Tuesday, August 9

S’wak’s Amended Bill paves way for capital generation from forests, says WWF-Malaysia

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Dr Jason Hon views such a move as a proactive step by the state government towards maximising capital generation from existing forests, and at the same time, incentivising more forest areas to be kept. — Photo by Mazidi Abd Gani

KUCHING (May 28): The Worldwide Fund For Nature Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) has hailed the just-passed Forests (Amendment) Bill 2022 as one that will facilitate and enable Sarawak to participate in carbon trading and markets.

WWF-Malaysia head of conservation for Sarawak, Dr Jason Hon, views such a move as a proactive step by the state government towards maximising capital generation from existing forests, and at the same time, incentivising more forest areas to be kept.

“It is good to see that forest carbon activities will be regulated in the state.

“They follow the Carbon Standards, and should be part of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) reporting,” he said in a statement yesterday.

In this respect, Hon said WWF-Malaysia had called upon the Forest Department, as the authoritative body over forest carbon activities, to ensure that it would have adequate manpower and capacity to handle them.

“Among other things, the mechanisms for accounting, registration, verification and accreditation, as well as periodic monitoring need to be in place to ensure that there’d be no ‘double counting’,” he pointed out.

Hon said more details would need to be fine-tuned such as the definition of amenity forests and how it could diverge from or converge on the current land use categories.

According to him, the Bill states that amenity forests meant for education, research and recreational purposes may be constituted from state land, permanent forests, forest reserves and communal forests.

“This may have implications on TPA (totally protected area) gazettement in Sarawak; therefore, we may need a new definition for protected areas if amenity forests are a part of them.

“Even the international carbon trading has loopholes such as lax regulations and non-stable carbon trading, contributing to the slow growth in its uptake despite having been in the trading market for more than a decade.”

Hon also viewed the Bill as having the addition of carbon stocks or greenhouse gas stocks into the definition for forest produce to include inland waters.

The provision of inland waters to include riverine waters and the waters of any lake, stream, pond, reservoir, dam and all other bodies of water within the boundaries of the state, is meant as a step to enable the ‘blue carbon sources’ to be included.

“Again, this may have implications on the watershed authority, and also implies that inland waters and the products will now be governed under the Forest Ordinance,” he pointed out.

Hon also highlighted some concerns regarding the amended Bill that must be addressed, such as the unclear terms related to carbon activities in community forest lands.

“Currently, the Ordinance covers permanent forests, state land or alienated land.

“It’s unclear if alienated land refers only to land with titles, as the Land Code’s interpretation seems to imply this.

“While we embark on forest carbon activities, we must not forgo the rights of the local communities who reside or have rights over the land.”

Hon then conveyed WWF-Malaysia’s hope for the setting up of social safeguards by way of consulting the communities, and that the state government would consider giving communities the rights to the associated carbon or greenhouse gases stocks or carbon credit units.