Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Protecting Forests is ‘All About the Economy,’ Experts Say

April 07, 2010

Fidelis E Satriastanti jAKARTA gLOBE

Protecting Forests is ‘All About the Economy,’ Experts Say

The concept of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation seems quite simple at first: Wealthy countries give incentives to developing countries that have vast forests in return for not cutting down their trees. In reality, however, it is not that simple.

Experts are still grappling for a common understanding of the REDD initiative. Is it about the economy or the environment?

“It has to be about the economy, because otherwise people will not be able to appreciate the value of the trees,” said Agus Sari, chief executive officer of PT Pelangi Energi Abadi Citra Enviro. The company is a consulting arm of Yayasan Pelangi Indonesia, a research institute in natural resources and the environment.

Agus said the idea of REDD was to protect forests, but if people did not know about the incentives for not cutting down trees, they would continue to do so to earn money. He said people would only comply with the REDD campaign if they knew there was money in it for them.

Eka Ginting, the director of PT Rimba Raya Conservation, said environmental issues could not be separated from economic issues.

“Who says that when we’re talking about the environment, we don’t talk about the economy? It’s all about the economy,” he said.

“If we’re talking about forests, then we need to calculate which is more feasible: Is it conservation, mining or palm oil? It’s just the same measurement.”

Alex Heikens, climate change program manager for the United Nations Development Program, said it was not that easy to go into a forest, place a fence around it, get money from carbon buyers and disburse it.

“First, you need to put the systems in place, lots of safeguards, social safeguards, environmental safeguards, and make sure they are all accountable and transparent,” he said. “You should be careful with that process before we actually talk about disbursement and funds, or buying the carbon” out of the forest.

“The carbon itself has been considered a new gold mine. Well, potentially it can provide some economic benefits, but only if you’re doing it in the right way, meaning taking actions with considerable effort.”

REDD is not about earmarking benefit but about meeting obligations, he said.

“For instance, if you have already received annual payment for protecting some areas, sold the carbon credits and gotten the money, but your neighbor is cutting down your trees, meaning that carbon is released, what will you say to that? So it is not only about receiving, but you need to make sure that the carbon stays at the same amount as you have received money for,” he said.