Thursday, 10 June 2010

SBY’s new hard act: To make REDD+ work

SBY’s new hard act: To make REDD+ work

Warief Djajanto Basorie, Jakarta Thu, 06/10/2010

Enlist NGOs. Engage local governments and local people. Turn loggers and planters into partners.

These are three of numerous possible actions President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono can take in light of a new Indonesia-Norway partnership to reduce deforestation.

To its credit, the Yudhoyono government has earned worldwide praise for two successful programs: The remaking of post-tsunami Aceh and the crackdown on in-country terrorism.
The Aceh Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency, BRR, under the skilful, accountable management of chairman Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, did much to rebuild the province on the northern tip of Sumatra island after the December 2004 devastating tsunami that killed more than 166,000 people.

Meanwhile, Special Detachment 88, the counterterrorism unit of the National Police, has gained glowing international reviews for its remarkable results in capturing, killing and also reforming radicals.

Now Yudhoyono has the chance to prove Indonesia can also succeed in handling the climate change issue. In Oslo on May 26, Yudhoyono and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg witnessed the signing of a letter of intent for a US$1 billion grant from Norway to protect Indonesia’s forests.

Norway will disburse the grant in line with progress in Indonesia’s program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation and Enhancement of Carbon Stocks (REDD+). The program is part of Indonesia’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 26 percent by 2020 from present levels.

REDD is a mechanism to reduce the impact of global warming. It was proposed at the 11th annual UN conference on climate change in Montreal in 2005. The idea is that developed nations financially compensate developing countries that are able to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions due to deforestation.

In the 1990s, tropical deforestation released 1.6 billion tons of carbon gases annually. This amounts to 20 percent of global carbon emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Within Indonesia, half of its land area is forest. But the country has lost up to 60 percent of its forest.

Tropical rainforest covers 15 percent of the earth’s land area. Thirteen million hectares are converted to other land use each year. Land cover change is the second largest contributor to global warming.

More recently, REDD has become REDD+. This goes beyond reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The added objectives are conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of carbon stocks. These aims were underscored in the 13th climate change conference in Bali in 2007. REDD+ goes further to address rural poverty and conserve biodiversity.

Indonesia already has at least 24 REDD demonstration and voluntary activities, according to the Forestry Ministry. These cover Ulu Masen in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam to Jayapura Unurum Guay in Papua.

Although the 15th conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 failed to reach an all-parties consensus for a REDD mechanism, small groups of countries are already working on it. Norway, for instance, has begun cooperating with Brazil, the country with the world’s largest tract of tropical rainforest, in 2008. Now Norway is working with Indonesia that has the third largest forest expanse.

The Indonesia-Norway agreement signed in Oslo calls for Jakarta to establish a BRR-like agency to oversee the billion-dollar fund. Kuntoro, who now chairs the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight, UKP4, is a shoo-in to head the agency.
Indonesia can learn from Brazil’s earlier start. Brazil has an Amazon Fund that manages the Norwegian pledge.

It supports conservation with research and sustainable development projects such as rubber tapping and drugs from trees. Another scheme to study is Brazil’s Terra-Amazon satellite system for large-scale monitoring of deforestation.

Yudhoyono stated at the signing that he had placed a two-year moratorium on new forest and peat land conversion into plantations. Existing palm oil contracts, however, are exempted. The government has a policy to use degraded land for the palm oil industry, the President said.
Environment organizations hail Yudhoyono’s moratorium announcement. Greenpeace stated it expected he would issue a presidential decree to stop all forest and peat land conversion that included “both existing and new concession permits”.

Earlier in April, Yudhoyono cited an illegal logging mafia as a major cause of deforestation in Indonesia.

He assigned his Judicial Mafia Taskforce to identify the loopholes in the legal system that allows illegal loggers to escape conviction.

Illegal logging, uncontrolled land conversion, graft, and mismanagement are challenges Yudhoyono must handle in getting his REDD+ act together. Monitoring is crucial. It is a weak wheel in the REDD+ machine. One thing to look out for is timber firms that cut trees above their harvesting limits.

Yudhoyono has at his disposal his mafia taskforce that comes under his delivery unit to clear the playing field.

Further, the forthcoming fund management agency that will report directly to him will devise a system with the proper accounting, environment and social safeguards.

Yudhoyono can count on vigilant NGOs such as the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law and the Indonesian Environment Forum as early warning signs.

As he thrives on positive energy, Yudhoyono can build all-hands synergy at every REDD+ field site involving local authorities, local civil society groups and the local population at large.
Further still, Yudhoyono can talk persuasively with the plantation and logging lobbies. His message to them: Value the long term win-win perspective of a workable REDD+ mechanism. Communicate to the public what (pulp and palm oil ventures) can do to monitor global warming.

The writer teaches journalism and has conducted workshops on development reporting at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute in Jakarta.