Indonesia’s REDD+ Challenges

Indonesia’s REDD+ Challenges

28 November 2013

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Indonesia — While recent moves to stimulate sustainable business practices in the manufacturing sector have gained wide attention, Indonesia’s efforts to slow deforestation, which accounts for 59.4 percent of all national emissions, has struggled to make headway as extreme weather events become more common globally, likely due to climate change.

In 2010, the Norwegian government promised $1 billion in funding for the United Nations-designed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus project (REDD+) to be established in Indonesia. Simply put, the project aims to protect carbon-rich forest and peatland from being burned or logged. Indonesia’s peatland holds 57 billion tons of carbon dioxide; according to UN estimates, that is 142 times Indonesia’s current annual carbon emissions.

Peatlands are burned and drained in order to clear the land for palm oil and acacia-tree plantations, and forests are logged for timber and pulp.

So far, only $50 million of the results-based Norwegian funding has been handed over for the Central Kalimantan-based program. An Australian-funded REDD+ project, which began in 2008, was canceled in July when little progress had been made reverting drained swamps back to peatland in Borneo.

According to those involved in REDD+, overall progress has been blocked by confusion over responsibility between federal, provincial and local authorities, the difficulty in enforcing the 2011 moratorium on new logging project licenses, obtuse policies from the forestry and agriculture ministries, and big business not coming on board.

Engaging business in conservation was a key goal of the recent Warsaw talks, where it was noted the role of business had been “marginal” at best. A goal of the three-week conference was to appeal to big business because it “often lacks a seat at the major international negotiation tables,” and is the “largest terrestrial agent of change.”

Norwegian ambassador to Indonesia Stig Traavik believes there has been some improvement in the logging and palm oil industries’ approach to conservation since REDD+ launched. He singled out Sinar Mas subsidiary Asia Pulp & Paper and Nestle for their commitment to zero new deforestation.

A Greenpeace report on APP’s progress under the new commitment was largely positive, concluding that “overall the implementation of the forest and peatland moratoriums has been successful, though the [two breaches] revealed a number of failings in internal sign-off processes.”

“Many of the big companies are changing their ways, [which] creates an atmosphere of corporate responsibility,” Heru Prasetyo, deputy at the Presidential Work Unit for Development Monitoring and Control (UKP4).

Heru said problems come from smaller landholders, who often operate on the edges of protected forests and ignore government rulings on what areas can or cannot be deforested.

“Smaller companies are still hungry, trying to catch up, and there has to be incentives [from the government] for them not to cut trees, and even worse, not to burn forests in preparation for a plantation.”

The moratorium on new licences is also undermined, he said, by the ministries of agriculture and of mining and energy, which both have the right to issue licences for development. The protected area has been reduced from 69 to 64 million hectares.

“After we came out and said ‘this is the area that will be exempt from new licences,’ the agriculture ministry said ‘no, no, I have to have licences here,’ and then the mining ministry does the same thing, so it keeps on reducing.”

REDD+ origins

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been the driving force of the project, which is a key part of his plan to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020. While this target has been labeled unrealistic, this year he announced REDD+ would become a government agency and extended the moratorium on new logging licences for previously untouched areas.

Heru is leading the design of the new ministry with UKP4, and he said the president has decided on the minister, but will not make an announcement for several weeks.

Currently, REDD+ is run by a task force, and Heru says the formation of the ministry will give it greater power when dealing with Agriculture and Mining, both of which can currently override its environmental protection.

Doctoral candidate at the Australian National University Erik Olbrei said the peatlands in particular are extremely important globally, and need to be protected to keep global warming to the 2 degrees centigrade limit set by the United Nations Panel on Climate Change.

“Of 13 million hectares of peatland in Sumatra and Kalimantan provinces, only 4 percent remains in pristine condition,” Olbrei said. “Indonesia’s peatlands are one of the last endangered species, with oil palm and Acacia going up all over the place.”

Current problems

Heru is philosophical about the current state of REDD+, comparing it to another major effort involving all levels of government and NGOs.

“We faced similar problems when we were trying to reconstruct Aceh post-tsunami. It’s definitely unknown territory, it’s unprecedented. Everybody has their own constituents to report to, and their own standards,” he said.

Ambassador Traavik said it was not worthwhile using “good or bad” to describe REDD+’s progress.

“Some things are going really well, and some things are not going as expected. Overall, since 2010, the positive changes in some areas have been much bigger than he had hoped. The moratorium has been a big thing, the [increase] in public awareness in Indonesia has been a big change,” he said.

The Norwegian funding follows the global REDD+ model, which only allows for some startup money and then only once results are proven. From 2010 to mid-2013, the task force survived on the $30 million initial grant. An extra $20 million came when the president announced the creation of the agency.

“You might say we have gotten a lot of change for cheap, because we haven’t spent a lot of money yet. That is not something we’re happy about, because we would like to speed up the protection,” Traavik said.

A Human Rights Watch report entitled ‘The Dark Side of Green Growth’ details the problems associated with the forestry sector.

“A 2010 investigation by the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission] found that the Ministry of Forestry failed to accurately map forests, land use, and concession boundaries, and did not fairly allocate use rights. The KPK found that these weaknesses were central causes of persistent corruption and lost government revenue, as well as high levels of deforestation.”

As much as the corruption and inadequate policing of protected forest and peatland affects the success of REDD+, the mapping problems severely hinder the reporting and monitoring the task force can do. The discrepancy has been put at millions of hectares by the United Nations.

“The best map the Ministry of Forestry has is not good enough,” Heru said.

A group including members of the Norwegian mission, UKP4 and the United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (Unorcid) is working on better monitoring methods for the program. Currently, work is being done on properly mapping the areas involved. The level of detail in maps of Central Kalimantan, among others, is still not detailed enough to determine whether revegetation efforts have been successful.

Heru explained this is one problem that could be solved using the “leverage” REDD+ will have as an agency.

“We will have greater access to the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space’s satellite technology to map these forested areas.”

The future of REDD+

“One of the points to come out of Warsaw is saying that the coordinating agency for REDD+ will be the global implementing agency. That means the REDD+ agency we are creating here is the [global] agency for REDD+, which is excellent,” Heru said.

Another product of the Warsaw talks was to change the funding model of REDD+. Currently, it is solely results-based. As the Indonesian program shows, funding can be scarce when results are hard to measure. The proposal is to balance the funding between startup costs and rewards for success.

Ambassador Traavik said the funding model was right for the project — it encouraged action and kept motivation for success high.

Lead author on the HRW report Emily Harwell made clear the results-based funding was not always successful.

“When funding slows to a trickle, the results are not going to come,” she said.

Heru used analogy to describe the different starting points of countries in REDD+ programs, and why funding should be evenly spread.

“Some people are stranded on a small island, and they need to swim to the mainland before they can get started. Once they get in the water, there are sharks, so they must struggle even more to survive,” he said.

Traavik said the clearest indication REDD+ was getting through was the attitudes of people on the ground in Central Kalimantan.

“We visited some rubber-tappers in a village, and I asked them if they were worried about climate change. These guys said ‘Yes, we are very worried — the weather used to be predictable, we had rainy seasons, dry seasons, but never long droughts or long periods of flooding. Both those are happening much more often, so we are really worried about climate change,” he said

According to the Traavik one problem can easily be fixed — the name no one is going to remember.

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