KOTA KINABALU: WWF Malaysia is voicing "grave concern" over the Sabah Nature Conservation Agreement (NCA) for carbon trading, and wants the state to relook the deal's terms and conditions with Singapore and Australia-linked companies.
WWF Malaysia conservation director Dr Henry Chan (pic) said close scrutiny into the terms for the 100-year carbon trading deal must ensure that it adheres to existing protocols and safeguards for all affected parties, especially native communities.
"A free, prior, and informed stakeholder consultation should be held prior to the signing of the agreement, and not only during its implementation," he said in a statement issued here Tuesday.
While commending the state government's commitment to strengthen the protection of Sabah's Totally Protected Areas (TPA), Chan said that there were many questions about the deal signed by the state last week.
“Is the deal limited to just carbon? How will the deal impact future socio-economic activities in Sabah? These are questions that have just scratched the surface but answers to which are crucial in order to fully understand what we are getting ourselves into,” Chan said.
“The need for a transparent proposal and clearly negotiated social and environmental safeguards is nowhere as pivotal as it is here, as we potentially hold the key to an emergent global commodity that will likely empower our fight against climate change.
"However, we need to ensure that we are not locked into an agreement that will adversely impact nature or its people,” Chan said.
He said Sabah’s commitment to 50% forest cover and 30% totally protected area is vital for biodiversity conservation in the state as forests provide for watershed protection, prevent soil erosion, and mitigate climate change.
“Adding another layer of protection to our invaluable forests through carbon trading is a step in the right direction. But this step must be taken properly through appropriate channels,” added Chan.
In line with this, he said WWF calls for inclusive conservation - where communities’ rights to decide how to manage their land are recognised and protected.
Chan said that it was important for a sound agreement framework to be well negotiated.
He said that activities falling under the NCA such as carbon trading and pricing and the subsequent distribution of funds should adhere to protocols and that these should be factored into an overall framework of combating climate change.
“It is important to note that Sabah, with its forest policies of 50% forest cover and 30% TPA make the State an extremely attractive destination for carbon financing and that the State can stand to benefit greatly.
"The carbon market is now highly in demand and carbon price is set to increase as the world comes to a consensus on the need to decarbonise power and transportation, in line with the recent COP26 (United Nations climate change conference 2021) and Malaysia’s commitment under its RMK12.
“Costly restoration works for landscapes that are degraded and deforested can also be paid for by a carbon financing scheme,” added Chan.
Clearer details on carbon trading and pricing should be made available, he said, adding that carbon prices should be made attractive enough to incentivise farmers to restore their plantations into forest.
WWF also said the state should ensure that there will be a fair and equitable benefit sharing arrangement for everyone involved over the long term.
"This is especially critical for a multi-generational agreement that spans over 100 years, such as this agreement.
“For conservation efforts to be sustainable, both nature and people must benefit. The only way this can be achieved is if all the available protocols and safeguards are put in place and adhered to," Chan added.