ROAD to COPENHAGEN, Fitrian Ardiansyah , Jayapura | Tue, 11/17/2009 1:18 PM | Lifestyle
When world leaders are perceived to be slow to show commitment and progress in tackling climate change, their local counterparts often emerge as better surrogates.
Last week, at the opening of the first International Biodiversity Conference for Sustainable Development in Papua, the governor of Papua re-affirmed his pledge to address climate change and sustainability in this province.
The governor articulated five key aspirations. The first three relate to sustainable forest and land use management: halting 50 percent of allocated conversion forests and preserving these under sustainable forest management; not allowing the use of primary forests with high conservation values (HCVs) for oil palm and other land uses; and increasing the efficiency and productivity of current land use, including existing oil palm.
The other two messages consist in promoting and developing renewable energy based industries to gradually reduce dependence on fossil fuels; and promoting local natural resource sectors and small-medium enterprises (SMEs) as engines for rural development.
This governor’s aspirations – especially the first three – represent a critical step towards reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in Indonesia. This is perhaps the first sub-national contribution to the pledge made by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to reduce the country’s emission by 26 percent in 2020 and by 41 percent if supported by developed countries.
Forests in Papua – both in the provinces of Papua and West Papua – cover approximately 42 million hectares, representing 24 percent of Indonesia’s total remaining forest areas. These forests are considered to be one of the last tropical frontier areas on Earth. Around 9.2 million hectares of these forests have been allocated for conversion to other land uses.
The untouched forests of Papua have large carbon stocks – 300 to 400 tons per hectare according to estimates from Papua’s Agency for Natural Resources Management and Environment. These forests are also home to 54 percent of Indonesia’s rich biodiversity.
More than 80 percent of the indigenous communities of Papua depend on forests to varying degrees for their livelihoods.
Hence, retaining the remaining primary forests with HCVs and a half of the planned conversion forests will not only contribute to reducing emissions but also to saving high biodiversity, local livelihoods and cultural values.
Nevertheless, substantial work and challenges remain.
First of all, governments in Papua need to proactively inform and communicate this subnational aspiration, especially when linked to the REDD discourse, to relevant governmental sectors at the central level.
As a focal point of Indonesia at the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the central government can help ensure the interests of Papua governments pertaining to REDD are incorporated in the position of the country in the 15th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-15) in Copenhagen this December.
REDD in Indonesia has been outlined as a national approach implemented at the subnational level. This means the umbrella framework of policies and incentives will come from the central government and the implementation will be detailed as well as owned by provincial and/or district governments and associated stakeholders.
To respond to this, the Papua province has issued the Papua Provincial Regulation on Sustainable Forest Management no. 21/2009 based on the Papua Special Autonomy Law no. 21/2001 and National Forestry Law no. 41/1999. This provincial regulation provides a legal framework for the implementation of REDD in Papua, which recognizes customary forest rights and emphasizes community-based forest management.
Using this provincial regulation and guidance from existing decrees of the ministry of forestry on REDD, the governments in Papua – supported by civil societies, universities, adat (traditional) communities and other key actors – are planning to set up a Forest-Carbon (REDD) Papua Task Force.
This task force aims at assisting the governments in Papua to translate, develop and coordinate policy approaches and positive incentives coming from international and national levels to the level of provinces and most importantly districts.
To ensure that REDD is properly implemented, governments in this island need to incorporate policies and incentives on REDD into formal economic development agendas with clear action plans, timetables, institutional set-up and arrangement to address gaps in capacity, financing and technology.
Papua province has laid out four steps to address this issue. Firstly, it is proposing to revisit its economic development model to ensure a sustainable growth that does not exceed the limits of the environment. As a second step, the government will work to improve and fine-tune planning instruments, including the next long and medium-term development plans as well as provincial spatial plans.
Sustainable economic policies supported by clear development plans – resulting in the creation of significant incentives for forest protection and management – are therefore crucial, not only to ensure the implementation of REDD, but also to counter the economic drivers of deforestation, for example logging, oil palm, pulpwood plantation, road development, mining and settlements.
Joining hands with the central government, the provinces of Papua can promote this platform to obtain financial support from governmental sectors at the central level (for example by using the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund), developed countries, multilateral organizations, private sector investment or NGOs as well as any financial mechanism coming from “supposed” Copenhagen’s outcomes.
The third step the province of Papua is proposing is to give more muscle to the legal framework protecting and empowering the indigenous people of Papua in this sustainable development process. Lastly, the government is working on strengthening institutional mechanisms to deliver sustainable development, including village-level decision making structures.
These last two steps are perhaps the most important of all since any plans and actions will not yield good results if provincial governments cannot provide benefits to approximately 3 million people living on this island, in particular the indigenous Papuans.
REDD incentives need to be framed by rules that ensure the benefits created also flow to, and are retained by, indigenous people and poor communities that are among the most resource-dependent people and providers of important environmental services.
In the end, it is important these policy approaches, creations of incentives and acknowledgement of indigenous people are integrated at a subnational level as part of the efforts to institute better forest governance and ensure the achievement of climate change mitigation policies, in particular REDD.
The writer is program director of climate & energy at WWF-Indonesia, and adjunct lecturer at Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org