Charles smitten by Heart of Borneo
By Azrol Azmi & Lyna Mohamad

Britain's Prince Charles, a long-time champion of 'green' causes, singled out Brunei's Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative for special praise, on its determination to protect the standing rainforest that covers more than 60 per cent of the country.

Brunei's exemplary commitment with so much of its land accorded to this initiative and its rapid publication of a detailed Action Plan are the clearest signal of its determination under the leadership of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, to preserve and develop its forest sustainably.

"I cannot commend this strongly enough because the single most effective and significant action the world can take to stabilise climate change, the greatest threat facing mankind is to stop tropical rainforest destruction," said His Royal Highness Prince Charles in his speech at the UWIC Graduation Ceremony 2008 at the Chancellor Hall of UBD yesterday, where he highlighted the strong partnership in education between Brunei and the United Kingdom.

Since his arrival, both the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were able to see something of the remarkably diverse ways in which the two countries work together on issues of the greatest importance.

"This prestigious seat of learning is, of course, an excellent example and I am delighted that in a few moments I shall be awarding degree certificates to Bruneian graduates," said Prince Charles adding that he could not be more pleased at the way in which a genuine partnership is developing between the Universities of Wales to which HRH is the Chancellor and of Brunei.

The partnership is present in many other areas of the two countries' relationship, the Gurkha Rifles to which Prince Charles is Colonel in Chief, is working ever more closely with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, both in this country and in building expertise for international peacekeeping operations.

"There is also a vital frontline role and I could not be more impressed by the way in which the Gurkha Rifles has recently distinguished themselves on active service in Afghanistan," he said.

However grim the situation is, the Gurkhas have proven time and time again why they have such a unique reputation as one of the world's most renowned regiments.

"They are owed a most enormous debt of gratitude for the selfless service they give and on a personal note, I could not be more grateful to them for the welcome and hospitality they were kind enough to show my younger son during his deployment," Prince Charles said.

He remained deeply impressed with the scale and quality of Brunei's rainforest, particularly its determination to protect this vital asset that the nation holds in trust not just for its own future generations but also for the region's and the entire world's children and grandchildren.

Brunei has also made exceptional progress with Indonesia and Malaysia in putting together the "Heart of Borneo initiative" to ensure this protection continues, unhampered by geographic boundaries. As it is known, these forests that straddle the equator in a great belt around the globe are home to some of the most remarkable and precious animal and plant life on the planet while they also function as a 'giant public utilities', cooling and cleaning the world's atmosphere and providing fresh water and rainfall.

Of vital importance, it stores carbon on a giant scale and when the forests are cut down and burned, it is released into the atmosphere where annual CO2 emission from burning forests is greater than that from the global transport sector.

Half of the world's rainforest, he added, has already been lost and every year 30 million acres are destroyed or degraded and it in effect destroys the planet's 'air-conditioning' and watering system.

"But we must not blame the rainforest countries for this. Too often it is demand from developed countries for palm oil, beef and soya, which is the driver. The point is that all of us, the whole world, are in this together and that is why, together, we need to deploy all possible measures to stop tropical deforestation."

This, Prince Charles pointed out, above all is why he established his Rainforests Project a year ago, to ensure that the forests end up being worth more alive than dead.

Quite simply, the objective is to find an equitable means of paying for this planetary life-support system on which we all depend and fast, adding that his project is working to determine how much funding the rainforest countries need to re-orientate their economies so that the trees really are, durably, worth more alive than dead, to show how this funding can be provided by the developed world and to help bring forward ways in which the funding would be used in an equitable way by the rainforest nations.

"I do not pretend for a moment that the task is simple. I knew full well the immense complexities we would encounter. The global "credit crunch", most certainly has not made the task any easier."

While the world's economy will doubtless bounce back at some point from the financial shock, mankind will not be able to bounce back from the climate shock. The damage, he added, is becoming irreparable and the consequences terrifying; rising sea levels, spreading disease and environmental refuges in an unimaginable scale. - Borneo Bulletin (2nd Nov 2008)