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KUCHING, May 27: While the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia lauds the recently passed Forest (Amendment) Bill 2022, it however raised that some concerns needed to be addressed including amenity forest definition, matters pertaining to inland waters and terms of carbon activity in community forest lands.
The move is much welcomed as this is a proactive step by the Sarawak government in maximising capital generation from existing forests, and at the same time incentivising more forests to be kept, highlighted WWF-Malaysia head of Conservation Sarawak Dr Jason Hon.
“It is good to see that forest carbon activity will be regulated in Sarawak and follow the Carbon Standards, and should be part of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) reporting.
“WWF-Malaysia calls on the Forest Department Sarawak that has the authority over forest carbon activity to ensure that it has adequate manpower and capacity to handle this. Among others, mechanisms for accounting, registration, verification and accreditation and periodic monitoring need to be in place to ensure no double counting,” he said in a media release today.
However, Hon said that more details would need to be fine tuned such as the definition of amenity forests and how it diverges or converges from the current land use categories.
In the Bill, it 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 totally protected area (TPA) gazettement in Sarawak and therefore, we may need a new definition for protected areas if amenity forests are part of the protected area.
“Even the international carbon trading has loopholes such as lax regulations and non-stable carbon trading, which contributes to slow growth in its uptake despite having been in the trading market for more than a decade,” he explained.
WWF-Malaysia also noted that the Bill also has a new 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 lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, dams and all other waters within the boundaries of the State is a step to enable 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 added.
Hon pointed out that there were some concerns that needed to be addressed. For one, the amended Bill is unclear in terms of carbon activity in community forest lands.
“Currently the ordinance covers permanent forests, state land or alienated land. Does alienated land refer only to land with titles, as the Land Code interpretation seems to imply this.
“While we embark on forest carbon activity, we must not forgo the rights of the local communities who reside or have rights over the land,” he said.
WWF-Malaysia hopes that there will be social safeguards in terms of consulting communities, and that the state government would consider giving communities the rights to the associated carbon or greenhouse gases stock or carbon credit units. — DayakDaily