Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Breakthroughs in Indonesia's forest protection

During the past one year, the Indonesian government has made several historic policies and breakthroughs for the preservation of its forest, the worlds third largest after the Amazon in Brazil and Congos forest, if they are implemented properly.

Indonesia has over the past year among other things established Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Agency, extended forest moratorium for another two years to prevent new clearing of primary forests and peat lands, signed the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade - Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) with (EU) to fight illegal timber trade.

The extended forest moratorium and the REDD+ Agency in particular are crucial to help realize the governments commitment to the reduction of CO2 emissions in Indonesia by 26 percent by 2020, and by 40 percent with international support. 

The commitment was announced by President Yudhoyono in October 2009 and received a positive response from the Government of Norway which later agreed to sign a Letter of Intent (LoI) with Indonesia on May 26, 2010, to provide assistance worth US$1 billion to Indonesia, based upon verified emissions reductions as part of the REDD+ plan.

The new REDD+ Agency was set up based on Presidential Regulation No. 62/2013 on Managing Body for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) which was signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on August 31, 2013.

REDD+ is an alternative mechanism that will help cut global carbon dioxide emissions in developing nations. Under the scheme, forested nations will receive financial incentives for protecting their forests. The plus (+) sign in the programmes name refers to additional financial incentives given to countries that will launch projects to plant trees, conserve forest areas and boost carbon retention.

Yudhoyono appointed Heru Prasetyo, former secretary and member of the REDD+ Institution Preparation Task Force, to lead the REDD+ Agency, in a Presidential Decree dated December 12, 2013.

Welcoming the appointment of Prasetyo, the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and the Environment issued a statement saying, "This historic move by the Government of Indonesia could help save the worlds third-largest stretch of tropical rainforests." 

The Norwegian government saw the decision as a move that kick-starts the second phase of the historic billion-dollar climate change agreement between Norway and Indonesia, one of the most aggressive efforts in the world to slash greenhouse gas emissions through the protection of Indonesias forests.

On May 13, 2013, President Yudhoyono made a bold and courageous decision by signing Presidential Instruction No. 6/2013 on moratorium of new licenses for forest clearing in primary natural forests and peat lands. 

The presidential instruction adds another two years of forest moratorium expected to protect over 43 million hectares of primary forests and peat land.

Indonesias forest holds some of the worlds most diverse ecosystems - from endangered orangutans and rhinos to a Rafflesia that produces the largest flower on earth.

The government issued the presidential instruction no.10 /2011 on forest moratorium for the first time in May 2011.

The renewed moratorium is good news for global efforts to combat climate change. According to a 2007 study by the World Bank, Indonesia is the worlds largest emitter of greenhouse gases after America and China, mostly because of the destruction of forests and peat lands. 

But at the same time, Indonesias tropical rainforests covering around 120 million hectares, or 62 percent of the total land surface, has a total carbon storage of 60 gigatons (billion tons). 

The moratorium policy has also created a momentum to address uncertainties in the current mapping of national parks and protected forests at different levels of government.

Another important move made in 2013 was the signing of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade - Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT-VPA) by Indonesia and the European Union (EU) in Brussels, Belgium, on September 30, 2013, following six years of negotiations involving government officials, civil society, and the private sector.

Indonesia is the first Asian country and the largest timber exporter to enter into such an agreement, which aims to ensure that all Indonesian timber entering the EU market is produced legally and has passed all legal verification channels with the EU. 

Four African countries---Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Ghana---have already signed similar agreements with the EU.

The pact is expected to help fight the trade in illegal timber, a driver of environmentally damaging deforestation in the Asian country, which has the worlds third-largest forest coverage after Brazil and the Congo. 

The agreement is a breakthrough and has signaled strategic cooperation between producing and consuming countries, particularly between Indonesia and the EU, according to Indonesian Forestry Minsiter Zulkifli Hasan.

Following the signing of the agreement, Indonesia and the EU will begin the ratification process for its implementation which is expected to start in April 2014.

Indonesia is Asias leading exporter of timber to Europe, with Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, and Italy as its main destinations. 

The EU imported $1.2 billion worth of timber and paper from Indonesia in 2010, about 15 percent of the countrys total exports in the forestry sector.

Like in the previous years, the government marked the Indonesias Tree Planting Day and National Planting Month in 2013. In line with the Presidential Decree No. 24/2008, Nov. 28 is designated as the Indonesian Tree Planting Day (HMPI) and December as the National Planting Month (BMN).

The theme of the 2013 events was "Leave Better Forests for Future Generation of the Nation." 

In his speech during the event that was held in Bali in December 2013, President Yudhoyono urged the Indonesian people to invest in the environment by continuously planting trees for the sake of the nations future generation.

As part of the governments commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Indonesia has pledged to plant billions of trees throughout the country.

During the 2010 to 2013 period, the country planted at least one billion trees under the tree planting program. The number has continued to increase and is expected to touch two billion in 2014, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan pointed out.

The minister noted that Indonesia had been consistent in implementing sustainable development by preserving its forests for the future generation.

Despite those achievements, during 2013 Indonesia still faced forest fire problem. In June and August, the country was hit by forest fires particularly in Sumatras provinces of Riau, Jambi and North Sumatra, and in Kalimantan

Almost every year forest fires hit several Indonesian islands, particularly Sumatra and Kalimantan. Some of them are deliberately set to clear land for cultivation and some are triggered by natural factors such as extreme drought that could induce hot spots in peatland. 

But in 2013, the disaster was among the worst, forcing some districts and cities in Riau Province to declare a state of emergency. 

The smoky haze from Sumatra also affected Indonesias neighboring countries, forcing Singapore to urge people to remain indoors amid unprecedented levels of air pollution, while Malaysia was forced to close 200 schools.
The Indonesian authorities took stern measures against plantation companies including those owned by foreign businessmen from Malaysia and Singapore, that deliberately set the fires. (Antara)

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