RI, US sign debt-for-nature swap deal to protect tropical forests

RI, US sign debt-for-nature swap deal to protect tropical forests

30 September 2011

published by www.thejakartapost.com

Indoneasia / USA — Representatives from the governments of Indonesia and the United States signed in Jakarta on Thursday a second debt-for-nature swap agreement to protect forests on the country’s largest island, Kalimantan.

With the agreement organized under the US government’s Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA), the US will write off US$28.5 million in Indonesian debt.

The Indonesian government will in turn use the funds to finance biodiversity and forest conservation projects in three districts in the Indonesian part of Borneo, which is home to orangutans, gibbons, clouded leopards, elephants, hornbills and up to 15,000 flowering plants.

The Word Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy each contributed $2 million to the deal.

“The swap deal will fund projects in three districts in Kalimantan: Kapuas Hulu district in West Kalimantan province, and Kutai Barat and Berau districts in East Kalimantan province,” WWF and the Conservancy said in a joint statement published on Thursday.

The two organizations will work with the Indonesian and US governments on the implementation of the programs.

Conservation director with WWF Indonesia, Nazir Foed, said the swap would be facilitated by a local administrator, while the key implementer of activities would be civil society.

“The funds will be channeled to civil society and non-governmental organizations in surrounding regencies as a priority of the programs,” Nazir told a news conference at the Coordinating Economic Ministry in Jakarta on Thursday.

Its massive deforestation rate makes Indonesia the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, behind the US and China. Part of the deforestation is due to forest fires, especially on peat lands. Overall, the country’s deforestation contributes about 20 percent to global carbon emissions, causing global warming, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“TFCA2 is expected to support both low carbon development and the livelihoods of those living within communities in Berau district. It is hoped that the program will help reduce carbon emissions by up to 41 percent, while maintaining economic growth at 7 percent by 2020,” said Ade Soekadis, acting director of The Nature Conservancy

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has pledged to reduce emissions to below 26 percent by 2020 to help fight global warming. Environmental conservation programs are also among the government’s top four priorities.

A number of countries besides the US, including Germany, Australia and Norway, have provided significant sums of money to Indonesia to support forest conservation initiatives.

The Norwegian government, for example, has agreed to allocate up to $1 billion in phases, according to conditions and requirements being met, which include establishing a trust fund and choosing which forests should be prioritized.

The debt-for-nature swap signed on Thursday was the second such agreement signed by Indonesia and the US. In July, 2009, according to the terms of the original swap, the US government agreed to write off nearly $30 million in Indonesian debts.

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