The Low Carbon Society Blueprint for Iskandar Malaysia 2025 is the first of its kind in Malaysia and, in the sense of its urban-regional scale application, perhaps among the few pioneering examples in Asia. The completion of the LCSBPIM2025 and its launching at COP 18, Doha, in November 2012, are a major milestone in the Project of Development of Low Carbon Society Scenarios for Asian Regions that is sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) under the Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) programme. The virtually no-time-gap selection and actual implementation of ten projects that collectively put ten of the Blueprint's 12 LCS Actions into real action in IM in the 2013–2015 period (see Sect. 7.5 above) are another significant achievement of the project. The project which officially commenced in July 2011 offers many valuable lessons especially in advancing scientific research on LCS into policymaking and, importantly, into actual implementation of the policies. A discussion of the key lessons learnt in the project is thus important and is in line with the objectives of the project under the SATREPS framework, which include the development of a methodology for creating LCS scenarios that are appropriate to Malaysia's context and dissemination of the methodology in the form of training programmes to other Asian countries. This section expands on the lessons identified in the project discussed in two earlier papers (see Ho et al. 2013a, b) and adds new revelations further gained since then.
The SATREPS funding framework necessitated at the outset of the project the setting up of a high-level Joint Coordinating Committee (JCC) that comprises top officials of key Malaysian Federal and Johor State government agencies that are relevant to the LCS project and their Japanese counterparts to oversee the implementation and review the progress and achievements of the project. It is found that this set-up indirectly boosts the government agencies' awareness of, and to some degree their commitment to, and buy-in of, the idea of LCS in urban and regional development. This may be important for the long-term advancement of the LCS agenda in the country, with strong endorsement from the central government, which potentially results in more effective GHG emission reduction.
In order to ensure LCS research that leads to effective LCS policies which are able to meet current policy needs, fulfil policymakers' expectations and fit into the wider policy framework, it is essential that a good inventory and understanding of existing policies across all government levels on economic and social development, environmental protection and climate mitigation are gained, in particular in terms of their interrelationship and of identifying policy gaps which the research should be designed to fill (see Fig. 7.4). Good understanding of the legal-institutional framework is also crucial to determine the form of LCS policies to be prepared, whether it should be a stand-alone policy or mainstreamed into existing policies (see UN-Habitat 2012), which influences the research process. In the case of the LCSBP-IM2025, a stand-alone LCS policy was prepared and subsequently mainstreamed into the local planning mechanism. In the final analysis, LCS research should be policy oriented, aiming at providing objective scientific evidences and concrete support for good LCS policies, which are in turn research informed and evidence based. Such integration and synergy potentially benefit both the research and policymaking sides, overcoming the situation of lack of communication between researchers and policymakers (UNCTAD Virtual Institute 2006) and building mutual trust between them, which opens up to more collaboration opportunities in the future for the creation of meaningful, implementable and effective LCS policies.
To also ensure that the LCSBP-IM2025 reflects as much as practicable the needs, concerns and aspirations of the entire IM communities, which potentially leads to higher level of awareness and ownership of the Blueprint and greater support for the implementation of the LCS programmes among the communities, it is learnt that continuous inclusive engagement of various stakeholders in IM through a series of focus group discussions (FGDs) is highly effective. FGDs have been designed into the research process at multiple stages where research findings and policy proposals were exhibited and actively discussed with stakeholders that range from Federal, State and local government agencies; industries; local businesses; civil societies, residents' associations and specific community groups; and various local NGOs and NPOs. Each FGD yielded useful feedback and opinions that were fed into the evolving policy proposals, which were fielded again in the subsequent FGD for further scrutiny by the stakeholders. Effectiveness of the FGDs is evidenced through the progressive improvement and refinement to each subsequent draft LCSBP-IM which began with 7 LCS Actions initially and expanded to 8, 10, 11 and the final 12 LCS Actions that provide the mainframe for the 281 LCS programmes to be implemented.
As the research progressed, an ever presence of 'science-policy gaps' was felt in
terms of timescale (e.g. long-term versus short-term gains), priority (e.g. economic feasibility and budgetary concerns over social and ecological impacts) and practical considerations (e.g. institutional capacity and human capital to translate research into policy) between policymakers and researchers. While not all gaps were able to be patched as well as intended, it is learnt that having policymakers (committed IRDA officials) on-board the research team (see Fig. 7.5) helped significantly in identifying these issues as they cropped up and in promptly finding middle grounds. The inclusion of IRDA officials in the research team effectively brings the 'science/ research realm' into the 'policy realm' and vice versa. This, to our knowledge, is rather uncommon; the more common research practice would be to periodically consult policymakers at several stages of the research process in which the policymakers' role tends to be advisory (reviewing and providing input, feedback, critique, etc.) instead of being continuously actively involved in shaping and conducting the research itself as in the case of the LCSBP-IM research.
