Biodiversity: our life, our heritage, our future

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is Malaysia’s Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change (NRECC) Minister, Keadilan vice president and Member of Parliament for Setiawangsa. Malaysia ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1994 and was the 65th country to do so.

MALAYSIA’s flora and fauna, whether on land or at sea, show the richness of the country’s natural resources that contribute to a ‘living ecosystem’ of which we are a part of. Indeed, our biodiversity is not just a part of us, but we depend on it far more than we actually realise.

Malaysia, exhibiting great biodiversity, is one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries because of the high biodiversity within its borders. The combined total of biodiversity in the megadiverse countries makes up almost 70 percent of all known species in the world. In this respect, Malaysia has always been committed to conserving and managing its biodiversity in a sustainable manner. At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Malaysia boldly declared that the nation is committed to maintaining a minimum of 50% of its terrestrial area under forest tree cover. To date, Malaysia's forest cover stands at 54.6%, or 18.04 million hectares, of its total land area, exceeding the country's initial commitment made earlier.

In addition, based on the Forest Resource Assessment 2020 (FRA 2020) conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Malaysia is among the 25 developing countries that have high forest cover and low deforestation activities (HFLD) in the world. Malaysia has been recognised as a HFLD country as our forest areas cover more than 50% of our land area and the deforestation rate is below the average global deforestation rate.

This is just one example of how Malaysia has successfully managed its forest, which hosts a huge diversity of plant and animal species. Malaysia's success in fulfilling its pledge would not have been possible without pragmatic, progressive and long-term development strategies for preserving and conserving biodiversity while at the same time progressing to become a high-income nation.

Malaysia has been taking various measures to correspond to the global biodiversity agenda and is making headway towards satisfying its shared global responsibilities for biodiversity conservation with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF), adopted on Dec 19, 2022 during the 15th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) in Montreal, Canada.

Aligning the KMGBF with national policies and plans is crucial as Malaysia, as a party to the CBD supports the implementation of the KMGBF. Thus, efforts are currently underway to revise Malaysia’s National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) to be consistent with the KMGBF, considering national circumstances, priorities and capabilities.

Besides policy revision, the biodiversity legal framework is also being strengthened with the enforcement of the Wildlife Conservation Act (Amended) 2022 on Feb 1, 2023, and the passing of the National Forestry Bill (Amendment) 2022 by the Parliament in August of 2022.

In terms of institutional framework, the National Biodiversity Council (MBN) meeting, chaired by Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Plantation and Commodities on March 22 this year, emphasised the importance of biodiversity management through a whole-nation approach involving the federal, state and community levels. The MBN, among others, had agreed with the integration of the KMGBF into the National Policy on Biological Diversity 2016-2025 and supported the establishment of the Malaysia Biodiversity Centre (MBC) to further strengthen the country's biodiversity management. MBC is a national centre of excellence for biodiversity management and is working towards the establishment of a Natural History Museum in the country.

Many of Malaysia’s national key initiatives are already in line with the global framework to achieve the three key objectives of the CBD: the conservation of biodiversity; the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. These initiatives incorporate a whole-of-society approach as well as recognise the important roles of non-governmental actors, including indigenous peoples and local communities.These include the Biodiversity Protection and Patrolling Programme (BP3), which mobilises community rangers to strengthen boots on the ground; the establishment of the National Tiger Conservation Task Force (MyTTF), chaired by the honourable Prime Minister, to show the highest level of leadership commitment on Malayan Tiger conservation; the Ecological Fiscal Transfer for Biodiversity Conservation (EFT) to incentivise state governments to protect and increase coverage of protected areas; the Greening Malaysia Programme which aims to plant 100 million trees by 2025 throughout the nation; and the establishment of the Malaysia Platform for Business and Biodiversity (MPBB) under the auspices of the CBD and led by the private sectors themselves to promote the adoption of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and sustainable practices among Malaysian companies.

As the International Day of Biological Diversity 2023 is celebrated every year on May 22, we must strive together to protect and conserve our biodiversity for the sake of our children and their children. Biodiversity is our life, our heritage and our future.

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