A Green Recovery Plan We Aspire For Sarawak | WWF Malaysia

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A Green Recovery Plan We Aspire For Sarawak

Kuching, SARAWAK: The global economy came to almost a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic, as countries impose lockdown measures, triggering a chain of reactions that affect the global community.

The world’s economy has suffered a major blow when most industries, such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction, sales and services, tourism, etc., could not operate for months. Our state, Sarawak and her people, were not spared.

The Sarawak Government is coming up with a 10-year strategy called Post COVID-19 Exit Economy Strategy 2030, announced in May. The strategy shall be based on the core principles of Digital Economy and Environmental Sustainability, expected to be presented by the Economic Action Council this month.

WWF-Malaysia and Malaysian Nature Society Kuching Branch laud the government’s foresightedness to steer the state’s economy based on these principles. The direction to achieve a clean, healthy, and resilient environment for the current and future generations is apt.

It is our hope that environmental NGOs like ourselves be given the opportunity to contribute to the strategy. We aspire that the strategy will see an intensified effort towards sustainable forest management, leading to successful certification for all production forests.

We look forward to greater recognition for and increased efforts in maintaining ecosystem services and conserve watersheds. We call for long-term policies that drive sustainable investments that embrace green technology to reduce carbon footprint.

We propose the adoption of good agricultural practices and policies supported by sound and systematic land use management plan. We advocate for enhanced enforcement and prosecution efforts to curb wildlife trade for better prevention of zoonotic diseases, whilst ensuring our biodiversity continue to thrive in their natural environment.

To elaborate some of our aspirations, an economic development plan based on the principle of environmental sustainability requires an integrated processes and policies that collectively meet the economic and social needs and at the same time, safeguard our natural environments.

The Post COVID-19 Exit Economy Strategy 2030 provides us a ‘reboot’ opportunity. The state can capitalise on its vast forests, digital economy platforms and natural environments to transit into a green economy by 2030 and beyond. This means maintaining our existing forests and increasing their protection as permanent forest estates or totally protected area.

In the first half of this year, tourist arrivals dropped about 59% as compared to the same period in 2019. Nevertheless, the situation shall recover over time. Studies have shown that tourism sector has the resilience to recuperate and recover. Nature-based tourism has brought tremendous wealth to the state, and it is in time of adversity such as now, that we do not neglect this sector but to help it bounce back.

Sarawak can develop a green workforce, leveraging on our natural assets through sectors that benefit our forests and environment such as forest landscape restoration, good agricultural practices and sustainable infrastructure development. This calls for investment in human resources development that support green approaches and technologies, researches and development for sustainable productions and consumptions, and use of nature-based solutions.

Examples of nature-based solutions include afforestation, agroforestry, use of wetlands for water purification, integrated water resources management, sustainable habitat management and community-based forest management among others. Studies have shown that a USD1 million investment in nature-based solutions can create more full-time jobs in comparison to a similar investment into fossil fuels.

A green workforce development can also support and uplift the roles of indigenous people and local communities as custodians of biodiversity and natural resources, such as through their involvements in agroforestry practices. This provides them opportunities to participate in a green economy, using both their local farming knowledge that can be enhanced with new knowledge and skills on agroforestry.

Going back to the root cause of COVID-19, human activities i.e. unsustainable forest conversions have fragmented forests and destroyed habitats of wildlife. These resulted in higher levels of contact between humans and wildlife. These animals usually ended up in illegal markets, sold for human consumption. This in turn, increases the risks of zoonotic diseases passing on.

Studies show that one third of outbreaks of new and emerging diseases are linked to land use change, such as deforestation, with 70% of emerging infectious diseases originating from wildlife. Hence, we must include more prudent measures towards reducing potentials for zoonotic-related impacts to occur again.

It makes sense and rightly so, to focus on a green recovery plan based on the core driver of keeping forests and ecosystem services intact, and to entirely weed out any forms of illegal wildlife trade in Sarawak.

A green economy built upon environmental sustainability must also incorporate sustainable financing measures. Sarawak should embark on green investments and remove environmentally damaging subsidies, and transition into low carbon business models. These will in turn drive sustainable consumption and production, while also safeguarding, restoring and investing in nature.

We call upon our leaders to implement a recovery plan that will stimulate green job creations, increase sustainable business opportunities and promote decarbonization for the well-being of Sarawakians and the environment.

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