Indonesia plays an important role in holding billions of tons peat carbon sinks which, if released, could aggravate global warming and endanger life on earth.
Indonesia is host to 34 billion tons of peat carbon sinks, most of which are to be found in Riau province and Kalimantan. In Kalimantan, which is the world`s third largest island, there are 5,769,246 hectares of peat forests with 10.183 billion tons of carbon sinks, Daniel Murdiyarso of the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR), said in Denpasar, Bali, on Friday.
He was in Bali to deliver a speech at an Asian Forestry Partnership (AFP) meeting which discussed a mechanism to reduce green-house gases from forest destruction and functional change. Greenhouse gases from forest destruction and functional change contribute 20 percent to global warming which at present had reached three degrees Celsius over the last 20 years.
“One can imagine the greater role the Indonesian peat forests can play. Suppose that the Indonesian forest degradation release 2.4 billion tons of carbon per annum, how much it would contribute to green house gases emission,” he said.
One of the important issues discussed at the AFP meeting is a payment and supervision scheme for world carbon gas reduction. CIFOR proposes several alternative concepts that could be easily applied in all countries.
The World Bank has set aside funds amounting to US$170 million for developing countries that are ready to cooperate in greenhouse reduction schemes. There are 11 international donors who are ready to finance a greenhouse reduction facility.
Indonesia and eight other countries in Asia and the Pacific, along with 14 African and 15 Latin American nations have expressed their commitment to taking part in the World Bank`s financing facility.
Various forums on greenhouse gas emission reduction have discussed several endeavors, including a carbon credit mechanism. The deforestation and gas emission reduction credit scheme could be traded in the international cabon market.
According to Bambang Setiadi, chairman of the Indonesian Peat-land Association, on the sidelines of a workshop on Wild Fire and Carbon Management in Peat Forest in Indonesia, a carbon project could be exchanged for cash payment.
Since 1990, global warming has been admitted by all countries as an important issue that had to be overcome jointly and was included in the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
“The spirit imbued in the Kyoto Protocol enables the adoption of a scheme where carbon projects could be exchanged with a payment of an amount in US dollar or in Euro currency for each ton of preserved carbon by developing countries,” he once said.
Peat forests hold bigger carbon sinks than other forests. Indonesia has some 27 million hectares of peat lands in Kalimantan, eastern coast of Sumatra and Papua, with a combined carbon sinks of between 10,000 and 34,400 billion tons.
Thus, Indonesia badly needs to protect its peat land as otherwise it would release multiple amount of carbon as compared with other forests, which could worsen the green house effect.
That`s why, destructive exploitations of peat lands for economic benefit could be exchanged with other schemes, where advanced countries are required to pay less developed nations for helping preserve carbon sinks in their forests.
The schemes could take the form of the Clean Management Mechanism or of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in developing countries.
Virtually, Indonesia, when it hosted the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali in December 2007, has drafted the REDD mechanism.
Host of 120.3 million hectares of forests, Indonesia set aside 37.5 million hectares of its forests for the REDD project. “If one hectare is paid US$10 a year, Indonesia will gain US$3.75 billion every year,” Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said at that time.
However, Elfian Effendi, executive director of Greenomics Indonesia, a natural resources advocacy non-governmental organization, said the REDD scheme with which Indonesia is expected to get US$3.75 billion incentive a year, belittled the economic value of Indonesian forests.
Indonesian forests held 7,000 megatons of carbon sinks with an economic value of about US$134.5 billion. Advanced countries must pay 134.5 billion dollars if they want to prevent Indonesia from releasing 7,000 megatons of carbon into the atmosphere through deforestation and peat land cultivation.
So, if this scheme works, the government should design how farmers would also enjoy the benefit so that they should not shed too much sweat to toil peat lands for dollars.
Central Kalimantan Governor Teras Narang, who also spoke to the AFP forum said that his side together with other sides was working hard to recover the ecological functions of forest lands.
So far, vast peat land in Kalimantan have been exploited after their bushes were to plant crops. Planting crops on peat land is much easier than on other types of soil because the planting activity can be carried out soon after bushes have been burnt.