Saturday, May 21, 2011

Indonesia bets on REDD with new moratorium, but can it deliver?

A few snips from an article by Daniel Kandy and David Diaz in Ecosystem Marketplace about Indonesia’s struggle with REDD, or reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation -- a system all-too-vulnerable to corruption and market cooptation: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday signed a two-year moratorium on logging in primary forests and dredging in peatlands to unlock up to $1 billion in seed funding from the government of Norway that could help the country earn billions more by saving tropical rainforests and capturing carbon in trees.

To earn a shot at that less-than-certain income, however, it will have to forego guaranteed billions in concessions from logging, pulp, and palm oil industries – an equation that prompted internal government debate over the definition of “primary forest”, and delayed the signing of the moratorium by five months. The official text is expected to be released on Friday, and those definition are sure to be scrutinized by industry groups and environmentalists alike.

The Norwegian government made the billion-dollar pledge one year ago, following Yudhoyono’s commitment to battle deforestation and reel in the country’s rapidly-rising CO2 emissions. It is earmarked for building up the country’s capacity to measure and monitor its forests – a key step if the country is to earn carbon credits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

That funding is to be paid out slowly over the 7-8 years, and is contingent on certain benchmarks – the implementation of this moratorium being one of the first. Indonesian and international observers are looking to the moratorium as an indication of the seriousness of the country’s commitment to the principles and objectives of REDD. Yudhoyono had pledged to sign the moratorium on January 1, but faced stiff opposition from other officials and industry lobbyists who argued that REDD was less lucrative than palm oil, pulp, and timber.

Indonesia’s history of unchecked deforestation earned the nation an unenviable place among the top greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters in the world, ranking third globally. Even before securing this ignominious ranking, however, Indonesia had long been targeted with sustained criticism from environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign governments for its troubling environmental record. It came as a major surprise for many in the international community as Indonesia began taking several serious steps toward initiating a nation-wide REDD program over the past year…

A teak forest in mid-Java from around 1940 (if my Dutch is any good, which it isn't), from the Tropenmuseum Collection via Wikimedia Commons

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