in Indonesia

The push for REDD could sidestep land and resource rights in Indonesia

The push for REDD could sidestep land and resource rights in IndonesiaThe latest issue of Down to Earth‘s newsletter includes a detailed overview of REDD in Indonesia. The danger, Down to Earth points out, is that in the rush to get REDD pilot schemes up and running before the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009, important issues such as land and resource rights in forests are sidestepped.

Down to Earth’s article, “The pressure for REDD”, can be downloaded as a pdf file (150 kB) here.

As the world’s highest emitter of greenhouse gases from forests and peatlands, it is not surprising that Indonesia is one of the countries at the forefront of proposals to develop REDD projects. Several REDD pilot projects are either planned or have already started in Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Aceh, Riau and Papua. Last week, at the Governors’ Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles, three US Governors signed agreements to include in their planned emissions trading schemes carbon credits from protection of forests in six states in Brazil and Indonesia, including with Ulu Masen in Aceh.

Down to Earth sums up the concerns in the discussions surrounding REDD as follows:

  • Whether REDD can be a socially just, environmentally sound, achievable and cost-effective means of mitigating climate change and whether it should be included in a new global agreement to reduce emissions at all;
  • Whether or not commitments to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions in the North, can be met or offset by reducing emissions from deforestation in the global South;
  • How to finance REDD efforts: through carbon taxes, international funding and/or carbon markets? and which institutions should be in control of the purse strings;
  • Who should be involved in decision-making about REDD at local, national and international levels;
  • How to ensure that poverty reduction, human rights protection, indigenous peoples rights, including the right to free, prior and informed consent, and biodiversity protection goals are not pushed aside in the rush to cut carbon emissions;
  • How to ensure real benefit sharing with indigenous peoples and local communities;
  • How to secure poor people against the risks of engaging in these new, uncertain, market-based or aid-based financial transfers;
  • How to ensure good governance, transparency and how to guard against corruption in REDD schemes;
  • How to prepare for REDD, including
    • defining key terms: what constitutes ‘deforestation’ and ‘forest degradation’?
    • identifying forest ownership and user rights, including those of indigenous peoples;
    • mapping forests and forest resources, including carbon stocks, and baselines of previous carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation;
    • deciding on who needs to be compensated for not deforesting;
    • agreeing on what legislation and what institutions are needed to govern REDD at national and local levels, including defining who has carbon rights;
    • deciding on technical aspects such as how to prepare future baseline scenarios from which emissions reductions can be measured;
    • agreeing how to measure and verify reductions and systems for distributing benefits;
    • agreeing on participatory decision-making and benefit-sharing systems.

Down to Earth summarises the problems of definitions in the current REDD discussions. An important difference between the UNFCCC’s definition of forests and that of the Indonesian government is that Indonesia’s definition does not include industrial tree plantations. UNFCCC’s definition does. Down to Earth notes that “Including plantations in areas eligible for REDD could lead to big business being rewarded for efforts to protect carbon stocks in plantations, on former forested land taken without consent from indigenous customary rights-holders.”

Indonesia has set up a project aimed at Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Indonesia called REDD-I. The project involves the Indonesia Forest Climate Alliance, which is led by the Indonesian forestry department and includes researchers from national and international institutions. Funding comes from the World Bank, DFID, the Australian government and Germany’s technical cooperation agency, GTZ. The project has set up a website with information on REDD in Indonesia and internationally.

But while various REDD projects and initiatives are going ahead in Indonesia, the government continues to push ahead with targets to convert millions of hectares of forest into oil palm, pulpwood and other plantations. The government is also permitting mining in protected forests, such as by BHP-Billiton on Gag Island, West Papua.

Business as usual would mean the loss of all non-swamp forest in Sumatra and Kalimantan by 2010. A report produced for Rainforest Foundation Norway estimates that increases of 20 million hectares of oil palm and 10 million hectares of pulpwood plantations are planned, the majority of which would be in forest areas.

Down to Earth points out that “there is an urgent need to address tenure in Indonesia’s forests”. However, this is far from simple. A regulation on adat (customary) forest has been stalled since 1999, when Indonesia’s current forestry law was passed.

The article concludes by noting that the UN-REDD Framework Document issues the following warning: “If REDD programmes are not carefully designed, they could marginalize the landless and those with informal usufructual rights and communal use-rights.” This warning, comments Down to Earth, “could have been tailor-made for Indonesia”.

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