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NCA Marked Areas Should Be Made Public

23 August, 2023, Kota Kinabalu: The World Wide Fund for Nature Malaysia (WWF-Malaysia) urges the State Government to make public designated areas that have been included as part of the initial 600,000 hectares of the Nature Conservation Agreement (NCA). This is to avoid further confusion arising from numerous criticism against the NCA.

WWF-Malaysia is a science-based, non-political, civil society organisation established in Malaysia in 1972.

“When done right, carbon offset projects present a great opportunity to Sabah. The first step towards this is transparency,” said Dr. Robecca Jumin, Head of Conservation Sabah at WWF-Malaysia. Another criterion is the concept of additionality. Not all categories of protected forest are eligible for carbon offset.

In his interview on the “Sabah Way Forward'' platform with local radio station, Kupi Kupi Fm last week, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan mentioned the inclusion of Trusmadi into the NCA.

“In Trusmadi, there are two forest reserves. One is the Nuluhon Trusmadi Class I Forest Reserve and the other is the Trusmadi Class II Forest Reserve. Will the Nuluhon Trusmadi Class I Forest Reserve also be included into the NCA?” asked Dr. Robecca.

A Class I forest reserve is a protection forest, where exploitative activities are strictly prohibited. A Class II forest reserve is a commercial forest allocated for harvesting to supply timber and other forest produce.

Under normal circumstances, Class I forest reserve being a protection forest is not eligible for carbon offset because of the concept of additionality. Additionality is a fundamental principle within any carbon offset projects. In carbon offset projects, carbon credits are required to be additional - in that it represents emission reductions or removals that would not have otherwise occurred without the added incentive from the carbon market.

In principle, carbon offset projects like the NCA must satisfy the criterion that they offer opportunities for its designated areas to contribute to emission reduction that would not already happen in the absence of the project. To put it simply, only forests that are meant for exploitation - via logging, agriculture development, settlements, and so on - can claim additionality by means of preventing such activities that would have been otherwise inevitable.

Datuk Dr. Jeffrey had stated that the NCA will be measured against international standards such as the Verified Carbon Standards (VCS) and the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (ICVCM). The VCS is a widely used greenhouse gas (GHG) crediting programme while the ICVCM is an independent governance body for the voluntary carbon market.

“In the same interview, Datuk Dr. Jeffrey had also mentioned that there were 7 to 8 types of additionalities, one being compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It would be beneficial to the public to understand the types of additionality that the NCA will be adhering to.

"Being compliant with the SDG is a necessary part of a VCS project. However, presently, we do not see how compliance with the SDGs can be an additionality in the current VCS standard. How would this be measured, and which methodology?” she said.

Towards combating climate change, for carbon offset projects to be truly meaningful in addressing the global urgent need to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, it needs to genuinely contribute to the reduction of GHG emissions. The VCS programme requires that all its projects adhere to various principles including that it must be additional, real and measurable, conservative, permanent, independently verified, uniquely numbered and transparently listed.

For these reasons, WWF-Malaysia urges for more detailed information on the NCA from the State Government and Hoch Standard, the organisation that entered into the agreement with the government.

“We urge the State government to share with the people on the designated areas for the NCA and how additionality can be demonstrated. Clear facts on the project need to be laid on the table to avoid confusion. For a start, the people need to know exactly what areas are designated in the NCA.

“We also strongly urge the government to invite Hoch Standard to come to Sabah and explain this project to the public. After all, for a project of this scale, covering 100 years with option to renew for another 100 years, it is only right that the company managing it comes to the fore and holds itself accountable to the people of Sabah,” said Dr. Jumin.


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