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Theatrics and ‘false solutions’

KUALA LUMPUR: THE Rio+20 Earth Summit, which marked the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, left many questioning and criticising the “green economy” approach by western environmental activists as offering “false solutions”.

In the midst of policy discussions to make the world a better place to live in, the United Nation’s Conference on Sustainable Development had to contend with the usual theatrics from radical group Greenpeace’s unfurling of an “Arctic Scroll”, signed by legends such as Paul McCartney and Robert Redford, to be planted on the North Pole seabed to draw attention to global warming. 

Among topics discussed were destruction of rainforest, vanishing coral reefs, land grabs, the need for food security, irrigation, the role of women in food production, safe drinking water, energy access, clogged transit systems, jobs and sustainable development as a way of fighting poverty. 

The Rio+20 Earth Summit, which drew nearly 100 world leaders and more than 45,000 other people to Rio de Janeiro over the weekend, concluded in non-binding declarations.

It can, therefore, be inferred that many leaders from developing nations have realised that the 0.1 per cent environmental activist elites gathered in Brazil are ill-serving the majority of humans and wildlife species when they purport to speak for mankind and the planet.

The Rio+20 biodiversity and sustainability agenda, a follow-up of previous climate conferences held in Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban, is increasingly seen to curb development in emerging economies.

World Growth, a lobby group on poverty eradication, launched a report outlining how environmental campaigners are using the concept of ‘free prior and informed consent’ to destabilise property rights, undermine the rule of law and stymie economic growth in developing nations. 

World Growth chairman Alan Oxley said free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) was originally developed by a coalition of indigenous groups to have customary laws and property rights respected.

The FPIC concept arose to ensure that large-scale development projects consulted indigenous peoples appropriately.  But activists like Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have distorted that concept. 

“They want it to apply to all communities, regardless of whether they are indigenous or not. They want FPIC to act as a veto right for anyone who objects to a development project, whether it’s for food security, water security or resource use,” said Oxley.

“The Greenpeace and WWF approach undermines sustainable development. Rather than increasing secure tenure, it compromises property rights and land tenure in developing countries,” he added.

Oxley explained these green lobby group’s opposition to electricity generation from coal will only force the poor in developing nations to rely on open fires for cooking and heating. It also destroy wildlife habitats, as people cut trees for firewood.

Indeed, more than 1.5 billion people around the world still do not have electricity, or have it only a few hours each day. Almost 2.5 billion people live on less than US$2 a day.

Millions die every year from diseases that could have be largely eradicated by access to more reliable, affordable electricity for cooking and refrigeration, clinics and hospitals, clean water, sanitation, and businesses that generate jobs and alleviate poverty.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Samad, when asked to comment on the outcome of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, said the way forward is for developing nations to carry on balanced economic development with environmental protection.

He said Malaysia still has more than half of its total land area under forest, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves. Oil palm plantations only occupy five million hectares, or 15 per cent, of the country’s land mass.

Unknown to many, Shahrir highlighted that oil palm planters and the government had initiated the RM20 million Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund to protect wildlife surrounding plantations. 

Among conservation efforts implemented are surveys on orang utan populations in Sabah, the establishment of a Wildlife Rescue Centre and the improvement of riparian reserves.

A multi-stakeholder conservation project is being planned in the Lower Kinabatangan area involving oil palm plantation companies, Sabah Wildlife Department, green groups and conservation bodies like zoos, especially from developed countries.

Shahrir said the network of virgin jungle reserves in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak protects biological diversity in small forested areas as gene pools within larger commercial forest reserves or agricultural areas.

He said the Sumatran rhinoceros, which is thriving at several locations in the peninsula, has viable breeding populations in Taman Negara and the Endau-Rompin forests. 

Over in Borneo, Sime Darby Foundation is working with Berlin’s Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research on a rhinoceros breeding programme. It is estimated that around 50 of the Borneo sub-species of the Sumatran rhinoceros remain in the wild there.

“The oil palm industry has started the ball rolling by putting money where its mouth is. We invite expertise from zoos in developed countries to carry out more in-situ conservation projects here,” Shahrir said.

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