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An environment minister’s vision for Malaysia

Nine months after she was appointed to lead Malaysia’s environment ministry, Yeo Bee Yin spoke to Eco-Business about gender equality, plastic pollution and boosting the country’s green industry.

Prominent science journal Nature named her as one of the ten people who mattered to the environment last year, for raising Malaysia’s renewables targets and her tough stance against plastic pollution.

She was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of this year’s Young Global Leaders, people under the age of 40 considered the best of their generation.

Early this year, she launched her first book, which tackles education, women and sustainable development.

Yeo Bee Yin has come a long way from being known as Malaysia’s youngest minister, since she took office as chief of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change, a week after she turned 35 in May last year. 

As environment minister, she implemented a nationwide ban on the import of plastic waste and published a 12-year road map towards zero single-use plastics by 2030.

Yeo, who is one of only nine women in the Mahathir government, pushed for the increase in renewable energy from 2 per cent to 20 per cent of the nation’s energy mix, starting with retrofitting government buildings with more energy efficient lighting and appliances. 

On the sidelines of the 2018 International Greentech & Eco Products Exhibition & Conference Malaysia (IGEM) in Kuala Lumpur, Yeo sat down with Eco-Business to talk about her vision for Malaysia.

The Cambridge-educated engineer turned lawmaker says she plans to work with businesses to shift from conventional plastic bags to biodegradable material to tackle the plastics crisis in a nation regarded as the world’s eighth biggest plastic polluter.

“With government drive, incentives, the right regulations, and above all the capital market, we can build vibrant private capital investment in the green industry in Malaysia,” Yeo says.

In this video interview, Yeo also talks about how gender equality in Malaysia has improved but is still “not enough”, her favourite food, and her one wish for the world.

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