Sabah Forestry Department Exploring Payment for Ecosystem Services for The State

user commentSabah Forestry Department Exploring Payment for Ecosystem Services for The State

Kota Kinabalu, 27th April 2016

The State Government of Sabah is exploring new revenue options for the State through the ecosystem services provided by its rich natural forests. Protecting and managing the State’s forests, is the obligation of the State Government that falls under the Sabah Forestry Department’s jurisdiction as stated in the Forest Enactment 1968. Following the declining contribution of timber products to Sabah's economy, primarily from production forests, the State's natural forests are becoming increasingly undervalued. Nevertheless, logged forests still continue to provide environmental services that benefit all levels of society. Such environmental services refer generally to services provided by natural ecosystems for the benefit of humanity, such as clean water, clean air, biodiversity, soil protection, carbon sequestration, landscape beauty, recreational opportunities, climate regulation, and environmental conservation in general. These services are important for the maintenance of a healthy environment, and hence, sustainable societies. Managing such services, is of course a challenging task, and come at a high cost.

‘Payment for Ecosystem Services’ (PES) scheme is seen as the new window of opportunity for the State to withstand the management costs for its forests. PES, also known as ‘payment for ecosystem services’ is a scheme by which ‘service providers’ are compensated to cater for environmental services to the ‘user’. In exploring this new scheme, the Sabah Forestry Department, through the GoM-UNDP-GEF project on “Biodiversity Conservation in Multiple-Use Forest Landscape, held a one-day workshop on “Developing PES for Sabah: Raising Awareness, Identifying Needs and Preliminary Options”.

The objectives of the one-day workshop are (i) to raise awareness on PES and its potential to support sustainable management of priority landscapes and forests among key governmental agencies and NGOs; (ii) to provide an overview and findings of global PES projects and policy of relevance in Sabah; (iii) to present stocktaking of PES development related to Sabah and Malaysia, and (iv) to discuss possibilities for PES within the context of Sabah together with issues and challenges that might present.

Datuk Sam Mannan, Director of Sabah Forestry Department, commented in his welcoming remarks in the workshop that PES has always been in place. For instance, the income from the Water Department is about Ringgit Malaysia 300 million per year while most of the water comes from the forests. The State’s tourism industry which earned some RM6 billion a year also benefited from the forests. Meanwhile, geothermal power is a new source of income for the State. All these can be considered as payment for the environmental services since the State charges the people who had established the plant, or use the resources for specific purposes.

“I believe this workshop will start the process to define and regulate PES for the State. The State Government has pledged to have 30% of Sabah’s landmass under Totally Protected Areas by 2025. Hopefully, through PES, we can put a value on why we should have and maintain the TPAs. I also hope practical recommendations will come within a year before the project ends in 2018, so that we can use them for policy decision while the project is still on” Datuk Sam said in his remarks.

The workshop was facilitated by the appointed consultant for the PES Study for the State i.e. Green Spider, in collaboration with International Consultant for PES based in Australia i.e. TierraMar Consulting, and was well attended by participants from the State Governmental Agencies, NGOs, private sector and Institutions of Higher Learning.

It is hoped that the workshop has given a better understanding on the PES concept, and Sabah’s needs for PES are thoroughly discussed and identified.

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