Friday, 15 January 2010

Tree planting may endorse forest clearing

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 01/15/2010 The Jakarta Post

The government’s tree-planting drives could be a means to endorse forest conversion by plantation firms in Indonesia, which will harm the country’s plan to slash carbon emissions from the forestry sector, environmental activists warn.

Greenpeace Indonesia criticized the government for its mitigation plans, which include industrial forest concessions (HTI) as a priority sector in its tree-planting program.

“We are worried that the tree planting program is a way to hide conversion activities by HTI companies,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia forest campaigner Bustar Maitar told reporters on Thursday.

Most HTI companies cut down trees to clear land before replanting including with acacia trees, he said.

“If planting acacia trees is also considered part of climate mitigation, the government has made a public lie,” he said.

The Forestry Ministry is campaigning for 1 billion trees to be planted this year among efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions from the forestry sector.

The ministry has placed enhancing carbon stocks from planting trees — including those planted by HTI companies and communal forests — as a top priority to meet the national target of a 14 percent emissions reduction from the sector.

Tree-planting drives are planned to be held in 5.8 million hectares of HTI concession areas, including those in Riau, Jambi and West Kalimantan.

The ministry has also promised to combat illegal logging and reduce forest fires to slash emissions.

Greenpeace said that planting trees would never balance the deforestation rate, which is believed to have reached more than 1 million hectares a year.

Greenpeace forest campaigner Yuyun Indradi said clearing forests also damages the ecology of forests.

“Replanting forests will never replace such ecological diversity,” he said.

“The government’s proposal for a replanting program must mean ecosystem restoration and no more timber plantations.”

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest forest nation with about 120 million hectares of forest.

But with a deforestation rate of about 1 million hectares per year, it also means Indonesia has the highest rate of deforestation and forest degradation.

The reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD plus) scheme allows forest concession holders to run carbon projects by planting trees.

Greenpeace has long been campaigning for a logging moratorium to save Indonesia’s remaining forests and habitats, to help the planet in dealing with climate change.

“The Forestry Ministry, in particular, appears to lack determination to stop rampant deforestation in Indonesia,” Bustar said.

Greenomics Indonesia also criticized the ministry’s mitigation plans allowing more mining firms to operate in forested areas.

The ministry said it planned to allocate a further 2.2 million hectares of forests for mining activities between 2010 and 2020, which would release an estimated 550 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has distributed millions of tree seedlings, including during the recent Christmas celebrations, to encourage the public to plant more trees in efforts to mitigate climate change.

While observing Indonesian Planting Day in West Java in December, Yudhoyono asked the nation to plant up to 4 billion trees by 2020 and 9.2 billion by 2050.

The government claims that since 2007 more than 280 million trees have been planted in such programs.

Yudhoyono has pledged to cut Indonesia’s emissions by 26 percent by 2020, with a state budget of Rp 83 trillion over five years. Another 15 percent reduction could be achieved should rich nations provide additional funding, he said.