Saturday, 6 June 2009

Governor says REDD scheme could save Borneo forests

Governor says REDD scheme could save Borneo forests

Fri May 29, 2009

By Sunanda Creagh

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Nearly 60 percent of remaining forests in Indonesia's Central Kalimantan province could be saved by a U.N.-backed scheme that aims to save forests in return for valuable carbon credits, the provincial governor said on Friday.

Central Kalimantan, which covers an area of nearly 154,000 square kilometers or about the size of the U.S. state of Georgia, has suffered from severe land clearing driven by logging and the palm oil industry.

It has about 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of carbon-dioxide absorbing of forest left and Governor Teras Narang said more than half could be earmarked for projects under the scheme called reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).

REDD's aim is to reward developing countries with potentially billions of dollars in carbon credits in exchange for conserving their forests.

"In accordance with our plan, we will protect about 57 percent. Later it could be more. I hope so," Narang said in an interview with Reuters at a forest conference in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Indonesia earlier this month became the world's first country to release a set of rules governing REDD but the scheme is in its infancy globally. It is expected to formally become part of a broader U.N.

climate pact likely to be agreed in December.

Deforestation is responsible for nearly 20 percent of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions and tropical forests, such as those in Kalimantan on Borneo island, in particular soak up vast amounts of CO2, acting like lungs for the atmosphere.

REDD aims to curb the rate of forest destruction and promote replanting of damaged or degraded areas to help them soak up more CO2.

But key issues such as how to distribute the money from REDD credit sales to local communities still need to be worked out.

"We want to know about our rights and our duties, especially for the local people. We do not want, after we agree, then our people do not know about their rights," the governor said, adding he considered REDD more important than palm oil plantations that cover large areas of Borneo.

He said the province was already in negotiations for REDD schemes covering 5 to 10 percent of remaining forest area.

Logging and palm oil plantations combined destroyed 2.4 million hectares of Central Kalimantan's forests between 1990 and 2005, said Fitrian Ardiansyah, WWF's program director for climate and energy in Indonesia.

He said there was between eight and 10 million hectares of forest left in the province, adding the provincial government should be more specific about where they want forests protected.

"If it's on mineral soil then it's not that significant. Most of the carbon is stored in the peat land, which is different to mineral soil," he said.

Peat land locks away large amounts of carbon and clearing and burning peat forests is a major contributor to greenhouse gas pollution.

Large areas of peat land have been cleared in Kalimantan and Sumatra and rehabilitation schemes initially focus on reflooding the areas to stabilize the peat.

Rhett Butler, who runs the U.S.-based conservation website, believed REDD could help save forests but said it could also lead to land disputes and corruption.

"Indonesia has a lot of problems with corruption and the forestry sector is one of the worst areas. If money is going into the same system that was broken before, why would it work now?" he said.

(Editing by David Fogarty)