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Interview with Teguh Surya, WALHI: “We are against REDD. We are against carbon trading.”

Interview with Teguh Surya, WALHI: We are against REDD. We are against carbon trading.Interview with Teguh Surya, campaigns director at WALHI (Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia – Friends of the Earth Indonesia), at WALHI’s office, Jakarta, February 2012.

REDD-Monitor: Please start with a brief description of what WALHI is and what your aims are in Indonesia.

Teguh Surya: WALHI is the biggest environmental movement in Indonesia. In Indonesia we work on policy advocacy and work to strengthen community rights, in particular natural resources issues. Because we are a grassroots movement, we work closely with communities, and we educate them about their rights and we help them to get their rights. We work together with communities who have problems with or who are in conflict with oil palm plantations or mining concessions. We work together with them and discuss and design the strategy to achieve the target and how to get back their land. Land tenure conflict and land grabbing is a big issue in Indonesia. This is not something from Indonesia’s past, it is ongoing. It still happens today.

REDD-Monitor: So WALHI has a head office in Jakarta and a network of groups around the country?

Teguh Surya: WALHI in Jakarta, this office, is the national secretariat, and then we have 27 regional offices with 483 NGO member organisations and 150 individual members. We just need to add five more provinces and our network will cover all of Indonesia.

REDD-Monitor: How does the principle of free, prior and informed consent influence WALHI’s work with local communities?

Teguh Surya: Actually, we agreed with the principle of FPIC, before FPIC became a famous issue, we already worked on that, but in different terms. We use veto rights. We agreed that if the government is planning to conduct development in an area they should consult with the community, even before they release the permit, before the investor applies for the relevant permissions. And then the whole process, all the information, should be transparent. The community should know what is planned. The government and other related institutions should be sharing and open, transparent about the process and the communities have the right to discuss their position among themselves and then make a decision. Once the communities arrive at their decision, the government should respect their decision.

REDD-Monitor: Please explain WALHI’s work on REDD.

Teguh Surya: WALHI’s work on REDD issues started in 2005 and continues today. Before working on REDD issues we worked with WALHI’s members together with local communities to get recognition from the government about the system of community forestry. So that remains our focus. In Indonesia we know there are many, many local communities managing their forests, in Jambi, in Riau, in Kalimantan they have their tools how to manage the forest. The communities succeed in applying their wisdom, their methodology to save the forest.

And then, after COP11 in Montreal, when Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea submitted their proposal about RED, we tried to challenge that initiative. We asked why are they promoting a new scheme, without recognising the previous scheme? The schemes by the community and indigenous peoples have proved successful in saving the forest.

Of course, we agree with reducing emissions from deforestation but in fact REDD at this moment is different, it’s not to save the forest, they are cheating us. They say we would like to save the forest, but in reality they want to expand more extractive industry, palm oil and so on.

In terms of WALHI’s members working working on REDD, we have WALHI national secretariat, WALHI in Jambi, Central Kalimantan, Aceh, Riau, West Kalimantan and Central Sulawesi.

REDD-Monitor: What is WALHI’s position on REDD?

Teguh Surya, WALHI

Teguh Surya: We are against REDD. One reason is the definitions used in REDD. We cannot save the forest because the definition of the forest itself is not clear. The definition of forests is the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation definition, right? That means there is an ambiguity at the heart of REDD. Some governments could use the definition to include oil palm monoculture plantations as forest. That almost happened in Indonesia a few months ago, through a ministerial decree. The decree was overturned in the end.

Another reason for opposing REDD is the pattern of production and consumption. There is no answer when we ask NGOs and governments in Annex I countries, how can you help Indonesia to save its remaining forests if your demand for raw materials, like crude palm oil (CPO) and mining products, continues to increase. That means you push the Indonesian government to convert more forest by planting more oil palm and producing more CPO, and on the other hand you say you should conserve your forests. It’s impossible.

Actually, it’s easy. If we agree to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, first we need to reduce demand from Annex I countries, or industrial countries. First. And then at the same time, we should strengthen and improve our forest governance.

A third reason for opposing REDD is the problem of leakage. Until the Durban meeting, they were just talking about money, the REDD window in the Green Climate Fund. They don’t want to talk about leakage and the issue is still not clear. Because the problem is demand from Annex I countries and their production that continues to increase. We cannot solve the problem of leakage until they stop or reduce demand.

