Wong Chen raises alarm on controversial Sabah carbon deal
By Durie Rainer Fong, Free Malaysia Today (2 December 2021) KOTA KINABALU: A PKR leader has demanded that the Sabah government disclose full details of a controversial carbon deal it provisionally agreed to with a little-known Singaporean firm. Subang MP Wong Chen said the deal, which is known as the Nature Conservation Agreement (NCA), essentially covers up to two million hectares of state forest land for a period of 100 years. He said it had been reported that during this period, 30% of the profits from carbon credits generated would be paid to the firm, Hoch Standard Pte Ltd.
“I am particularly alarmed to read that deputy chief minister Jeffrey Kitingan, when defending the deal, said Sabah could earn RM3.2 billion worth of carbon credits from the two million hectares of forest, yearly. “If these numbers are real, the state government has to justify why Hoch Standard should be paid RM960 million a year for the next 100 years,” he said, in a press conference held at the Parliament building today.
Wong added that the purported 30% profit share arrangement to a little-known foreign company with a mere paid-up capital of US$1,000, was “astonishingly lopsided and overly generous”.
“This is a major governance red flag that will scare off potential international and domestic buyers of carbon credits. This deal, if allowed to complete, will also set a very bad precedent for all future carbon deals in Malaysia. “I call upon the Sabah government to reveal all documentation and correspondence leading to this carbon deal.
“This carbon deal needs to be fully transparent, and the Sabah government must behave accountably.”
The agreement, according to Sabah forestry authorities, will not allow exploitation of the state’s protected forests. The NCA’s main objectives, they said, are the conservation and protection of rainforests through the monetisation of carbon stored in standing trees, in addition to natural capital benefits in the forest environment. Despite the assurances by the state forestry department, Sabah NGOs continue to question the deal, particularly its lack of transparency. The agreement only came to light after the media broke the news about it.
In his press conference today, Wong said he had questioned environment and water minister Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man yesterday in the Dewan Rakyat over the Sabah carbon deal.
He said Tuan Ibrahim replied that while the Sabah government had given its assurance, he had not seen the details of the agreement.