REDD+ projects 0
Other readiness initiatives 5
Forest cover High
Deforestation rate Low


REDD in Malaysia

Located in South East Asia, Malaysia is comprised of Peninsular Malaysia, the two Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan on the island of Borneo (NRE, 2011). The country is endowed with lush tropical rainforests and complex ecosystems and is considered one of the world’s mega-diverse countries as it is ranked twelfth in the world on the National Biodiversity Index (NRE, 2011). The physical environment of Malaysia ranges from tropical rainforests to coastal plains and mountain areas, of which several National Parks (Taman Negara) are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ASEAN Heritage Sites and Ramsar Sites (NRE, 2011).

Malaysia has experienced loss in forest areas since the 1970’s, resulting in fragmentation of forests (NPP, 2010). According to Malaysia’s Second National Communication to the UNFCCC, 56% of the country was covered in forests in 2000 and 55% remained covered by 2007 (NRE, 2011) and forest cover in 2012 is estimated to be closer to 53%. These figures include permanent reserve forests, state land forests, national parks and wildlife and bird sanctuaries (NRE, 2011). Out of the total forested area in Malaysia equalling 18.3 million hectares, Sarawak has 8.07 million hectares, Sabah has 4.36 million hectares and Peninsular Malaysia has 5.87 million hectares (NRE, 2011). Statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, reports that national forest and tree cover in 2010 equals 62% of the total land area (FAO, 2011). 

The Federation of Malaysia was formed in 1963, consisting of eleven states in Peninsular Malaysia and the two federal states of Sabah and Sarawak. In accordance to the Federal Constitution, land and forestry matters are a matter of the respective states, and each Federal Government has autonomy over their forest resources (NRE, 2011). Forest management started in Malaysia as early as the 1900s, and Malaysia has since improved and refined the system to incorporate selective and sustainable forest management in their forestry practices. In developing a national REDD+ process, the national government will provide policy guidance while the management and implementation of REDD+ activities would occur at the federal and state government level. The decentralised management of forest resources has been identified as a potential challenge for implementing REDD+ in Malaysia. 

Malaysia signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in June 1993 and has ratified the Convention since 1994. Malaysia continues to engage with the UNFCCC process and submitted two papers in 2011 on financing and methodological guidance for REDD+. At the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, Malaysia had also previously made a pledge to maintain at least 50 per cent of perpetual forest and tree cover, and this commitment was reiterated at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Copenhagen in 2009. Malaysia has also made a pledge to voluntarily reduce carbon intensity by 40 per cent by the year 2020 compared to 2005 levels (NRE, 2011). Malaysia is involved in other international climate change and REDD+ related initiatives, including having signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, and participates as an observer country to the UN-REDD Programme. Malaysia is not yet part of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), however plans to apply for the next round as a country recipient.

At the national level, Malaysia has begun to develop a National REDD+ Strategy, which is expected to be completed by 2013 (NRE, n.d.). The Roadmap for REDD+ Implementation, within the strategy, outlines the scope of REDD+ activities to be considered within Malaysia, the national reference emissions levels proposed, the proposed financing structure and benefits sharing mechanisms for REDD+, and how safeguards will be ensured, as well as the management structure for REDD+ implementation in the country (NRE, n.d.). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Malaysia is currently supporting the Government through the national level project, ‘National REDD+ Readiness in Malaysia’. The project (2011-2013) aims to provide policy recommendations and support for developing institutional and legal frameworks, supporting capacity building and developing a sustainable financing mechanism for REDD+ (UNDP, 2012). The project will engage with the Forestry Departments Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak to ensure the inclusion of the three federal territories in the development of a cohesive REDD+ national process.

At the sub-national level, the state of Sabah has developed a REDD+ Roadmap which outlines the steps needed in order to become REDD+ ready. The Roadmap’s implementation framework includes a plan for developing reference levels, sourcing financing, defining free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) and outlining a series of pilot projects that should be operational by 2013. The Roadmap also sets a target of 2014 for the completion of an MRV system, benefit distribution mechanisms and an institutional architecture for REDD+. The European Union will support the Sabah Government to develop the necessary tools to design and implement the state REDD+ strategy, and will focus on MRV, safeguards, enhancing capacity and providing technical support (EuropeAid, Online). The Sabah Forestry Department is also collaborating with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Malaysia in the delivery of elements of this Roadmap, specifically in developing carbon accounting methodologies, appropriate legal and policy frameworks and financing mechanisms for REDD+ development. The Heart of Borneo project, a trans-boundary conservation project spanning Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, is also considered a platform where elements of the Roadmap for REDD+ Readiness can be developed and delivered (WWF, 2012). An inception meeting was held in August 2011 in Sabah on ‘Forest and Climate – Decoding and Realising REDD+’ to foster collaborative engagement with relevant stakeholders on REDD+ development in the territory.