Even if we had 100% success in reducing deforestation in Indonesia, how about Malaysia, how about Papua New Guinea? Because as long as the demand for raw material continues the destruction will continue.

Another reason is the recognition of carbon rights. Who owns carbon rights? Is it the communities? Or forest dependent peoples? Or corporations? Or governments? This is an important question, because in Indonesia we know that there are many indigenous peoples and local communities living in the forest area. But there is still no strong recognition in the law about the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities relating to forests. So if REDD is applied before this problem is resolved it means that the land grabbing process will continue and communities will lose their source of livelihood.

REDD-Monitor: And what’s WALHI’s position on carbon trading?

Teguh Surya: We are against carbon trading and offsetting, of course. At the global level, REDD will use carbon trading and carbon offsets. Through this scheme they will allow Annex I countries to avoid their responsibilities for greenhouse gas emissions. Even if REDD projects are created throughout the tropics, we cannot save the climate if Annex I countries continue to release greenhouse gases and continue to use fossil fuels. That’s WALHI’s point. Even if we could agree on REDD and resolve all the main problems, if REDD involves using carbon trading and offsetting, we should oppose it. REDD should be funded by public funds. Additional funds, not funds taken from ODA, but ODA-plus.

In 2009, in Indonesia, a law was introduced that states that that Indonesia will develop a system for carbon trading and emissions trading. We also have a Ministry of Forestry decree that states that Indonesia has agreed to develop offsets through REDD. That’s why the governments of Norway, Australia, Germany, Korea, Japan and other developed countries are very interested in investing money in REDD in Indonesia. They are interested in carbon trading in the future, post 2020.

REDD-Monitor: WALHI has focussed much of its criticism of REDD on the Australia-funded Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership (KFCP). Can you talk a bit about your speaking tour in Australia and explain why WALHI is focussing on this particular REDD project.

Teguh Surya: We have put more energy and focus on Central Kalimantan because we think that the Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership is the biggest and most advanced REDD project in the country. In Indonesia we have many REDD initiatives, 44 projects in total. But the Central Kalimantan project seems to have progressed further than the others. In relation to that campaign we submitted a complaint to Australian government directly in November 2010.

KFCP’s project developers say that they are carrying out a good FPIC process. But that’s lying, because they made their decisions first. They got their permit from the government and then they started dealing with the consultation. That’s the wrong way round.

When we talk to the people implementing the KFCP project, we get the impression that they believe that if they had talked from the beginning with the Dayak Ngaju (the indigenous communities living in the project area), the idea might have been rejected. So they got an agreement from the government first and then they started to design the project. Then they talked to the community.

There is too much lying within the KFCP project. We met the Australian Labour Party, we met the Green Party in Melbourne and then the Liberal Party in Canberra. They received a report from the Australian government explaining that there was better consultation, but even the community facilitator who conducted the consultation admits that they just explained to the community that forest equals money. So that’s REDD. If you have forest you get money. If you burn the forest your money is also burnt. That’s it.

And the result of all this is conflict within the Dayak Ngaju communities. The community elders say that we don’t need REDD, because we need our land to produce food and for our sustainable livelihood. But younger people disagree, because they say, “We need jobs, it’s modern man. We won’t keep our forest without incentives.” The result is conflict. That’s one reason why we and Dayak Ngaju representatives went to Australia and talked to the Australian government.

Another point, when the rejection from the Dayak Ngaju became huge, they organised dangdut dancer, “sexy dancer”, in November/December 2010. The KFCP actually doesn’t want a transparent process to share the reality of this project, they just want to secure their project. Their focus is carbon offsets. They hope to get carbon credits from the project. So they secured about 10 million rupiah (about US$1,100) for each village and they organised dangdut koplo. Then they asked villagers to write their name and what they want from the project. The project developers kept the list, but we don’t know what happened with that document.

Last month, Yayasan Petak Danum, one of the local organisations, together with Dayak Ngaju communities occupied many, many hectares in Central Kalimantan. This is about palm oil but in the same area as the KFCP.

REDD-Monitor: There’s a palm oil concession within the KFCP project area?

