Saturday, 6 June 2009

REDD Scheme Not Enough To Protect Forests

Fidelis E. Satriastanti, The Jakarta Globe

REDD Scheme Not Enough To Protect Forests: Telapak Financial incentives for protecting forests are good, but good governance is needed as well to effectively curb illegal logging, an environmental organization said on Wednesday.

Hapsoro, director of forest campaigns with the nongovernmental organization Telapak, said the United Nations’ REDD scheme will only be effective if the government backed it up with political commitment.

“There is evidence that REDD will reduce [the rate] of illegal logging. But if they want to make the scheme work, then they should learn from the experiences of illegal logging campaigns that have failed because of the lack of good governance,” Hapsoro said.

REDD is a system of compensating developing countries for efforts to reduce carbon emissions by way of reducing deforestation and forest degradation. Experts say the cutting down of forests contributes almost 20 percent of the overall greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. A multidonor trust fund, mostly from developed nations, was established in July 2008 to pool resources and provide funding to REDD’s activities.

“[REDD] is not the cure for illegal logging; good governance is,”

Hapsoro said. “So as long as our government fails to be transparent then it won’t work.”

However, Puspa Dewi Liman, a forest protection official at the Ministry of Forestry, said the penalty for illegal logging was too weak to be a deterrent.

“We are still not firm enough in enforcing the law, because we can only handle the cases involving field operators. We still cannot find the financiers of the operations,” she said.

“The punishment is still quite weak — convicted illegal loggers only served about a year in jail,” Puspa added. “ I mean, five years in jail is the least they should get.”

At the 8th Meeting of the Asia Forest Partnership in Bali on May 28 and 29, Puspa said that in more than 50 percent of illegal logging cases, or 326 cases, filed from 2005 to 2008, courts only handed out prison sentences of 1 to 12 months to guilty parties. Only two cases saw jail sentences of three to four years.

“We still have insufficient exchange of information, facilities and technologies to combat illegal logging. So far, law enforcers have only successfully apprehended those working at the lowest level,” she said.

The illegal logging cases recorded from 2005 to 2008, Puspa said, topped the number of cases recorded for other illegal forest activities, such as encroachment, wildlife crime, illegal mining and forest fire.

Peter Younger, manager of Project Chainsaw of the Interpol, said their recent analysis had linked illegal logging and timber trafficking with other crimes, including use of violence, murder, corruption, money laundering, tax evasion and armed conflict financing.

“It is believed that illegal logging and timber trafficking is, and continues to be, a significant global criminal problem,” Younger said.

“Illegal logging as a crime type is large and complicated, to the point where many agencies simply are not skilled or funded sufficiently to deal with it.”

However, he said that dealing with those involved in this criminal activity had so far been patchy, uncoordinated and significantly underfunded.

“To the vast majority of the police, crimes of violence and terrorism are a high law enforcement priority,” Younger said.

“Illegal logging, by comparison, simply doesn’t rate but the whole global warming issue is changing that slightly.”

He added that law enforcement should be considered in administering any carbon trade scheme, such as REDD, to make it work.