Current REDD+ activities in the state of Sarawak appear to be at a less advanced stage of development. Although several voluntary REDD+ projects have been proposed within the state these remain at a nascent stage according to current research, and the Sarawak Forestry Department appears to be less publicly engaged in developing a state level REDD+ strategy.  

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Institutional arrangements

The coordination and management of REDD+ is led by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which has designated a REDD+ Unit within the Ministry for overseeing the process. Other Government agencies that provide guidance and advice on REDD+ include the Economic Planning Unit, the Forestry Departments, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Plantation and Commodities among others. Inter-ministerial councils such as the National Land Council, the National Biodiversity Council, the National Water Council and the National Climate Change and Green Technology Council are also key institutions for coordinating matters related to natural resource management. Policies related to forest management and land use are the responsibility of the National Land Council specifically.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has formed a National Committee on REDD+, which will act as the key coordinating body for REDD+ in Malaysia, directing the national REDD framework and the management coordination of representative agencies. The National Committee on REDD+ is formed of various Government agencies including the Economic Planning Unit, State Forestry Departments and the Department of Town and Country Planning. In Sabah, a state REDD+ Operational Taskforce and state REDD+ Technical Committee is operational to oversee REDD+ implementation, and are made up of various Government agencies and NGO organisations. At the state level, the Sabah Forest Department and Forest Department Sarawak are responsible for implementing forestry and REDD+ in their respective jurisdictions.

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Stakeholder engagement and participation

Malaysia has held a series of consultative workshops on the REDD+ institutional framework in February and August 2012, which were attended by various stakeholders including government agencies, international institutions and NGOs. Participants were invited to contribute on issues related to the development of REDD+ such as an institutional framework, sustainable financing and MRV in relation to the development of an institutional framework for REDD+ implementation. In Sabah, stakeholders including Government agencies and NGOs are part of the State REDD+ Operational Taskforce and State REDD+ Technical Committee. 

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Land tenure arrangements and carbon rights

Forest land in Malaysia is classified into Protected Areas, which include Permanent Reserved Forests, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, and State Land Forests which are non-permanent reserves. In Malaysia, according to the National Forestry Policy, Permanent Reserved Forests are classed into their relative functions including protection forests, production forests, amenity forests, or research forests (FDPM, Online). The provisions of the National Forestry Policy are applicable in Sabah, and Sarawak has its own Forest Policy which delineates forest lands into equivalent classifications. 

According to the Forest Resources Assessment, 98% of forests are owned by the Government with the remaining 2% owned by private entities (FAO, 2010). In Peninsular Malaysia, native peoples (Orang Asli) rights are protected under the Aboriginals People Act (1954) that provides for the protection of the indigenous peoples through the delineation of aboriginal Malay Reservation land. Adat Law is a form of customary legislation based on traditional rules that protects native Malay land from title conversion, and is upheld against the National Land Code (1963) and the Land Acquision Act (1960). In Sabah and Sarawak, land tenure and rights are clarified through the Land Ordinance Enactment (1975) which recognises Native Customary Rights and traditional customary Adat laws. In Sarawak, rights and tenure are legislated in the Land Ordinance and Land Code (1958), and various amendments, which set out Native Customary Lands and Reserves.

As the National REDD+ Strategy is under development, issues relating to rights and tenure for REDD+ have yet to be fully considered. The National REDD+ Strategy covers how safeguards and benefit sharing systems will be formed. Sabah’s REDD+ Roadmap sets out that an FPIC guideline and a benefit distribution system should be agreed on by 2014. 

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Forest management

Malaysia practices Reduced Impact Logging and Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) to limit the impact of forestry activities. In terms of forest certification, Malaysia complies with the internationally recognised Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and has developed national certification through the Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC). The Malaysian Timber Certification Scheme began in October 2011, based on International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) criteria and indicators. All forests in Peninsular Malaysia are certified under the MTCC-FSC accreditation scheme. In addition, the Sabah Forest Department aims for all forestry concessions in Sabah to be certified by the FSC by 2014.

Malaysia entered into negotiations for a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the European Unions’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) process in January 2007, to regulate timber trade from Malaysia to the EU. Malaysia is a member of the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) as a producer country, and signed the International Tropical Timber Agreement (ITTA) in 1994 and reaffirmed in 2006, supporting the sustainable management and trade of tropical forests and timber.   