Teguh Surya: Yes. First there was the mega-rice project in 1996-97. That failed and then they invited the Dutch government and Shell and Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Mawas, Wetlands International, CARE and WWF to conduct the Central Kalimantan Peatland Project (CKPP). That also failed. But BOS Mawas got a large area for orangutan conservation, 400,000 hectares, Block E, the northern area. And when the various projects failed, the government released a lot of permits on that land and now it is very, very chaotic, with many overlapping permits on the land.

One question from the Dayak Ngaju is about the status of land ownership. Who does this land belong to? Since the mega-rice project, there has been the CKPP, oil palm plantations and now REDD. And no one from the government, or the project developers, can answer the simple question, whose land is this? And as long as there is no answer, they insist that this land belongs to the Dayak, especially Dayak Ngaju. But BOS Mawas argues that the forest land belongs to BOS Mawas because they got a permit to protect orangutans. And then the KFCP project overlaps with the BOS Mawas project. That means this area belongs to BOS Mawas and Australia.

REDD-Monitor: Many of the NGOs working on REDD are saying “No rights, no REDD”. Their argument is that if we can get sufficiently strong safeguards then we can avoid the worst dangers of REDD. What is WALHI’s position on safeguards?

Teguh Surya: Good question. But difficult! We have different positions. Firstly about the “No rights, no REDD”, actually, WALHI’s thinking is that government, local and national have a responsibility to recognise indigenous peoples’ rights and local communities’ rights to forests. And they also have rights, that the government must recognise, to say yes or to say no to REDD.

For WALHI, the right to join REDD is a right of the community. Recognition of rights is an obligation. The government cannot say we will recognise your rights, but you should join REDD. That’s wrong and WALHI is opposed to that. But we agree that communities have a right to say yes, or to say no, to a REDD project. That’s a different position than, “No rights, no REDD”.

How do we save forest through safeguards? Even when we have strong safeguards we believe we cannot save the forests as long as Annex I countries’ production and demand continues to increase. Safeguards are in the middle of the debate. Without resolving the main problems in the forestry sector, safeguards are useless.

In WALHI, we don’t understand this focus on safeguards. Many of the NGOs in Indonesia, never, ever talk about leakage, they never, ever want to talk about the definition of forests, they never, ever want to talk about the root causes of deforestation or the main problems with REDD. They just say that we could save the indigenous peoples through safeguards. It’s lying. The definition of REDD itself is not clear until now. They still allow “sustainable forest management”, including logging concessions. And enhancement of carbon stocks could mean monoculture plantations.

REDD-Monitor: Last year there was an agreement on illegal logging between the EU and Indonesia. Negotiations for that took many years, whereas with REDD they are saying, all we need is a price on the carbon in the forest. How involved has WALHI been in the illegal logging discussions and do you think that there are lessons to be learned in the way that REDD is being implemented?

Teguh Surya: Actually WALHI was involved since 2002-3. In 2008, we released a critical report about the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) project. Law enforcement and governance are important but the “T” stands for trade. Actually, Europe just wants to secure its timber supply. Because they are saying on the one hand that the industry still needs a supply of timber and on the other hand they got pressure from the market about environmental issues.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve found that certificates, eco-labelling and FLEGT are irrelevant in reducing deforestation. When the debate increases, deforestation also increases. That’s useless.

As long as Europe doesn’t want to reduce or change their production and consumption pattern, industry will find another way to fulfill their needs. If they cannot directly access from Indonesia, the timber will go through Vietnam and then to Europe and also now to Australia.

Its the same with crude palm oil (CPO). Global markets believe that only Malaysia can provide green CPO, sustainable CPO. But in fact, most of the CPO from Malaysia came from Indonesia.

Why did this situation happen? Because industry’s production capacity remains high and they don’t want to reduce capacity. That’s why they find another way to meet their demand for raw material. FLEGT and certificates for ecolabelling don’t discuss issues like changes in production patterns. We can improve FLEGT and ecolabelling if industrial countries, or consumers in the US, EU, Japan, China and India are also downsizing their production capacity.

REDD-Monitor: What is WALHI’s view of the US$1 billion deal between Indonesia and Norway? Particularly given that the moratorium is only two years, only applies to primary forests and amounts to little more than business as usual.

