The Malaysia Pavilion was officially declared open today by the Minister of the Natural Resources and Environment (NRE), YB Dato Sri Dr Haji Wan Junaidi. The event was also graced by the presence of many VIPs which included Malaysia’s Ambassador to Morocco, Dato’ Jamal bin Hassan. 14th of November, 2016 was named UN REDD+ Day (the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) at the Malaysia Pavilion and many sessions were conducted under the said topic.
The Minister also launched the ‘Report on Summary of Information on How REDD+ Safeguards are Addressed and Respected in Malaysia’. International rules of REDD+ were formulated through the Warsaw Framework. The program refers to national forest monitoring systems, results-based financing and reference levels. The program promotes rights of indigenous people and forests dependent communities as well.
Malaysia boasts of 70% forest cover (more than two-thirds of its land area), one of the highest recorded in the region. The Malaysian government successfully lobbied to include oil palm and rubber plantations to be classified as ‘forest’. This was accepted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). These plantation areas are classified as ‘Permanent Forest Estate’, which is very misleading to the public. The natural ecosystems and forest habitat available in Malaysia are in fact much less than the claimed 70%. The country is left with approximately 50% primary forest cover, and these forest patches remain fragmented. Monocrop plantation corporates keep lurking around these fragmented forest patches. The more monocrop plantations that spring up, the higher the forest cover of Malaysia will be according to the current statistics.
Trees store carbon acting as a carbon sink. When deforestation occurs, the carbon that is stored in trees is released into the atmosphere. Deforestation that takes place in tropical areas contributed to approximately 15% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Peatlands and forests across the tropics are cleared for monocrop plantations. Malaysia has in recent years taken many initiatives to promote sustainable forestry. Mangrove and peat forest management efforts taken by Malaysia in some states are in fact, noteworthy. However, mass scale clearcutting of peatlands still occurs in Malaysia despite efforts of the UN REDD+ implementation.
The UN REDD+ was adopted to the COP agenda in the context of climate change mitigation. Developing countries whose Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) focus mostly on climate change adaptation, should take initiatives to implement the REDD+ program to tackle mitigation. REDD+ was acknowledged as a core part of a new international climate change regime at COP21 in Paris last year. The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) informal consultations at COP22 referred to REDD+ for maintenance of forest carbon stocks. Malaysia is on the right track in terms of REDD+. However, there is a long way to go to ensure Malaysia’s tropical forests safety for maintaining lower emissions.
The Minister stressed on Malaysia’s commitment to ensuring sustainable forest conservation was quoted saying “Malaysia has an ambitious REDD+ strategy to address the holistic forest management requirement and looks forward to accessing the international finance and support required for its successful implementation”.
Written by Dulanga Witharanage
Edited by Choy Moon Moon