in Australia, Malaysia

Carbon Planet moves into Malaysia

Two press releases about Malaysia. The first is from the Bruno Manser Fund, publicising a video that shows how Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister, was involved in vote buying for Robert Lau, the son of a timber tycoon. The second is from Carbon Planet, the Australian carbon trading company that got its fingers burnt in Papua New Guinea and is now starting to do business in Malaysia. Out of the frying pan, into the fire?

Of course, these two press releases are unrelated – except for the fact that they both concern the forestry sector in Malaysia. And I’m sure that Carbon Planet carried out rigorous due diligence before entering into a partnership with Green Science Sdn Bhd.

BRUNO MANSER FUND, BASEL / SWITZERLAND

8 June 2010

Timber corruption: Malaysian prime minister caught red-handed

Video evidence proves Najib Razak’s involvement in vote-buying for a Sarawak timber tycoon

SIBU, SARAWAK (MALAYSIA). An extraordinary video document released by Malaysia’s independent news service, Malaysiakini, is likely to cause the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak major political long-term damage at both domestic and the international level. The seven-minute video sequence shows the Malaysian Prime Minister’s involvement in vote-buying for a local timber tycoon in the Sarawak town of Sibu.

The video was shot during a recent by-election campaign in Sibu, a Sarawak timber-industry centre located on the banks of the Rejang river. As a consequence of large-scale logging in the upper reaches of the Rejang, the river has repeatedly flooded parts of the town and the surroundings of Sibu and caused severe destruction.

During a campaign rally held at Rejang Park, Sibu, on 15 May 2010, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak promised the Sibu population that he would resolve their flood woes in return for their voting for Robert Lau, the candidate of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government coalition. Robert Lau is the son of timber tycoon and KTS chairman Lau Swee Nguong. KTS is one of Sarawak’s biggest timber conglomerates with business interests in Malaysia, China and the Amazon Basin in Brazil.

“If you deliver me Robert Lau on Sunday, on Monday I will ask (for) the cheque to be prepared. This is our deal tonight. What is the cheque you want?”, Najib asked a 1,000-odd crowd. The Malaysian Prime Minister went on to promise a government contribution of five million Malaysian Ringgit (US$ 1.5 million) for flood mitigation measures: “You help me, I help you.”

The video has caused widespread embarrassment among overseas Malaysians who are saying that Najib’s behaviour is a disgrace to the country. Despite the Prime Minister’s promises, the Sibu by-election was won by the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition in what has been termed the “Sibu miracle”. After the lost election, Najib said he would have to reconsider whether the Malaysian government would approve of the Sibu flood mitigation projects.

Political analysts are pointing to the fact that corruption is one of the reasons for voters to increasingly turn away from the Barisan Nasional coalition that has been in power ever since the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

Media Release
Carbon Planet

Carbon Planet partners with Malaysian based Green Science
16 Mar 2010

Carbon Planet has partnered with Green Science Sdn Bhd (“Green Science”), a subsidiary of Corro Shields based in KL.

The objective of the partnership is to identify, secure, develop and commercialise projects that yield carbon credits.

The management team of Green Science flew to Adelaide late last year to execute the partnership at Carbon Planet’s head office.

Under the exclusive partnership for Malaysia and its neighbouring regions, Green Science will assist asset owners, who are investing in cleaner energy sources for their operations, to generate additional revenue through the international carbon markets, therefore making those projects financially rewarding.

This is done through the process of developing and commercialising the project through the UN’s CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) or VCS (Voluntary Carbon Standard) and registering the project to create carbon credits.

Each ton of CO2 reduced in the atmosphere is equal to one carbon credit. These credits are then sold into international markets and funds are channeled to the asset owners (based in Malaysia).

The carbon credit market was worth over US$100b in 2009 and is expected to grow to over US$1 trillion in the next 10 years (source: Carbon Finance Report).

Carbon Planet will be providing full fledge capacity building to Green Science in the areas of CDM and REDD (Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

This technology transfer and capacity building agreement incorporates provision for technical personnel to train the team at Green Science, assist Malaysian based asset owners in the fields of oil & gas exploration, manufacturing and forestry to qualify their projects under international standards and in provide ongoing support and commercialisation services for these projects.

Malaysia, due to its vast natural resources including oil, gas and forests, is set to benefit from the fastest growing industry in the world.