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Reference levels

Malaysia’s National REDD+ Strategy covers the development of a reference level, which is expected to be completed by 2013. Sabah’s REDD+ Roadmap reports that sub-national Reference Emission Levels (REL) will also be completed by 2013. There is no current information on the development of reference level for the state of Sarawak.

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Malaysia has conducted National Forestry Inventories in Peninsular Malaysia every ten years, with data dating from 1970, up to the most recent 2011 to 2012 inventory. These inventories provide information for forest management decisions at the national level. At the state level forest inventories in Sabah began in 1969 under the Canadian Bilateral Aid Programme (Colombo Plan) and continued in 1986, through the State Forest Department of Sabah, with the assistance from UNDP/FAO. FAO conducted a forest resource inventory in Sarawak between 1969 to 1972 under the Forestry and Forest Industries Development Project and the State Forest Department of Sarawak has since been carrying out forest inventories on different forested areas annually (FAO, 2007).

The National REDD+ Strategy will consider the MRV methodology during proceeding implementation steps. The National Forest Inventory will support the assessment of carbon stock emissions and of forest degradation. Sabah identifies MRV as a priority action for implementation from 2011 to 2013. 

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Malaysia is at the early stages of discussions surrounding safeguards for REDD+. Recent consultative workshops on the proposed REDD+ institutional framework in February and August 2012 recognised safeguards as a priority for development, however no formal agreement on the structure of safeguards for REDD+ has been reached. As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and to the Cartagena Protocol, guidance for safeguarding ecosystems and improving biodiversity from these agreements will also support the implementation of Social and Environmental Safeguards (SES) for REDD+. In Sabah, SES are two of the main pillars within their state level REDD+ implementation framework. 

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Gender Equality

As of November 2015, Malaysia had not published a national REDD+ strategy and was not a participant in the FCPF. Information in English on gender in REDD+ is limited, does not go into detail, and is scattered across various resources.

By virtue of a 2001 amendment to Article 8(2), the Federal Constitution, which is the supreme law, prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in any other laws. Malaysia developed the National Policy for Women in 1989 and the Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women in 1997. Both were reviewed in 2009 with the aims of integrating women into all sectors of national development, and promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. The main objectives of the National Policy on Women are to ensure an equitable sharing for women in the acquisition of resources, information, opportunities and benefits of development. The action plan underpinning the National Policy of Women aims to increase public awareness and sensitivity towards issues relating to women (Government of Malaysia, 2015).

A short UN REDD summary of progress towards a national REDD+ strategy for Malaysia explains that the first part of the process was to match existing policies and measures to REDD+ requirements (UN REDD, 2015a). The key existing measures include the National Forest Policy (1992): the Government’s English language overview of this policy does not mention any gender issues (Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia, 2015). A second policy named in the UN REDD summary is the National Policy on Climate Change; this has ‘effective participation’ as a principle, and the glossary includes women among the groups to which this refers. A further policy on which REDD+ actions are expected to build is the Tenth Malaysia Plan, 2011–2015, which has a section on empowering women to enhance their economic contribution (Government of Malaysia 2011, chapter 4, p 178-181). This recognises that despite high educational attainment among women, they are underrepresented in the workplace, in management positions, and in government. Actions to address this include training, tackling discrimination, encouraging flexible working, a quota for government positions, and a special committee to implement gender sensitisation in the public sector.

Safeguards are the focus of another short summary by UN REDD, which does not mention gender (UN REDD, 2015b). This shows that the country is taking a similar approach to safeguards as it is to a REDD+ strategy, namely relating the Cancun safeguards to existing national policies and measures. In this case, the key named measure is the’ Malaysian criteria and indicators for forest management certification (natural forest)’ (Malaysian Timber Certification Council, 2011). Although the principles underlying these criteria and indicators include tenure, indigenous people and community relations, none of the 97 indicators or 307 verifiers address women or gender. Also on safeguards, a UN REDD presentation shows that the national safeguards information system was expected to be developed during 2015, including consultations and FPIC processes. This presentation lists gender representation as one of five challenges in the process of providing safeguards information (UN REDD, 2015c).

Early efforts on REDD+ readiness were financed by UNDP, from 2011-2013. Limited documentation is available on the outcomes; however, it is clear the project intended to result in draft national REDD+ frameworks, which as of November 2015 are yet to be published. The project document mentions women briefly, for example that  during development of a draft national policy and legal framework for generation of revenues from forest carbon and ecosystem services, ‘the benefits of indigenous people, women and local communities must be considered at any stage of the process [sic]’ (UNDP, 2011, p.10). It was also anticipated that the FPIC process would look at the role of gender in natural resource management, to ensure that women participated and their interests were considered (UNDP, 2011, p.10).

