Be transparent on carbon credit deal, civil society groups urge Sabah govt

KOTA KINABALU: The state government should make public details of the controversial Nature Conservation Agreement (NCA) for carbon credit sales, say civil society organisations.

They said that if the state was going ahead with the NCA, many questions were left unanswered, especially on whether the state would be able to obtain revenue under the agreement.

Thirteen civil society organisations have stepped forward to make the call amid the latest statement by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan that NCA, involving 2mil hectares of Sabah forest reserve was still on track and steps were being taken towards the implementation of carbon credit sales.

The organisations are WWF-Malaysia, Land Empowerment Animals People, Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Partnership, Hutan, Danau Girang Field Centre, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Sabah Environmental Trust, Pacos Trust, Pertubuhan Kota Kita Sabah, Society for Equality, Respect and Trust for All Sabah, Kelab Belia Generasi Pemenang Kampung Tempasuk, Undi Sabah and Sabah Human Rights Centre.

They claimed there were flaws in the NCA deal that needed to be rectified.

"The lack of transparency on the agreement continues to be worrying as we simply do not have enough information on the agreement to determine its impact on the state and its people in the long run.

"If the NCA is to go forward, there is an urgent need for the government to make public the details of the agreement," they added in a statement.

"We strongly urge the state government to clarify its position on the contentious NCA to avoid further confusion on the matter.

"The serious problems with regards to the NCA that were highlighted previously, still stand today and aspects of the agreement require further scrutiny," they added.

Among the key issues, the group said was that the project proponents have not engaged with the communities which may be impacted by the NCA.

A project of this type would normally be expected to include a robust Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process, but to date no such process appears to have been initiated, they said.

The groups noted that the NCA will operate within 2mil hectares of Sabah’s protected forests as such it must have provision for the livelihoods and general wellbeing of rural and forest-dependent communities.

"The lack of consultation with experts and stakeholders has also resulted in numerous questions on the NCA," they added.

They also raised concern over the NCA agreement that did not appear to conform to the basic requirements of any internationally recognised carbon financing standard.

Aside from the central importance of FPIC, they said such standards require strict compliance with the principle of ‘additionality’ for the provision of large scale forest restoration.

"The current NCA will operate in forests which are already protected – hence it is unclear how the agreement would achieve additionality," they said, adding that forest restoration at scale and in remote areas is prohibitively expensive and difficult to implement.

Forest restoration in the case of the NCA would also almost certainly not be cost effective as the price of any carbon sold via the project would unlikely meet the cost of restoration, they opined.

The group wanted the state to clarify on how the project was engaging with local communities, will the NCA seek compliance with an internationally recognised carbon standard and the timeframe for project development.

They also wanted to know what the anticipated costs of project development and operation were, especially on forest restoration activities.

Sabah signed the NCA deal with Singapore-based Hoch Standard Pte Ltd on Oct 28, 2021.

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