KOTA KINABALU: Some foreign non-governmental organisations and individuals are lending support to a local group that is protesting a plan to build a coal-fired power plant in Lahad Datu.
Letters have been sent to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and websites have been highlighting the appeal from Green Surf (Sabah United to Re-power the Future) in its campaign to scrap the proposal.
Among those who wrote to the prime minister were American environmentalist Julia Butterfly Hill, best known for staying in an ancient redwood for two years to prevent loggers from cutting down an old growth forest, and Australian environmentalist John Seed, the founder of Rainforest Information Centre, which has campaigned to save sub-tropical rainforests.
International environment organisation 350.org, which works on building global grassroots movements to cut carbon dioxide emissions, Four Years.Go and Wiser Earth are mobilising their networks to support the letter campaign.
In a statement, Green Surf said that the World Land Trust, Women's Earth Alliance and portal mongabay.com are among at least 30 organisations which have expressed concern over the construction of a coal plant between the Coral Triangle and the Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
The Sabah coal story was the top most read story, with almost 9,000 hits on the mongabay.com site in May.
Green Surf's Cynthia Ong said copies of some of the letters were sent to her. There was deep concern globally about the proposal to build a 300 megawatt plant in Sabah which is known for its orang utan, rare rhinos and marine sites like Sipadan.
"In their letters, the organisations were positive about our prime minister's commitment to reduce the carbon emission intensity by up to 40 per cent by 2020. They admire his leadership in the Coral Triangle Initiative.
"They commended Datuk Seri Najib for his commitment to exploring alternative energy sources following his acknowledgement that Malaysia's current fuel mix for power is skewed too much in favour of natural gas and coal."
Ong said those who had written to Najib stressed the fact that the developing world does not need to repeat the damaging mistakes of the developed world, which now need huge resources to repair.
"The developing world can lead the way for the world into the 21st century and beyond. Malaysia has strong potential to blaze that trail.
"The opportunity exists now for you to be a champion for Malaysia and for the world -- to move forward into a clean energy future," she said, elaborating on details in the letters.
The organisations have offered to stand by Malaysia if it decides to build a clean energy economy.
"There are many organisations and individuals who are concerned about this project. They have been asking us about the government's proposal," Ong said.
Green Surf is a coalition of five NGOs and individuals which are asking the government to opt for clean energy options to solve power woes in Sabah. Coalition members include WWF-Malaysia, Land Empowerment Animals People (Leap), Sabah Environment Protection Association (Sepa), Malaysian Nature Society-Sabah and Partners of Community Organisations (Pacos).