Indonesia — An ambitious Indonesian plan to plant millions of hectares of forest should allow the country to exceed its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by more than a quarter by 2020, the forestry minister said on Wednesday.
Indonesia was named in a 2007 World Bank study as the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States, largely due to its rapid rate of deforestation.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has pledged to cut emissions by 26 percent from business as usual levels by 2020 or by 41 percent by 2020 if given sufficient international support.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said the plan to add an extra 21.15 million hectares (52.26 million acres) of forest by 2020 would turn the country from a net carbon emitter to into a net carbon sink.
“If the scenario described proceeds, if the planting proceeds, we can reach more than 26 percent (in emissions cuts),” he told reporters after the presentation. “If we can also eradicate illegal logging, then the 26 percent will be achieved entirely in the forestry and peat sector.”
The target appears ambitious since Indonesia currently has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world. Hasan said there were 130 million hectares of forest left in the country but only 48 million hectares were in good condition.
Under the new plan, he said 500,000 hectares of new forest would be planted annually at a cost of 2.5 trillion rupiah ($269 million) per year.
An extra 300,000 hectares of degraded forest would be rehabilitated every year funded by the government and money from Australia, Norway, Korea and the private sector, he added.
“And it all must be verified. That is in our best interest, so that in future, other countries can see it is transparent, open and will want to help,” he said.
Indonesia last year set up a legal framework to encourage forest preservation projects operating under a U.N.-backed scheme called reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).
Under the scheme, polluters can earn tradeable carbon credits by paying developing nations not to chop down trees.
However, powerful illegal logging syndicates have helped accelerate forest destruction in Indonesia and Hasan said that combatting such forces required cooperation between district officials as well as law enforcement officials.
Fitrian Ardiansyah, climate change programme director for WWF Indonesia, welcomed the forest plan but said it may not address the main source of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“Most emissions in this sector usually come from forests being converted to grow crops, build infrastructure, settlements and set up mining operations; illegal and destructive logging outside and inside legal forest concessions; and forest and land fires to clear space for some agricultural lands,” he said.
Ardiansyah said the government should focus on conservation and using remaining primary and high conservation value forests and terrestrial ecosystems in a sustainable way.