KUCHING, May 19 — Deputy Sarawak Premier Datuk Awang Tengah Ali Hasan today said the Forests (Amendment) Bill 2022 is to provide better management of forests and natural resources, in line with the state’s environmental sustainability plans.

He said once passed, the law would see more amenity forests for educational, research and recreational purposes from forest reserves, as well as protected forests and communal forests or those constituted from state land forests.

He said licences will be issued for carbon activities in the permanent forests and on state and alienated land as a strategy of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through carbon sequestration and storing it within the forests.

According to Awang Tengah, Sarawak has a total land area of approximately 12.4 million hectares and currently comprising 7.7 million hectares or 62 per cent is still under forest cover.

He said that under the Sarawak Land Use Policy, seven million hectares have been earmarked for sustainable forestry and conservation.

Out of that, six million hectares are marked as Permanent Forests and one million hectares are Totally Protected Areas.

“From these forested areas, carbon sequestration can be carried out to form carbon stocks and carbon credit units can be derived,” Awang Tengah said when tabling the Forests (Amendment) 2022 Bill in the State Assembly.

“Through forest carbon activities, the state is expected to have a new source of revenues estimated at RM315 million annually. This is based on current World Bank Carbon Price of US$5 per tonne,” added the state minister of natural resources and urban development.

Awang Tengah said the Bill will change the dynamics of the timber industry in Sarawak by enabling the state to monetise its forest resources in a non-destructive manner.

He called on the private sector to support the government’s new approach to ensure sustainability.

He said once the Bill is passed, the production of merchantable timber from the natural forests as a main source of revenue will be reduced with greater emphasis on tree plantation and forest carbon activities.

“There will be more focus on the conservation, reforestation and restoration of our forests in support of global efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and opportunities to secure new sources of revenues from our forests.

“All these will result in the conservation of the forest’s soils, reduction in erosion, protection of the sources of water supplies and preservation of our rich biodiversity,” he said.

Awang Tengah said the Bill also shows the state government’s commitment to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“The Kyoto Protocol allows for carbon sequestration by afforestation and reforestation under the Clean Development Mechanism within the Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry activities.

“Recently the need for taking action against carbon releases from forest was incorporated into the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015.

“For the record, Malaysia is a signatory to the Paris Agreement in 2016 and has committed to a reduction of greenhouse gases by 45 per cent by 2030,” he said.