Friday, August 23

Sabah needs to invest RM2 bil in its forests – director

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KOTA KINABALU: Climate initiatives based on tropical forest management was initiated in Sabah in 1992 covering 25,000 hectares in Ulu Segama under the Sabah Foundation.

The initiatives are still ongoing, said Sabah Forestry Department director Datuk Sam Manan at the opening of the  international conference on “Forest and Climate Change – Decoding and Realising REDD-plus in the Heart of Borneo (HoB) with specific focus on Sabah” here yesterday.

However, after 20 years hardly any substantial money has come in and this is still an experiment, he said adding that the baseline surveys, analysis and more analysis and paralysis had caused some Sabah scientists the best part of their lives and youth to be lost to 20 years of carbon measuring.

“We heard from prominent world leaders at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCC) Conference in Copenhagen in December last year on how important tropical rainforests are.

“We even heard that penny for penny, kroner for kroner, forest restoration in the tropics is the cheapest and quickest way to mitigate against the effects of climate change but where is the money?” he said and stressed that good forest governance needed lots of money.

According to Sam, a developing state like Sabah cannot afford but to ensure that its natural resources including forest lands, return meaningful revenues and in scale to the people of the state.

The State Government with its self imposed conservation measures must ensure that conservation pays and it must also pay substantially.

“If REDD-plus is one of the answers, so be it but the benefits must be seen within a reasonable time frame, specifically within a set political time frame,” he stressed.

Sam disclosed that Sabah needs to invest about RM2 billion in the next 20 years to get its forests right again which is a huge amount of money for a small state.

So far it has managed to get along with assistance from NGOs such as LEAP, HUTAN, WWF and private companies such as Sime Darby.

But these organisations have limited access to funds and have to service many other projects while rich countries on the contrary are doing very little, he lamented.

“I hope the representatives from the rich countries present today (yesterday) are listening. We need funds in scale in Sabah and you can be assured of good returns, good governance and rainforests for the world to enjoy in perpetuity and healthy carbon sinks,” he said.

Meanwhile at a press conference later, Sam said that he was still skeptical about getting financial assistance but stressed that there was a need to be innovative in their efforts to get funding.

“We will not get any money in the next two days but maybe we will learn something to engage with a company or government or whoever that could help us push this process along,” he stressed.

However, he was of the opinion that Malaysia was at a slightly disadvantaged position because it is considered as relatively rich.

Only the countries that really need help will be given focus in the matter of funding, he added.