Jakarta, Indonesia — Indonesia, which is believed to be the world`s third largest producer of carbon emissions, is launching this week a nation-wide drive to plant 79 million trees across the country.
The reforestation drive came up in the runnup to the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which takes place in Indonesia`s tourist resort island of Bali for two weeks opening on Monday, December 3, 2007
However, the tree planting drive was launched not because of the international event, where about 10,000 delegates from over 160 countries are expected to attend to discuss a roadmap for global efforts to reduce carbon gases and mitigate global warming after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
“It`s not planting trees just as a show to get a picture printed in the papers, nor because Indonesia is to host the UNFCCC but because we don`t want to experience self-inflicted disasters, because we want to preserve water and air,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in remarks to the reforestation drive launch.
As a result of climate change and environmental degradation, Indonesia has become prone to natural disasters with annual floods and droughts causing material loss worth millions of dollars and hundreds of human lives. The reforestation drive is therefore expected to increase Indonesia`s forest capacity in preserving the environment and absorbing carbon gases that have been posing a threat to the planet including the life of its inhabitants.
Indonesian forests which cover 120.3 million hectares, along with those of other tropical rain forest countries –such as Brazil, Cameroon, Congo, Costa Rica, Gabon, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea– function as lungs of the world. Indonesia and these countries have joined ranks amid the rising global warming threat. Forest fires and massive illegal logging in Indonesia raise concern that while its forests function as carbon absorber, they also contribute to gas emissions released into to the atmosphere.
“Deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia are also considered a source of carbon emissions because the C02 gases are also released into the atmosphere,” Indonesian Forestry Minister MS Ka`ban said in a written address at the launch of a National Forest and Land Rehabilitation Movement in Bali.
Virtually, industrialized countries are the main contributors to the carbon emissions, while forests in the developing countries function to absorb them.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country director for Indonesia, Hakan Bjorkman (the Jakarta Post Nov.28), most of the climate change has been caused by carbon emissions in the developed countries over the past hundred years. As a result, global warming increases, threating to sink small islands due to the melting of ice in the polar regions.
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPPCC), the highest scientific body on climate change issues said in its report recently that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will result in an average rise in sea levels by 1.2 meters.
In the meantime, a UNDP report said this week that average global surface temperatures have risen by about 0.7 degrees Celsius since the start of the industrial revolution.
“The world should thank countries endowed with tropical rain forests that served as the world`s lungs because they were developing countries and it was only proper for the world to help Indonesia preserve its forests by providing it with technology and financial assistance,” President Yudhoyono said.
The Kyoto Protocol allows the developing countries to host green projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Development Mechanism. In return, the developing countries may trade tons of carbon reduction to developed nations that have binding targets to reduce emissions. Carbon reductions are worth up to US$10 a ton.
In this case, MS Kaban said industrialized countries had owed Indonesia about Rp6 trillion (US$638.5 million) this year alone because it was able to reduce its tree felling by 5.5 million cubic meters of its production forests..
“We have 12 million cubic meters of potential production forests to be cut annually. But we only cut 6.5 million cubic meters this year. So, we have a difference of 5.5 million cubic meters of trees which were not cut down,” the minister said, adding that this should be compensated for.
The compensation demanded by Indonesia from the developed nations is actually much smaller compared to the economic value of its forests.
According to Elfian Effendi, executive director of Greenomics Indonesia, a natural resources advocacy non-governmental organization, the economic value of Indonesia`s forests reaches hundreds of billions of dollars. Indonesia still has 36.5 million hectares of conservation and 36.7 million hectares of production forests with, due to their carbon absorption capacity, have a combined economic value of between 216.4 and 234.4 billion dollars, he said.
Apart from that, Indonesian forests also hold almost 9,000 megatons of carbon concentration worth about 134.5 billion US dollars, he said. Elfian said that the advanced countries must pay 134.5 billion dollars if they wanted to prevent Indonesia`s deforestation from releasing 7,000 megatons of carbon into the atmosphere. Regardless of compensation, however, Indonesia will continue to try its best to reforest its land, at least for its own sake.
During the launch of the reforestation drive this week, President Yudhoyono asked Forestry Minister MS Kaban to take tighter measures to protect forests throughout the country to preserve the environment.
“From now on, every December will be a month for the simultaneous planting of trees in Indonesia. It does not mean we will not be planting trees in the other months but in December we will do it together at the same time,” he said. He pointed out that the world could undergo a cataclysmic crisis and disaster if Indonesians did not care about preserving their environment.
“If the temperature on Earth continues to rise and the climate keeps on changing there will be many disasters and the living creatures on earth including the human race will be the victims. Therefore, we support this tree-planting activity,” the President said.