Thursday, 13 August 2009

During its restoration, Aceh lost forests worth $550m a year in carbon trade

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Thu, 08/13/2009

A study conducted by Greenomics Indonesia reveals that more than 200,000 hectares of forests were lost in Aceh during humanitarian missions to rebuild the province after the deadly 2004 tsunami disaster.

Most of this area was exploited illegally to supply wood to rebuild Aceh's infrastructures and thousands of houses between 2006 and 2008, Greenomics says.

"It is the world's fastest forest deforestation rate of any humanitarian missions. The reconstruction of Aceh was also the biggest user of illegal timbers of any humanitarian missions," Greenomics executive director Elfian Effendi told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

"The massive deforestation caused massive greenhouse gas emissions."

Greenomics analyzed forest cover by using satellite images taken between 2006 and 2008.

Another 54,244 hectares of forests were damaged in 2005 for emergency and rehabilitation efforts in Aceh, Greenomics said.

An 8.9-magnitude quake hit Aceh on Dec. 26, 2004, triggering a deadly tsunami that devastated coastal areas and killed around 200,000 people.

Some 700 humanitarian organizations from 40 different countries were involved in missions to help reconstruct Aceh following the tsunami.

The illegal logging was largely carried out by national and local contractors who worked for foreign projects, Elfian said.

The study shows that the loss of 200,329 hectares of forests meant Aceh had suffered a potential loss in annual income of US$551.3 million from forestry carbon trade.

The destruction of forests had also released more than 50 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, Elfian said.

The Aceh provincial administration imposed a moratorium on logging in 2007 in an effort to stop deforestation resulting from the rebuilding work.

"But it did not stem the loss of Aceh's natural forests," Elfian said.

The logging moratorium was made shortly before the international Climate Change conference in Bali in 2007, which also discussed financial benefits from protecting forests.

The Bali conference saw the proposal of a new method to control carbon emissions by forcing carbon emitters to buy credits from forested areas under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme. This project offered financial rewards for protecting forests.

The climate conference in Copenhagen in December is expected to see further agreement to introduce the REDD scheme, which will pave the way for Indonesia to harvest fresh dollars by protecting forests.

The administrations of Aceh and Papua are the first provinces to announce their readiness to host REDD pilot projects.

"Forests in Aceh were cut down illegally and made the province lose potential profits from the carbon trade," Elfian said.

Greenomics has called on foreign countries to help offset potential financial losses that could be used to restore deforested areas.

"Nations of the world should make the Aceh case a good lesson that humanitarian missions must also protect the ecology of respected areas, so that reconstruction efforts are sustainable."