Within Malaysia, Sabah State is relatively advanced in REDD+ planning. UNDP support for REDD+ was taken forward for 2012-2018 as a component of the project for ‘Biodiversity conservation in multiple-use forest landscapes in Sabah, Malaysia’. Although the project document  mentions equitable benefit sharing, local involvement and capacity building (p47), neither gender nor equity feature in a paragraph on social sustainability (p83), nor in the stakeholder involvement plan (annex 2), nor in tables of risk factors (table 11) and project indicators (table 10 and p.63) (UNDP, 2012).

Also in Sabah, the EU is funding a project on ‘Tackling Climate Change through Sustainable Forest Management and Community Development’. A project planning document recognises the importance of women as agents of change in Malaysian communities. A paragraph on cross-cutting issues states that all stakeholders, including women, are to be involved in consultation processes. Through a participatory approach, the project aims to improve livelihoods for men and women (European Commission, 2012). A later presentation shows that the project focuses on community-based forest management and REDD+ in three pilot sites, but is facing various challenges, including the development of REDD+ strategies, plans and social safeguards that address gender, and ensuring that REDD+ improves women’s wellbeing in the long term (Martin et al, 2014).

The Project Document for the Third National Communications to the UNFCCC and Biennial Update Reporting for Malaysia (UNDP, 2014) refers to the need for social impact assessments to promote gender equality, for both adaptation to climate change (p20) and mitigation (p22). It also has a small section recognising the need to mainstream issues of gender and vulnerable communities into the project, including ensuring that women as consulted and represented in workshops (p29-30).


ADB. 2013. Delivering Results and Gender: Promoting Women’s Empowerment through Gender Responsive Budgeting in Malaysia. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

EUROPEAN COMMISSION. 2012. Annex: Tackling climate change through sustainable forest management and community development Malaysia. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

EUROPEAID. No Date. [Online]. Tackling Climate Change Through Sustainable Forest Management and Community Development. Available here.

FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING. 2010. National Physical Plan. Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ORGANISATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS. No Date. [Online]. Malaysia Country Profile. Available here.

FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ORGANISATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS. 2007. Brief on National Forest Inventory Malaysia. Forest Resources Development Service.


FORESTRY DEPARTMENT PENINSULAR MALAYSIA. No Date. [Online]. National Forestry Policy. Available here

FORESTRY DEPARTMENT PENINSULAR MALAYSIA. 2015. National Forestry Policy. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

GOVERNMENT OF MALAYSIA. 2011. Tenth Malaysia Plan 2011-2015. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

GOVERNMENT OF MALAYSIA. 2015. Malaysia Progress Report on the Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly (2000).  Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

MALAYSIAN TIMBER CERTIFICATION COUNCIL. 2011. Malaysian Criteria and Indicators for Forest Management Certification (Natural Forest). Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

MARTIN, R A, S KUMARAN AND R B TUZAN. 2014. Pilot Malaysia-EU REDD+ Projects in Sabah. Tackling Climate Change through Sustainable Forest Management and Community Development. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT MALAYSIA. 2009. National Policy on Climate Change. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]


MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIONRMENT MALAYSIA. No Date. Understanding REDD+ for Implementation in Malaysia.

TOWN AND REGIONAL PLANNING DEPARTMENT. 1998. Sabah Coastal Zone Profile. Chapter 9: Forestry. The Integrated Coastal Zone Management Unit. Kota Kinabalu. 

UNDP. No Date. [Online]. National REDD Readiness in Malaysia. Available here.

UNDP. 2011. Malaysia Project Document. 10MP/NI 4.4/National REDD Readiness in Malaysia. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

UNDP. 2012. Project document: Biodiversity conservation in multiple-use forest landscapes in Sabah, Malaysia. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

UNDP. 2014. Project Document. Project Title: Third National Communications (TNC) to the UNFCCC and Biennial Update Reporting (BUR) for Malaysia. Available here.  [Accessed November 2015]

UN-REDD. 2015a. Two-pager of REDD+ National Strategy/Action Plan: Malaysia. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

UN REDD. 2015b. Summary of Country Safeguards: Malaysia. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

UN REDD. 2015c. Providing a Summary of Information: Malaysia. Presentation at the UN-REDD Programme Asia/Pacific Knowledge Management Action Plan, 2015 Expert Consultation on Safeguards and SIS. Bangkok, March 11-12, 2015, Day 2 Session 6. Available here. [Accessed November 2015]

WORLD BANK. No Date. [Online]. Malaysia Overview. Available here.

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