Following the signing of an agreement between Norway and Indonesia implementing the UN’s reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus (REDD+) program, the Indonesian government is seriously considering an idea to establish a REDD council.
This council is expected to report directly to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to coordinate REDD+ implementation efforts in the country.
In addition, the council would regulate REDD+ projects and decide which projects would be endorsed prior to registration at the United Nations (UN).
The government thinks that unapproved REDD projects would be prevented by the creation of
Unsurprisingly, the idea to establish a REDD council has sparked different responses. Some have supported it and others have responded skeptically.
Those supporting the idea state that the council is crucial for the country to reduce emissions from deforestation comprehensively — across sectors — and lift the burden of this gigantic task from the Forestry Ministry.
According to Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan, the REDD council may reduce his ministry’s authority on forests, but could also help the ministry focus on its main (and huge) task of managing Indonesia’s dwindling forests.
Proponents of a REDD council believe it would smooth the process of developing policies, institutions and a legal framework for the implementation of REDD+.
On the other hand, others argue that REDD council may not be the appropriate institution to ensure coordination across sectors and among different layers of governments and actors when it comes to dealing with deforestation and land use changes.
Deforestation and the destruction of terrestrial ecosystems are often associated with the development of major sectors such as forestry, agriculture, mining and infrastructure.
These sectors are regulated under different ministries (i.e., forestry, agriculture, energy and mineral resources and public works). These ministries are known to have often overlapping policies on land use and land use changes.
It is therefore essential that any institution developed to oversee the formulation and implementation
of REDD+ has to actively and directly involve and coordinate these sectors and the ministries overseeing the sectors.
A REDD council needs to get these sectors involved and to gain support when it comes to issuing and implementing policies on REDD+.
Good policies on REDD+ are required to cover and clarify forest tenure and management, overlapping land use and agricultural policies and coordination of district, provincial and national level agencies and actors.
Some experts suggest that the country needs to learn a lesson from the current National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) as well as other relevant institutions and policies created by the President and his ministries.
The creation of DNPI in 2008 by Yudhoyono is an attempt to guide Indonesia’s efforts in integrating climate change into its development agenda.
To be able to do this, support from different sectors, governments and actors at national, provincial and district levels is crucial. However, securing this support remains a continuous challenge for DNPI.
DNPI itself has a working group on forestry issues that has been dealing with REDD Plus. It is yet to be seen as to how this unit will be positioned vis-a-vis a new REDD council.
The country also has the Coordinating Board of Spatial Planning (BKPRN) — led by the Coordinating Economic Ministry and supported by at least 13 ministries and agencies — that has the task to prepare, coordinate and monitor national spatial and land use planning.
In the context of these policies, the government has released a number of official documents that emphasize the challenges of key climate change actions in sectors such as forestry, land use and agriculture.
These include the Finance Ministry’s Green Paper, the Environment Ministry’s Indonesia Second National Communication and the National Development Planning Ministry’s Indonesia Climate Change Sectoral Roadmap.
Without careful and thorough assessment, the establishment of a REDD council and its future policies would further tangle already a complicated web of forest and land use management.
Studies show that decentralization in this country, particularly in the forestry and land use sectors, has been incredibly rapid, with decentralization occurring effectively more quickly than legally.
Local governments, groups and individuals appear to have more power and authority. This has contributed to the gradual decline of the central government’s ability to both manage and protect forest and land use resources.
Having learnt from this and to demonstrate a good process in integrating sub-national and national levels of effective land use policies, recent initiatives to promote sustainable development have been
These include “The Road Map for Saving Sumatra Island and Ecosystem”, “the Heart of Borneo” and “Papua Government Initiative”.
If formally established, it is important for REDD council to accommodate local voices and concerns and adjust its system to ensure effective implementation of REDD+.
The proposed REDD council is perceived as the litmus test to Indonesia’s ability to curb deforestation.
All will only end well if the government can come up with a design that can overcome the challenges mentioned above.
The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award and advisor to the World Wildlife Fund Indonesia on climate and energy issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org