By Chris Lang
Last week, at its virtual board meeting, the Green Climate Fund approved US$103 million of “results-based” funding to Indonesia for the period 2014 to 2016. Obviously the Green Climate Fund’s Board is suffering from a form of collective amnesia. The fires in Indonesia’s forests and peatlands in 2015 emitted more greenhouse gases than Japan emits in a year. Writing in the Guardian in October 2015, George Monbiot described Indonesia’s 2015 fires as looking “as you might imagine hell to be”.
The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century – so far.
Here’s a CIFOR video featuring photographer Björn Vaughn’s photographs of and commentary about 2015 fires:
In a letter sent to the board of the Green Climate Fund before the meeting World Rainforest Movement wrote that, “It would be a shameful act if the GCF Board rewarded governments that continue to heavily engage in and promote large-scale deforestation.”
By approving the payment to Indonesia, the Green Climate Fund has demonstrated that its REDD “results-based” payments have nothing to do with reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. REDD is simply a mechanism through which governments can give the impression of addressing the climate crisis. The tragic reality is that it is a sham.
Don’t mention the 2015 fires
Indonesia submitted a Forest Reference Emissions Level for Deforestation and Forest Degradation to the UNFCCC in 2016. At the end of 2020, the country will submit another FREL that will include “other significant carbon pools” such as peat fires. The current (2016) version of the FREL states that,
Although drainage and burning are the major sources of GHG emissions in peatland, emission from peat fires are excluded since the historical activity data for the latter are not available in Indonesia and the development of emission factors is complicated and afflicted with high uncertainties.
So the Green Climate Fund approved its payment to Indonesia based on a calculation of emissions that simply ignores peat fires. Oops.
Yet none of the GCF Board mentioned the 2015 fires when Indonesia’s funding proposal was discussed during the Green Climate Fund board meeting last week. Obviously, no one mentioned what Norway’s then-climate and environment minister Vidar Helgesen told the Financial Times in early 2016 when he visited Indonesia:
“We would obviously have hoped things would have progressed more quickly. We haven’t seen actual progress in reducing deforestation.”
GCF is funding rising deforestation
Neither did anyone on the GCF Board mention the fact that deforestation in Indonesia has increased dramatically this year, under the cover of the coronavirus lockdown. A report by WWF Germany found that in March 2020, forest destruction increased by 130% compared to the three-year average for March 2017 to 2019. In March 2020, Asia lost about 300,000 hectares of forest. About 130,000 hectares of this was in Indonesia.
And deforestation is likely to continue getting worse. In the period 2020 to 2024, the Indonesian government is planning to develop 89 national strategic projects with a total cost of US$100 billion. The projects include roads, bridges, railways, ports, airports, dams, power plants, industrial estates, and plantations.
One of the projects aims to establish 900,000 hectares of rice fields on peatlands in Kalimantan. A proposed network of roads in Kalimantan would have a serious impact on forests and would fragment wildlife habitats.
In May 2020, the government signed a new regulation that increases the type of land that can be taken by the government for development projects. Mongabay reports that under the new regulation land that can be taken over by the state includes forests, villages, and land bequeathed for religious and charitable use.
So far, the Green Climate Fund has handed out almost US$230 million for REDD. Payments have gone to Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, and Paraguay. Climate Home News points out that in each country, Global Forest Watch data shows that deforestation has risen following the period claimed for reduced deforestation payments.
“GCF is dishing out money for a concept that is not working,” Jutta Kill of World Rainforest Movement told Climate Home News. “Funding that should be available for countries to deal with the changes that climate chaos demands is wasted for paying for emissions reductions that exist on paper only.”
Norway: “The FP130 Proposal has some characteristics that in our view affect environmental integrity of the result”
Here, for the record, is Norway’s contribution to the board meeting, from Hans Olav Ibrekk. He’s the Policy Director, Section for Energy and Climate at Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite worrying about the “environmental integrity” Ibrekk did not oppose GCF funding the proposal. REDD-Monitor has submitted a request to the Green Climate Fund for the amount of double-counting as a result of private REDD projects in Indonesia:
“We welcome Indonesia’s efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Indonesia is a key country in this matter, both in terms of the magnitude of the emissions and the size of the remaining forest.
“We would like to underline Norway’s support for Indonesia’s effort through our bilateral partnership and to joint engagement in multi-lateral mechanisms.
“A key issue for us has always been to ensure environmental integrity and we recorded our concerns on this issue when the REDD+ Pilot Programme was approved. The FP130 Proposal has some characteristics that in our view affect environmental integrity of the result.
“Let me briefly address some of this. The length of the reference period. We note that the scorecard permits this, but would highlight that the shorter reference period than 20 years would provide higher environmental integrity. In that regard we welcome the signals regarding the upcoming FREL submission and stress the benefits of Indonesia having a 10 year reference period both on the Indonesia-Norway bilateral partnership and the World Bank FCPF programme.
“Transparency regarding emission reductions. ERs also are issued on a project level by private standards. We believe that it would be approriate to take these into account, noting that including these results would not affect the result offered for payment to the GCF.
“In this regard we have a question, we would also like to know the amount of tons that are potentially double-counted as a result of private ERs. This should not affect available emission reductions offered to the GCF. This information has been provided to Norway upon request by the Secretariat but for reasons of transparency and environmental integrity we would welcome this information being provided to all colleagues by the accredited entity or the Secretariat.
“Colleagues, as has already been discussed, and many of you have already made interventions today to this effect that this proposal and other REDD+ proposals has also highlighted the need for further specificity and guidance that ought to be provided to potential future scorecard. Some examples of issues that we would like to see further guidance on would be accounting for carbon pools with live emissions, such as peat, annual accounting or using the legibility as an accounting period, seeking net reductions across the period, and then applying annual estimates or averages. Thank you.”