Indonesia: Forests to fall in the name of climate?


The tragedy of Indonesian forest clearance looks set to continue if a report released yesterday by Greenpeace is correct. Protection Money highlights how climate funds could, scandalously, bankroll deforestation across the archipelago of 17,000 tropical islands.

According to the report Ministry of Forestry documents show all land not currently under some kind of conservation protection would be converted by 2030 - a total of 63 million ha. Some 37 million ha of this would be rainforest (40% of Indonesia's total), 16 million ha of carbon-rich peatland (80% of Indonesia's total), and 50% of forested orangutan habitat. These staggering figures, if true, would spell catastrophe for the biodiversity of the country and severely undermine President Susilo Bamband Yudhoyono's commitment to low carbon development.

"I am confident that we can reach this goal (of GHG emissions reduction targets), while also ensuring sustainable and equitable economic growth for our people." President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, 26 April 2010

Font cover of Greenpeace report Protection MoneyThe report says Indonesia’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) abatement plan identifies the pulp, palm and agriculture sectors as the lead drivers of future deforestation. But maddeningly it also says that "industry statements and government policy documents indicate that – with improved productivity as a primary objective – no additional land is needed to achieve government targets for expansion in these sectors."

Indonesia - despite being a relatively poor country - is the world's third biggest GHG emitter. And the vast majority of these emissions come from deforestation and peatland degradation. The Norwegian government has pledged $1 billion to a scheme designed to reduce deforestation and GHG emissions in Indonesia. Part of this deal includes a two-year moratorium on allocation of further peatlands and natural forests for sector expansion.

But behind the scenes groups are trying to use loose legal phrasing to undo the ambitions of the President and the good will of the Norwegians. Officials with the Ministry of Forestry and from within the extractive and plantation industries would seek to "rebrand the industrial activities driving deforestation as ‘rehabilitation of degraded’ lands."

In effect this means natural forest can continue to fall and peatlands continue to be destroyed if they are replanted with pulp, timber and palm plantations, which they can argue has a high carbon stock. It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to see the irony in the situation... International monies laid out to protect forest could actually be used to pay for its destruction. This is despite the fact the draft Indonesian REDD (Reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation) strategy says that no more conversion of forest is required in the mid-term.

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