Teguh Surya: WALHI, in alliance with other NGOs, is promoting a moratorium on logging, because we believe that a moratorium on logging would create the momentum to solve all the main problems in the forestry sector, because we demand that they implement law enforcement, transparency and recognition of local and indigenous peoples’ rights. But the government is still cheating us. The moratorium issued last year still allows existing permits, extensions to existing concessions and so on.

This moratorium is just business. Norway and Indonesia both want to show their good intentions at the global level. But in fact, they both know that deforestation in Indonesia will continue and Norway will continue to expand its oil business in Indonesia and other countries. We found that Norway has plans to offset carbon. I don’t know how much, what percent they are planning to offset, but they already have an agreement and Indonesia is one of the targetted countries. Even though Indonesia signed the Letter of Intent agreement with Norway, they still release a lot of permits.

REDD-Monitor: Indonesia is an important country in the REDD debate. There are more than 40 REDD projects, and the President keeps saying how important saving the forests is. At the same time, oil concessions, palm oil concessions, mining concessions and pulp and paper concessions continue to expand. (APP recently announced that it’s going to build biggest pulp mill in the world). Given all of this, are you optimistic or pessimistic about the way REDD is developing in Indonesia?

Teguh Surya: Definitely pessimistic. Because it is impossible to do the wrong thing and the right thing at the same time. If you want to save your lungs you should stop smoking. The government says that we will save Kalimantan’s forests as the “lungs of the world”. But only 45%. They will exploit the remaining 55%. You cannot save your lungs if you are still addicted to cigarettes. It’s impossible.

This interview is the second in a series of interviews with key REDD actors in Indonesia. REDD-Monitor gratefully acknowledges funding from ICCO for this project.

Leave a Reply


  1. Excellent interview. Teguh Surya speaks more sense about REDD than the entire REDD+ Partnership combined.

  2. Obviously, the WALHI campaigns director does not fully understand REDD in Kalimantan. He may know some problems on palm oil plantation expansion and pulp & paper industry, but he failed to understand that BOS or CKPP or KFCP will not having land acquitition in Kalimantan. Lands are still belong to Dayak Ngaju.

  3. Excellent interview…all the arguments to oppose redd are there! Thanks Teguh and thanks Chris!

    thanks for sharing

  4. I enjoyed reading this and found it useful regarding REDD, but I want to take up the concerns Teguh raises about illegal logging and FLEGT, and why Europe signed the Voluntary Partnership Agreement. It has very little to do with securing timber supplies for Europe – Europe is a net exporter of timber and could survive quite happily without Indonesian products – Europe signed the VPA primarily to help Indonesia tackle illegal logging and to help Indonesian exporters of legal timber meet the European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR). When the EUTR comes in to force in March 2013 it will change consumption patterns in Europe. Does Teguh think that there should be similar legislation to stop illegal palm oil from entering Europe and other such markets? If so, what is Walhi doing about it?

  5. @Agus observer – Thanks for your comment. I have two questions:

    1. How do you know that the Dayak Ngaju own the land?

    2. If you are correct that the Dayak Ngaju are the owners of the land, can you explain why they seem to have so little say about what happens to that land?

  6. Because education matter!
    Thanks for great interview. The problem with peoples from local community is generally speaking they have low education level. No doubt they inherite a natural wisdom. However, they probably have no idea the labyrinth of liberal economic and market that govern the world. Before they know that they “have a right to say yes, or to say no, to a REDD project”, in my sens, Walhi firstly have to focus their campaign on enhancing education among those people! Of course I’m totaly agree that they are alone have the right to decide which kind of life they want in the future.

  7. Hi Chris, let me partially answer your questions:

    1. As in my previous comments, BOS, CKPP, and KFCP has no intention to seize or occupy the lands from local people. They only got permits from the government to do conservation programs. Local people still own the lands. There perhaps some access restrictions to the areas, especially for timber extraction. You may want to refer a specific regulation from the Governor of Central Kalimantan in 2009 regarding customary land in the area, very strong provisions for Dayak people. This is different to the palm oil concession where private companies “bought” the land and cleared it for cultivation.
    Perhaps if you agree with Teguh, you may also elaborate: how do you think the REDD seize the land from Dyak Ngaju people.

