Tuesday, November 27, 2007



Sabah invests heavily in silviculture, forest rehabilitation, tree plantation: Director
Sabah has in recent years been investing aggressively for the future of the environment, while the Forestry Department continues to explore new and tangible sources of income from the forests, said its Director Datuk Sam Mannan. Due to conservation requirements, he said the Forestry Department had acknowledged that Sabah’s annual harvest from natural forest must be reduced to attain sustainability.
This, he said, would result in the reduction of the State’s forest income considerably in the next 20 years.
“However, the future owners of these forests, 20 years or so, down the road, will once again enjoy the fruits of our labour today - our investments in silviculture, forest rehabilitation, tree plantations, and so on,” said Mannan yesterday. “This generation will not benefit directly from the efforts but it will be equally, if not more satisfying, to visualise that we will be making a difference in creating green wealth for the future.”
While stressing that loving the forests and environment is one thing, he reckoned that doing something positive and effective for it, is entirely another matter.
“The environment cannot live on love alone... In recent years, we have been investing aggressively for the future of the environment…love must pay,” said Mannan in his welcoming address at the two-day International Conference on “Nature Conservation in Sabah: The Quest for The Gold Standard” here. In order to attain the objective of natural wealth sustainability, he pointed out: “It is important that we pick conservation brains from all over the world, to share their experiences with us, from which, we can learn and make things better.” Among the conference’s participants were from WWF, UNESCO and the GRASP (Great Apes Survival Projects) team from Paris, FAO/UNDP, the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC), the Royal Society, New Forests of Australia, Borneo Tropical Rainforest Foundation (BTRF)/Switzerland, The Leap Foundation in conjunction with the Alexander Abraham Foundation and Arcus Foundation, Lancaster University, University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), JICA, The East Malaysia Planters Association, PACOS and HUTAN. Manan also disclosed that the Forestry Department would soon be entering into a Memorandum of Intent with the Borneo Tropical Rainforest Foundation, a Trust based in Switzerland, to explore carbon trading.
“With global warming and climate change being the agenda of the world, it is fortuitous that we open ourselves to the market possibilities given that rainforests are most efficient carbon sinks in the world,” he said. On the Forestry Department’s silviculture operations in the forest reserve areas, Mannan revealed that the annual growth could be boosted nine times from one cubic metre per hectare to nine cubic metre per hectare. “At RM1000 per cubic metre for certified timber this is an income of RM9000 per hectare. “It has also been shown that because of management, a logged over coupe can yield more the 2nd time, than what was 1st harvested, and these are encouraging results,” he said.
However, Mannan pointed out that all these efforts mean investments for which Sabah alone could not sustain it.
“If conservation is a global issue, then its costs and burden must also be a global issue. If our efforts shall serve the world, then the world must also serve us. If we have a good story to tell, then the world must listen. The information divide between perception and the reality must be closed,” he said. Mannan said that he made a recent calculation on how much the State Government directly benefits from an alternative land use, in this case, oil palm. He said that Sabah, with 53 percent of its land area with the security of tenure under forest reserves, parks and other conservation areas, would return about RM530 million directly to the State coffers this year or RM140 per hectare per annum or 3.8 million hectares.
He said that this would drop to no more than RM3O per hectare in the next 20 years. In comparison, Crude Palm Oil (CPO) sales tax returns RM1000 per hectare or 33 times more for at least 20 years, based on CPO price of RM250 per tonne when it is even more now, said Mannan.
“Therefore, there is a clear and present danger that if conservation does not pay, then conservation will be under threat.
“One can use shadow process, argue about intangible benefits, bio-diversity ownership prestige, future values and soon, but in a real world, this may not be realistic. There must be something better and tangible. “Intangibles and ideals will not fill up the rice bowl. Apart from timber what then is there? Is there life after timber harvesting?” he asked. Stressing that it is for this reason that the Forestry Department continues to explore new and tangible sources of income from forests, Mannan reckoned that new ideas must come now and not tomorrow in reference to the signing of Memorandum of Understanding between NewForest of Sydney, Australia and Rakyat Berjaya Sdn Bhd.


Conservation: Deal with Aussie Co
First Conservation Bank on forest to lure more investment to Sabah

The State Government has sealed an MOU with a Sydney-based company to set up the first Conservation Bank in Asia to support the implementation of a biodiversity credits concept in the State for more sustainable conservation approaches. The establishment of the Bank, the second of its kind after the United States, is part of the arrangement between the Australian company, NewForest Pty Ltd, to collaboratively strengthen nature conservation in Sabah by providing new commercial approaches supported by private investments. Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said this new approach would greatly help bring in private investments in the conservation of natural forests. “Nature conservation is not cheap. We are hoping to cash in from biodiversity credits to finance a more sustainable conservation. These are the prospects we are seeking to help us in our conservation course,” said Musa after witnessing the signing ceremony held in conjunction with the international conference on Nature Conservation in Sabah: The Quest for Gold Standards here, on Monday The State Government faces a challenge to balance the dual objective of economic development and conservation and the new concept will provide an alternative to support conservation through tangible and predictable sources of funding, according to him. “I believe this new concept will provide a commercial solution which enables private investments to support conservation through biodiversity credits,” said Musa. He urged those interested in investing in conservation, especially those in sectors directly related to conservation issues such as the oil palm as well as the oil and gas industries to check with NewForest to find ways to purchase credits from the proposed Conservation Bank. Sabah Forestry Director Datuk Sam Mannan said there are currently no regulations requiring industry players to purchase conservation credits, but the department could impose it through contracts with oil palm companies when they opened up new areas. The conservation bank is an entirely new concept where biodiversity is valued in forms of Biodiversity Credits which will then be traded to interested investors, said NewForest Managing Director Mr. David Brand. He explained that the Bank’s concept of selling biodiversity credits is similar to selling share to stakeholders or other investors who are keen on conservation. The credits can be acquired by injecting money into conservation programmes. “The money raised would then be used for conservation purposes, which in this case,would be the Malua Forest Reserve,” said Brand. There are two types of conservation credits - one is the credit for investing in protection biodiversity or ecosystem that is already there, a habitat that is already functioning.
Nature becoming more and more valuable
The second type is credits for enhancement of an ecosystem value, for example, by improving the number of animals that can utilize that ecosystem. He said biodiversity credits are currently traded as over the counter product and could be traded at stock exchanges in the future due to continuously increasing interest among investors. He said conservation banking in US already has a turnover of more than USD1 billion per year and still growing extremely rapidly. “We believe there is a significant market from the consumers and people in the supply chain, for example for agro-based business and oil-palm related products. We believe there are also speculators who will be interested in participating in this type of market,” said Brand. He said as nature is inevitably becoming more and more valuable, people are placing higher prices on environment and this will continue to drive the market and create new opportunities for conservation banking. Under the MOU, NewForest will work with Yayasan Sabah and the Forestry Department to get the proposed conservation bank ready for operation in six months and develop a commercial wildlife habitat at the 240,000ha Malua Forest Reserve. Yesterday’s event also saw the Forestry Department launching a conservation fund aimed at restoring forests and biodiversity in the state. Sabah is home to 1.2 million hectares of state parks and protected areas rich in flora and fauna, with internationally acclaimed sites such as Kinabalu Park, Danum Valley and Maliau Basin. The State Government has set a target to certify an additional 450,000 hectares of forest reserves within the next two to five years in cooperation with WWF under the Malaysian Forest Trade Network (MFTN).