Landmark environment preservation efforts

If we wait for the meek to inherit the earth there won’t be anything left to inherit.

Bob Hunter, Canadian environmentalist

This week, the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) has passed two Bills – namely the Land Code (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Forests (Amendment) Bill, 2022.

In a sense, the two Bills marked a milestone in the environment preservation efforts by the Sarawak government.

It’s a multi-pronged legislation – one is to regulate carbon storage under the land, stored in reservoirs along with introducing a more comprehensive definition to “land”.

This brings the State Land Code in line with the National Land Code, modernising the laws in Sarawak, safeguarding our grip on land as per the State Land Code.

The existing definition of “land” includes things attached to the earth or permanently fastened to anything attached to the earth. This is expanded upon.

In interpretation, the amendment ensures that Sarawak’s rights are safeguarded in the event that a third-party, or the federal government intends to lay claim to matters that are not covered under “land” in the Land Code.

It also ensures that current or future resources that are covered under “land” are within the ambit of the state government’s control – such as rock materials, minerals and other substances under the earth’s surface.

Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg has in the past indicated that his government intends to explore other mineral resources such as silica sand, rare earth elements (REE) and kaolin clay to further develop downstream activities in the mining sector.

It is foreseeable that with this piece of legislation, it enables them to pave the way towards the endeavour.

One can also predict that Sarawak will possibly benefit from non-radioactive rare earth elements (NR-REE) given its high demand.

NR-REE is a base component for the manufacturing of high technology devices such as smartphones, computers and televisions.

Meanwhile the Forests (Amendment) Bill, 2022 seeks to amend the Forests Ordinance, 2015 to enact new provisions, improving forests management.

The salient point from this Bill is that it enables forest carbon activity to be carried out in permanent forests over state land and alienated land with the intent of creating carbon stocks and carbon credit units.

These stocks and units are verified under Carbon Standard Rules which are recognised globally, in line with universal efforts to reduce the adverse impact of climate change.

Today, carbon trading has been a lucrative business with carbon credits – an allowance for a company holding the credit to emit carbon emissions of greenhouse gases being transacted.

A single credit equals one ton of carbon dioxide to be emitted or the mass equivalent to carbon dioxide for other gases.

Verified carbon credit units allow forests to be monetised – generating another revenue source for the state. Every tree in the forest counts and with our vast forests, the income could be substantial.

With the passing of both Bills, it is a continuation of Sarawak’s move towards preserving the environment – an effort which was previously initiated by the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem and now being continued and enhanced to a greater effect by Abang Johari.

Environmental preservation now is global concern where its adverse effects will impact our generation.

Carbon trading is a possible solution to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide and it has been around for some time.

It means that those who were able to limit their emissions could trade their credits with those who don’t.

With the Bill, it would treat carbon credit as a commodity – meaning it is one of the resources that we have and the fund it generates will go a long way in boosting Sarawak’s development.

This is also in tandem with the Post COVID-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030 through practising sustainable management and conservation in the forestry sector

In a nutshell, it provides a financial incentive to preserve the environment – this is key.

For Sarawak, while it could reap from a windfall in terms of carbon credit sale, what is more important is that it is doing its part in saving the world.

And on the back of the Premier’s trip to Rotterdam, Netherlands where Sarawak showed the way to the world in terms of sustainable energy production, this legislation has far-reaching effects and is vital for the state’s future.

The net-zero carbon emission future is no longer a farfetched possibility. It is within reach starting with Sarawak.

The future of Sarawak – and by extension, Malaysia – is bright and we have the state government to thank for accelerating preservation efforts in true Sarawakian style.

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