    2. As stated by Naturinfo, and I agree with him/her, because education matter. In addition, it is a remote area, most people (especially the owners) have very limited access to information and the level of livelihood in the area is low. We may expect that they will say little on this issue. I think local people will accept any program prepared by government or any other parties as long as they can get a better livelihood. I guess the most important issue here is the dissemination of correct information to local people, and its stakeholders.

    Thanks for your questions and coverage on the interview. Some of Teguh’s concerns are worth to get attention, that advanced countries need to reduce their greenhouse gases emission (or decrease the rate of their development activities), that the expansion of palm oil plantation in the region should be controlled and better managed. But connecting REDD activities from BOS, CKPP, and KFCP with land acquisition (land grabbing according to Teguh) is not that relevant.

  8. @Agus – Thanks for answering the questions, that’s very useful. I’m not sure that the REDD project has “seized” or “grabbed” the land from Dayak Ngaju people. I think it’s a more gradual process than those words imply. The danger is that as a result of these projects, the Dayak Ngaju over time have less and less say about what happens with their land and more and more restrictions are created over what they can do with their land.

    Which is why a process of free, prior informed consent is so important, a important part of which, as you point out, is “dissemination of correct information to local people”. Resolving land rights issues is a crucial part of any “development” project – whether it’s a REDD project, a mining concession or a palm oil concession.

    Actually, local communities have been quite outspoken about the KFCP project. They are not just passively accepting whatever comes their way.

  9. I would like to express my disagreement to the statement of Agus when he said:» I think local people will accept any program prepared by government or any other parties as long as they can get a better livelihood.” Is that really so? And what right do we have to say that? As though they have no idea what kind of life they would like to have as long as they reach western standard of living??! Is that really what they want and what they need? Let give them the chance to express their will in their mother tongue (neither in English nor in Indonesian), so that there will ; Anyway, I still believe that REDD will be worthily contribute something for the well being of our planet, in one and only one condition that this will not be just business as usual!

  10. @ Chris: one restriction I guess is commercial and illegal timber logging, except timber extraction for local community uses.
    As fo the information dissemination of correct information, it is what I expect from WALHI, to support the conservation and help local people to understand the REDD, not to confuse it with the issue of land ownership.

    @ Naturinfo: it was a simplification of course. We will have different answers on development plans from people with low education and from the other. Perhaps they don’t want any change at all. That’s the role of government and REDD stakeholders to help local people understand and develop, and not to confuse them.

  11. @Agus, WALHI will support all of ideas to save Indonesia remaining forest beyond carbon and we work to strengthen the community right of the forest. I would like to remind you mate, actually we should help indigenous/ local people to understand that they have rights to disagree with REDD and save the forest based on their initiative. Regarding no land acquitition, could you please show me the proof because I saw by myself how BOS occupied land of dayak ngaju in many years, and how BOS ban Dayak Ngaju to access their land. We also found corruption case and conflict of interest within the KFCP project in Central Kalimantan.

  12. Neither big projects nor NGOs (International, National and local) have positive contribution to the lift up of the Dayak communities welfare in the area mentrioned (ex Mega Rice Project). Similarly with the strengthening rights of the Dayak Communities upon their costumary lands. The Dayak communities do all those things by themself. Those who claim that they have done a lot helping and improving the dayak livelihoods as well strenthening their land rights are just a matter of subjective claim. Parties mentioned above just used term Dayak so as to strengthening their project image or campaign branding. In reality, the Dayak communities in this case are become a commodity as well as victim of both sides. I am Dayak and most of my relatives live in the area discussed and most of them don’t know and even never benefited from those who claim as the saviour of dayak communities.

  13. Dear Alue, I am concerned with your statement. I know you are coming from native Dayak community. It is sad to hear your conclusion that government and NGOs in Indonesia helped nothing to your people. Any better suggestion from you Alue? Salam…

  14. @Teguh Surya, great for you.
    I just want to ask something, could you give me information about the experties in coco mesh or coco fiber, coz i have some proggram for reclamation for the lands ex mining in indonesia than i want to combine my proggram with hydroseeding system. if you dont mine, may i have your mobile phone number for better communication. thank you.