It is further found that 'disciplinary gaps' exist even among academic researchers from different professional (e.g. social science versus pure science and engineering) and academic-cultural (e.g. Malaysian and Japanese research cultures and use of terminologies) backgrounds. An example of such a gap is the initial disagreement between planners who tended to take a more holistic and integrated view of policies and their interrelationship and engineers who tended to be precise about the boundaries and need for mutual exclusiveness between policies to avoid double counting in quantitative modelling of GHG emissions. Research team members need to be prepared to put in extra efforts and time to communicate and understand the other side's standpoint and smooth over any conflicts that arise. While disciplinary gaps are perhaps inevitable, it is found that working over them gives rise to perspectives and solutions that otherwise would not be thought of, thus leading to more creative and inclusive policymaking.
Effective communication of research evidences is vital; research evidences need to be communicated in straightforward languages, readable and graspable to policymakers who normally have very limited time. Furthermore, proposed policies need to 'appeal' to policymakers through, among others, identification of 'quick win' and 'low-lying fruits' programmes; emphasising social, health, air quality and environmental co-benefits of LCS programmes that will lead to potential public cost saving and greater public acceptance; outlining clearly direct implementation, resource allocation and benefit/cost implications; and showing sensitivity to institutional capacity and needs.
Towards ensuring high levels of buy-in from the government that result in speedy implementation of the LCS policies, it is learnt that strategic positioning and aligning of the policies in relation to the country's highest level, top priority policies are essential. In the case of the LCSBP-IM2025, the Blueprint emerged to be the first concrete policy that effectively and positively responds to the Prime Minister's COP 15 pledge to reduce the Malaysia's carbon emission intensity of GDP by 40 % by 2020 based on the 2005 emission level; the LCSBP-IM2025 demonstrates a potential reduction in emission intensity of GDP by 58 % in Iskandar Malaysia by 2025, based on the 2005 level. This translated into a high-profile endorsement of the Blueprint by the Prime Minister in December 2012, a month after the Blueprint's launch at COP 18. In addition, the LCSBP-IM2025 is also aligned to the Prime Minister's recent 'Science to Action' (S2A) initiative (see Sect. 7.3.1).
Another possible reason behind the almost immediate adoption and implementation of the LCSBP-IM2025 in IM in 2013 may be the status of the Co-Chairmen of IRDA, who are the country's Prime Minister and the Johor State's Menteri Besar (literally the Chief Minister). While this may be a given advantage in Iskandar Malaysia, in that IRDA's Co-Chairmen are statutory in nature under the IRDA Act, 2007 (ACT 664), the lesson learnt here is that it pays to have the top and most powerful politicians presiding over the area in which an LCS policy is to be implemented.
Apart from getting strong support from the highest level of the government, having strong leadership and committed officials at the local agency level who believe in the importance of scientific research in good policymaking is indispensable. Importantly for the LCSBP-IM2025, implementation agency level leadership and officials also consistently show deep commitment to advancing the LCS agenda in Iskandar Malaysia and are willing to engage with research institutions to see to it that good LCS policies are put in place. Through this, IM gets the benefits of having high-quality research backing of its LCS policy from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, with strong expertise and technical support from Kyoto University, NIES and Okayama University.
Lastly, what worked well in Iskandar Malaysia may not necessarily work equally well in other urban regions. It is hoped that this sharing of lessons learnt in carrying LCS research through into policies and on-the-ground implementation, nonetheless, offers useful initial reference points for possible replication and/or adaptation in other countries or urban regions aiming to pursue a similar sustainable, low carbon growth path. No two urban regions or cities are the same; each will have to carve out its own model of LCS in relation to its specific economic, sociocultural, ecological and legal-institutional contexts. What is clearly evidenced by the successes of the LCSBP-IM2025 thus far is that developing countries, subject to adequate international funding and research and technological assistance from developed nations, and with good synergy between highly committed local research institutions and policymakers, are capable of crafting and putting in place implementable low carbon society policies that will eventually contribute to mitigating global climate change through real cuts in GHG emissions while still achieving a desired level of economic growth.