shares of EVs.9,11 Malaysia needs to set policies to deliver on its target for 100% EVs by 2030.10


Malaysiaʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020504 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020504 000
Low Energy Demand
20192030204020504 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020504 000
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS

Malaysiaʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for Malaysia. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Reference year
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
124 to 177
49 to 77
33 to 48
Relative to reference year in %
−62 to −45%
−85 to −76%
−90 to −85%
Total CO₂
101 to 141
19 to 64
5 to 35
Relative to reference year in %
−60 to −44%
−93 to −75%
−98 to −86%