The Forests (Amendment) Bill passed unanimously

Awang Tengah shows a stack of documents related to the Forests (Amendment) Bill, 2022 this afternoon. – Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING (May 19): The Forests (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which seeks to provide for the better management of Sarawak’s forests and their natural resources was passed at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Sitting yesterday.

The Bill, which was tabled and moved by Deputy Premier of Sarawak Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, was passed with unanimous support from the august House.

A total of 20 honorable members debated on the Bill.

Awang Tengah said with the passing of this Bill, Sarawak’s forestry management will be anchored on three pillars – economic prosperity, social inclusivity and environmental sustainability – in accordance with the Post Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030.

“The value of our forest resources will be enhanced with the introduction of carbon credit programmes which will attract investment in forest carbon activities. These will provide the state and the other stakeholders with additional sources of revenue.

“The government will ensure that the forest carbon activity licenses under the new provision will comply with the international standards and relevant protocols,” he told the august House.

Under the amended Bill, Awang Tengah, who is Second Natural Resources and Urban Development Minister, said the creation of Amenity Forest, a new classification of permanent forest, will enhance community participation in the protection and preservation of Sarawak’s forests for education, research and recreational purposes.

“Other than that, this would also increase the contribution of forestry to the tourism sector,” he added.

He emphasised that these amendments will enable the state to minimise forest degradation and deforestation whilst encouraging reforestation and restoration of the degraded forests.

“In this regard, the Forest Department Sarawak has embarked on the restoration programmes in the degraded forest areas which involve the stakeholders, to achieve multiple restoration targets initiated by the state and also federal government,” he said.

Prior to the passing of the Bill, Awang Tengah said the amendments would enable the Sarawak government to promote activities in the state’s forests that would reduce the adverse impact on climate change.

“This will be achieved through carbon sequestration and carbon sink, with carbon stocks thereby created. The Bill envisages that through Rules to be made, these activities would be verified in accordance with the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) by VERRA or other recognised global institution for the issuance of tradeable verified carbon units.

“The verified carbon units will be registered in accordance with Carbon Standard Rules that could be traded globally,” he said.

He added that the rules will also empower the state government to collect royalties, premia, levies or taxes for or in connection with a Forest Carbon Activity.

He pointed out that through Forest Carbon Activities, Sarawak is expected to have a new source of revenues estimated at RM315 million annually.

“This is based on the current World Bank Carbon Price of USD$5.00 per tonne carbon with estimation that 30 per cent of the Permanent Forest has carbon yielding carbon credit units at the rate of 200 tonne carbon/hectare.

“The private sector in our forest industry would now have opportunities to invest in schemes promoting Forest Carbon Activities and other conservation and reforestation activities for carbon sequestration and carbon stocks for carbon credit units.

“The private sector should embrace all these new opportunities presented by these amendments and revise their business models, because logging and felling of merchantable timber would have to be reduced gradually to a sustainable level to mitigate the adverse environmental effects from logging,” he said.

He also said that the dynamics of Sarawak’s timber industry will change with the passing of this Bill through the monetising of the state’s forest resources in a non-destructive manner.

”The state government therefore calls on the private sector to respond positively and give its support to this new approach towards sustainable forest management which is also in line with the strategic thrusts of the PCDS 2030,” he said.

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