Monday, 19 October 2009

Firm leadership will ensure the success of environmental targets

Mon, 10/19/2009 1:22 PM | National The Jakarta Post

Mark Lowcock, an executive of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), was recently in Indonesia to discuss several environmental issues including forestry management and poverty reduction. During the visit, Lowcock, also the director general for country programs in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, with an annual budget of *2.7 billion, also made a visit to South Kalimantan to have a close look at the condition of forest and peatland management in the province. Below is an excerpt of an interview he gave to the Jakarta Post's Adianto P. Simamora upon his arrival in Jakarta from South Kalimantan.

Question: What was your impression of Kalimantan?

Answer: In Kalimantan, I saw firsthand the impacts of forest conversion into oil palm plantations and the clearing and cultivating of peatland. Together these changes are currently contributing to a major share of Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions. People might not realize that Indonesia's peatlands store nearly as much carbon as the Amazon forest.

When peatland forests are logged and then drained for plantations or paddy fields, massive amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere and burning-off cleared land during the dry season creates smog, which stops people being able to fly into Kalimantan. These impacts dramatically affect the quality of life and health of local people.

We applaud President Yudho-yono's commitment to reducing Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2020. Tackling the emissions resulting from deforestation and the changing use of peatlands will be critical to achieving this target.

Indonesia is one of many countries affected by climate change. Does the UK govt plan to develop programs such as the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) plan to help local people cope with the impacts of climate change?

The ability of local people to help tackle climate change by managing forest and peatland sustainably is of critical importance. We have agreed to support Indonesia in better understanding the impacts of climate change on all Indonesians and finding ways to help reduce the vulnerability of people to any effects.

In the run-up to COP13 in Bali we supported research led by the Forestry Ministry, which helped prepare the REDD scheme. The ministry has now applied to the Global Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, to which DFID has committed US$24 million globally.

We want to see REDD make a real difference in Indonesia. To make this happen we need firm leadership and also the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders with a comprehensive view of the whole forestry sector.

Could you elaborate on the total amount of financial aid provided by the UK govt to Indonesia particularly in relation to the forestry and environmental sectors?

The UK is providing *75 million between 2008 and 2011 to support the Indonesian government's poverty reduction programs and to help alleviate the suffering caused by natural disasters in Indonesia. Within that we have committed up to *10 million to support the government's efforts to tackle climate change. From this agreement, we were the first donor to pledge support to the recently established Indonesian Climate Change Trust Fund. We are also providing *5 million to help the government make preparations for the implementation of the Voluntary Partnership Agreement with the European Union on illegal logging - something that will also help the Forestry Ministry to encourage sustainable management of Indonesian forests. We have also spent just over *3 million on working with communities to help them reduce the risks of natural disasters.

Indonesia is facing problems in reducing poverty in line with targets set by the UN's Millennium Development Goals. What role will the UK govt play to resolve this?

Indonesia is off-track on some important MDGs, such as the goals on reducing maternal mortality, on the provision of clean water and sanitation and on environmental sustainability of its development efforts. The UK has been supporting government efforts to make progress in reaching these targets.