Low-carbon or greenwash? Award for Penang South Islands mega project criticised for setting ‘dangerous precedent’

An effort by the Malaysian government to further prop up the green credentials of a controversial mega reclamation project in Penang has been called out by environmentalists for greenwashing.

The Penang South Islands project, which involves large-scale land reclamation for the development of a series of artificial islands spanning almost 17 square kilometres, was awarded a ‘low-carbon’ city award for its design last month by the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (MGTC).

A check with the government agency, which is under the country’s environment, energy and climate change ministry, however, confirms that for the project to receive the accolade, emissions associated with its development did not need to be considered. Instead, the award only focused on the planned design of the city.

The Network for Ecology and Climate, a Penang-based non-profit, called the award “greenwashing at its best” and said that it ignores “the glaring fact” that the construction of the islands “can’t be possible without being fossil fuel-intensive and destroying the environment”. To build the proposed three new islands south of Penang’s main island, carbon-intensive land reclamation activities are required.

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