Blog Post

The Challenge Of Reducing Deforestation In Indonesia

Aug 24, 2011 | Lynann Butkiewicz

When it comes to reducing deforestation, Indonesia is a top investment choice.

The country has the fastest deforestation rate, with two million hectares cleared every year from 2000 – 2009, a two percent decrease yearly in forested areas. If deforestation is included, Indonesia ranks third in the world in carbon emissions, trailing the United States and China. Sixty percent of carbon emissions in Indonesia come from deforestation, and its plan is to cut emissions 26 percent while achieving seven percent economic growth.

Norway has invested $1 billion in the country to reduce deforestation but the extent to which this Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) project is being doled out is questionable, only forwarding $30 million so far. Also, the second phase of the deal will only be completed once Indonesia sets up two independent bodies to govern forest protection.

“The first review concluded that there was adequate delivery on most counts for the initial phase of the partnership,” Leif John Fosse, senior adviser for the Norwegian government's International Climate and Forest Initiative, said on the sidelines of an international conference on forest tenure held on the Indonesian island of Lombok from July 11-15. “But (there are) important remaining issues including the setting up of an independent REDD+ agency and an independent institution for monitoring emissions from forests. The next payment will be made only after these are in place."

Reducing deforestation while growing the economy remains difficult -partly due to the booming palm oil industry – and there is still work to be done in order to reduce deforestation significantly.

According to a recent report by Reuters, the $2 million Rimba Raya project in Borneo that would span 90,000-hectares is close to falling apart. The report attributes the near collapse to demand for land, bureaucratic hurdles, special interests and corruption in the forest ministry. “A forest ministry official connected with the U.N.-backed forest carbon offset scheme was sentenced in April to three years in prison for accepting a $10,000 bribe to ensure an Indonesian company won a procurement tender,” according to the report.

We’ve talked about good governance in REDD projects in the past. Similar concerns can be raised with Indonesia. With different objectives, sorting out a cohesive strategy to implement an essentially global problem at a local level can become difficult. REDD takes place in a global context, reducing deforestation in one country to benefit other countries, and the world in sequestering CO2 emissions, whereas strictly deforestation, without carbon emissions taken into account, can be viewed as local. Translating the global to the local, or even the national to local, is difficult.

For example, in Aceh Province in 2008 the Ulu Masen was named the first REDD project in 2008 that met Governor Irwandi Yusuf’s Climate Community and Biodiversity Standards. The project is expected to generate 3.3 million carbon credits a year and save 1,313 square kilometers of forest by 2030. Of those 3.3 million credits, none have been issues thus far.

Reuters addressed corruption as an issue in its report, and the USAID report also said “There can be no doubt that the current lack of forest law compliance witnessed in Aceh can be attributed more broadly to a lack of good governance in the province. Several good governance prerequisites are not upheld in Aceh; herein lies the crux of the forest governance problem.”

Another problem lies in the lack of coordination between actors involved in the project. The Aceh Green Transitional Secretariat that was supposed to coordinate activities only benefited international agencies and not the local government, according to a USAID report, and USAID had issues getting information from the Secretariat. Also, there are dozens of NGOs associated with incorporating REDD in Aceh. All of these donors have their own objectives and it takes a strong local government in order to successfully coordinate all of the activities to the main objectives of Aceh Green. Where the government is lacking capacity, coordination efforts are lost.

Furthermore, there is a lack of coordination from the global to the local level. “We have been slow to include the people of Aceh in our ideas on REDD, and it is true that some may not believe they will benefit equally in the rewards” said Fadmi Ridwan, Head of REDD Taskforce Aceh last year.

So, the projects in Indonesia that are failing to reduce deforestation are not only a result of poor governance, as the Reuters report highlights and we have said before, but they also result from a lack of communication at a local and global level.