Jakarta, Indonesia — Forests may contribute 18-20 percent of the total volume of greenhouse gas emissions if they are converted into land for other purposes, cut down or destroyed by fire.
The results of a research suggest that 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia originates from forest-related activities (land use, land use change, forestry (LULUCF). In other carbon-emitting countries, greenhouse gas emissions come from the industrial and transportation sectors.
Indonesia was accused of being the world`s third largest carbon emitter after the US and China in 1997 when fires ravaging its peat lands in Kalimantan were believed to have contributed 13-40 percent of global carbon emissions in that year.
However, there have been no incentives for Indonesia to address deforestation.
Indeed, plantation forests developed through afforestation or reforestation schemes were the result of an initiative to claim incentives under the Kyoto Protocol. But it was taking a long time to develop forests to store carbon given the urgency of reducing the deforestation rate.
Consequently, Indonesia is now poised to propose a mechanism for the provision of incentives for efforts to stem the deforestation rate. Both Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea have actually already taken such an initiative. The initiative led to the adoption of the concept of “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries” (REDD).
According to the director of the Indonesian Tropical Nature Institute (LATIN), Arif Aliadi, REDD was for the first time discussed at the 11th Conference of Parties (CoP) in Montreal, Canada, in 2005. It was later discussed again at a semilar meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2006.
But if Indonesia and other developing countries fail to defend their position in their negotiations with the developed nations, the REDD scheme which calls for compensation to reduce carbon emissions could degenerate into system whereby the developed countries just “puchased” the right to pollute, he said.
Programme director of the Forestry Governance Programme of Partnership Agung Djojosoekarto expressed regret that the proposed REDD program would only target five types of forests, namely production forests, protected forests, peat forests, timber estate and oil palm plantations while in fact Indonesia was home to 120 million hectares of forest — the world`s third largest forest area after those in Brazil and Congo.
The REDD program would only provide compensations for natural forests which had not been deforested or degraded by various activities. This meant that incentives under the REDD program could be withheld merely because one tree in the natural forest had been cut, he said.
“We regret the mechanism because it does not involve smallholder forests, village forests or customary forests. As a matter of fact, these forests are more sustainable than those owned by large companies, such as oil palm plantations. The REDD program neglects the customary community`s interests,” he said.
Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar expressed his belief that Indonesia would get US$3.75 billion per year through the REDD mechanism.
“If we pin high hopes on the REDD funds, we will feel cheated. At least 30 percent of the compensation funds will be spent on hiring foreign consultants to take care of certificates of emission reduction (CER) and on other administrative matters such as has happened with the clean development mechanism (CDM),” Rachmat said.
Citing an example, he said Costa Rica which received incentives under the CDM spent nearly 90 percent of the funds on hiring consultants and other managerial services.
“With the price of carbon reaching US$10 per ton, Costa Rica only got US$1 per ton because it spent US$9 on 10 phases of certification, ranging from the assessment of its capability to store and obsorb carbon to the process of certification,” he said.
Therefore, he asked the Indonesian delegation to the Bali climate change conference to affirm the country`s wish to manage administrative matters on its own and to call for transfer of special knowledge about certification.
Executive director of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Chalid Muhammad meanwhile suggested that the REDD scheme be rejected on the ground it is designed merely to divert world`s attention from reduction of carbon emissions.
“The REDD program makes developed nations feel that they have delegated their responsibilities to developing countries to resolve the climate issue by giving a little sum of money and giving them the liberty to pollute the environment,” he said.
He said the REDD was a matter of trade which would benefit a handful of people, such as carbon traders, consultants, companies and brokers rather than costumary communities.
But chief of the Indonesian delegation Emil Salim categorically refuted allegations that the REDD scheme would only harm the interests of Indonesia and other developing nations.
“The REDD is miscontrued as carbon trade which harms (developing countries). As developed nations have emitted carbon dioxide for hundreds of years ago, they must be held responsible for their carbon emissions,” he said.
Buying carbon from developing countries does not mean that developed nations are free to pollute the earth and to dodge obligation to reduce their carbon emissions, he said.
“Instead of letting them pollute the earth free of charge while at the same time developing countries absorb the carbon without payment, we`d better ask them to pay for their carbon emissions,” he said.