The benefit to Malaysia is twofold, first it will assist in reducing the harmful greenhouse gases and resulting pollution that enter the atmosphere and second, it will bring foreign exchange to the national exchequer.

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  1. The Carbon Planet press release makes an interesting admission:

    “Under the exclusive partnership for Malaysia and its neighbouring regions, Green Science will assist asset owners, who are investing in cleaner energy sources for their operations, to generate additional revenue through the international carbon markets, therefore making those projects financially rewarding.”

    Where is the “additionality”? From what Carbon Planet say, Green Science Bhd’s clients are already “investing in cleaner energy sources for their operations”, so to argue they would not have done so without carbon revenues seems untenable. The fact that Carbon Planet also describes the carbon finance they will help leverage for Green Science’s clients as “additional revenue through the international carbon markets, therefore making those projects financially rewarding.” only strengthens the suspicion that there will be nothing “additional” in these investments – they will just be “more rewarding”. If Carbon Planet were saying the “clean energy” projects need carbon finance to make them “financially viable”, it might be another matter. They did not.

  2. Bruno Manser Fund put out this statement on 10 June 2010:

    ++++++ SAVE DEMOCRACY IN MALAYSIA++++++PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELY ++++++

    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    Dear friends,

    following our 8 June 2010 release on the Malaysian Prime Minister Najb Abdul Razak’s involvement in vote-buying for a Sarawak timber tycoon, our attention has been drawn to a posting on Sarawak Report, a blog focussing on governance issues in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo. Under the title “Time to Prosecute”, Sarawak Report comments on the Malaysian Prime Minister’s infamous Sibu speech with the following words: “In any other country Najib’s admissions would have made headline news and been followed by live TV pictures of him being bundled into a policed van and banged up in jail. These are very serious criminal offences that he has openly admitted to”.

    Sarawak Report refers to the fact that, in his Sibu speech, Najib did not only offer 5 million Malaysian Ringgit (US $ 1.5 million) of government funds in return for the population to vote for the son of a local timber tycoon but also openly admitted to have bought votes in an earlier by-election in Hulu Selangor, West Malaysia. The Hulu Selangor by-election was narrowly won by the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Its results are being contested by the opposition in a pending election petition.

    According to a statement by Karpal Singh, the lawyer of the Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, Najib’s speech is a “very serious offence” under the Election Offences Act. The Malaysian Insider reported on 23 May that the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) had announced to investigate complaints that had been lodged against the Prime Minister. However, on 7 June Malaysiakini reported that the Dewan Rakyat, the lower house of the Malaysian Parliament, refused to discuss questions by an opposition MP why neither the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commision nor the Election Commission were investigating the case.

    The Bruno Manser Fund believes that, given the strong evidence of his involvement in vote-buying, the Malaysian Prime Minister should indeed be prosecuted and asks the international community – governments, NGOs and the media – to give their full attention to the further development of this serious issue during the coming weeks.

    If you read this message, please

    a) forward it to government representatives in your country and ask your government to formally protest with the local Malaysian embassy against vote-buying in Malaysia.
    b) forward it to the media in your country and ask them to take up this hitherto underreported – if not completely unreported – scandal.

    Thank you very much.

    Your BMF team

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Links:

    Malaysian PM Najib Razak’s infamous Sibu speech on Malaysiakini TV: http://bit.ly/cQ2LKc

    Lawyer Karpal Singh’s statement on Malaysiakini TV: http://bit.ly/a6lPr0

    Sarawak Report comment on the issue: http://bit.ly/9LvPlS

    Reports by the Malaysian Insider:
    http://bit.ly/aMA4gd
    http://bit.ly/aB9P3s
    http://bit.ly/a9eZJ2

    Latest Malaysiakini report on the issue: http://bit.ly/9BI3e8
    BMF 8 June 2010 release: Timber corruption – Malaysian PM caught red-handed: http://bit.ly/bqurUw

  3. Malaysia is a very difficult country to do business in, even with local partnerships. I know as I am endeavoring to establish a number of REDD+ projects for the voluntary carbon market through my Malaysian branch, Tropical Offsets Sdn Bhd. These projects if they go ahead will protect forests from palm oil plantation encroachment, grant land rights to indigenous peoples, and help fund sustainable village development programs. The villages involved would also be paid an annual fee as part of the monitoring plan. I have been here 6 months out the past 10 and am only just on the verge of getting the first project approved.