Tuesday 05 Dec 2023
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This article first appeared in Forum, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on January 9, 2023 - January 15, 2023

It is my hope that leaders and young people alike will rise to the challenge of protecting the earth from further devastation. Taking part in several events at the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, I took the opportunity to highlight both the urgent need for action to protect the forests in Pahang and the projects already undertaken to ensure the rehabilitation of the forests.

One event was the launching of the COP27 Malaysia Pavilion, where my opening address was titled: “Multistakeholder partnerships in sustainable peatland management for climate change in Malaysia”.

Degradation of peatlands in Malaysia has led to large-scale emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. In Malaysia, more than 50% of peatlands have been cleared and drained for agriculture and plantations over the past 50 years, and a large portion of the remaining peat swamp forests have been logged. More than 200,000ha of our peatlands have been identified as fire prone.

To reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission through the rehabilitation of peat swamp forests and natural biodiversity in Pahang, we have commissioned pilot studies to comprehensively assess the landscape and provide a strategy for the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded forest and peatlands.

This includes the undertaking of a pilot project for rewetting and fire prevention for 17,000ha of peatlands in Pekan in partnership with the state government agencies, local indigenous communities, oil palm plantations and NGOs. Another effort is the initiation of a project to support the development of a state action plan on peatlands and preparing an integrated management plan for the southeast Pahang peatland landscape. Further, we have initiated a study of peat swamp forests in southeast Pahang and lowland forests in the Tekai region to explore options for better protection and rehabilitation of forests and peatlands.

Pahang has the largest forest cover as well as the largest area of peatland in Peninsular Malaysia. These ambitious and multifaceted projects towards better protection of peatlands and forests in Pahang are part of our interest in the state’s environmental issues.

We have also established the Pahang State Parks Corporation and the Pahang Biodiversity Council to conserve the natural ecosystems, including engaging experts to develop the Pahang Greenprint for Conservation, a holistic review of the vast opportunities for environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives that exist in Pahang.

The larger number of the remaining Malayan tigers, close to extinction, are also in Pahang. The state government is in the process of setting up a Royal Tiger Park next to Taman Negara where we have 40 tigers. I have made a personal pledge to protect the Malayan tigers from the existential threats of poachers. The “Save the Malayan Tiger” campaign is also part of our inaugural projects to raise awareness and educate the people about these majestic creatures, which are targeted in part of a worldwide poaching syndicate. This places the tigers as a highly prized trafficked commodity.

I have called for actions to be scaled up in every country to ensure better protection of peatlands, forests and biodiversity while reiterating how the indigenous people and local communities in Malaysia have been the stewards of the land for thousands of years, and their active engagement in preventing and reversing forest and peatland degradation is essential.

If we are going to meet our targets, we need to scale up our actions. We also need to take a whole-of-society approach. We need to engage stakeholders from all levels — from the private sector, the state and national governments, consumers, as well as the indigenous people and local communities. All must work together to achieve the common goals of restoring our forests and peatlands and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

I also participated in a series of activities at the Malaysia and Singapore Pavilions, including holding meetings with industry leaders from other countries to discuss matters related to the rehabilitation, reforestation and protection of Pahang’s forest and peatland as well as explore potential opportunities for Malaysia.

At the Singapore Pavilion, I gave the opening address for the “Youth and Adaptation: Voices from the Global South” event. My appeal to the assembled youth and industry players was for them to acknowledge the rising issues of climate change that will have the biggest impact on the young, and to realise that it is their generation who will live to see the consequences of their swift and dedicated efforts to bring back the forests and biodiversity.

I was blessed to have been born as the Crown Prince, and have a duty to bring my people in my home state of Pahang to a safe and resilient future. The landscape continues to be exploited for economic development and logging and mining. One of the challenges I have faced in my journey is educating people and stakeholders in the government to take the necessary steps to address climate change. Navigating these challenges will need concerted effort from many stakeholders from many different countries and I welcome all the help that the people at COP27 have to offer, especially the young people who can take charge and be at the centre of this process.

COP27 also provided an opportunity for me to meet industry leaders and experts with a view to exploring their innovative solutions and creating partnerships to tackle the issues at hand. In an interview with CNA, I expressed optimism about the role of the youth. With half of the world’s population being under 30 years old, young people have the opportunity to tackle climate change. If we change the ways in which we consume through our everyday practices, we will make a big impact on climate change together.

Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah ibni Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah is the Regent of Pahang. This column is part of a series coordinated by Climate Governance Malaysia, the national chapter of the World Economic Forum’s Climate Governance Initiative. The CGI is an effort to support boards of directors in discharging their duty of care as long-term stewards of the companies they oversee, specifically to ensure that climate risks and opportunities are adequately addressed.

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