Sustaining Southeast Asia’s forests

Published in East Asia Forum Quarterly Vol. 4, No.4, October-December, 2012, PAGE 18-20

by Fitrian Ardiansyah

for full East Asia Forum Quartelrly pdf, plese see EAFQ-4.4-WEB-FINAL

Sustaining Southeast Asia’s forests

Avoiding and reversing the loss and degradation of forests is a crucial element of any sustainable development and climate change solution formulated in Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia’s forests contain some of the richest and most valuable resources and habitats on earth. These include the Greater Mekong Subregion that covers 60 million hectares of tropical forests and rivers in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and China, and the Heart of Borneo that comprises 24 million hectares of equatorial rainforests stretching along the borders of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

These forests and terrestrial ecosystems have a vital role to play in the fight against global warming. They also have significant economic and ecological value. Hundreds of millions of people depend on the healthy productive capacity of these natural systems to sustain key ecosystem services such as clean water, food and fibre.

These forests are also home to a significant part of the world’s biodiversity and possess a high level of endemism across all groups of plants and animals. Southeast Asia’s forests are the only place on earth where orang-utans, tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses still co-exist and where forests are large enough to maintain viable populations.

Deforestation and forest degradation are making a significant contribution to environmental degradation in this region and overall global emissions of greenhouse gases. In 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization reported that deforestation rates in Southeast Asia remained high at 3.7 million hectares per annum. In general, forests and terrestrial ecosystems in Southeast Asia, including peatlands, wetlands and rivers, are in a state of rapid ecological decline due to human over-exploitation.

The degradation of forest and wetland habitats affecting hydrological regimes is threatening water supply and the viability of one of the most important freshwater fisheries in the world— including, for instance, in the Tonle Sap fishery in Cambodia where the larger migratory species have declined significantly. The biggest threat to the Mekong River’s ecological system is the long-time deforestation of the river basin.

The island of Borneo, as well as Sumatra and many other places in this region, has also experienced high deforestation rates. According to several studies, between 1985 and 2005 Borneo lost an average of 850,000 hectares of forest annually—roughly a third of the island’s total rainforests—due to indiscriminate logging and forests being cleared for timber and oil palm plantations.

The increasing frequency of forest and land fires between 1997–2007 is indicative of the pressure to deforest. It is a combination of plantation and timber companies, unresolved land tenure disputes and land clearing by a massive number of individuals are the main causes of these fires.

Because of these issues, the governments of Southeast Asia are under pressure to devise smart development strategies that not only promote economic growth but also conserve the areas’ globally important biodiversity, ecosystems and natural resources.

Regional cooperation is emerging. Initiatives include the Mekong River Commission (MRC), which coordinates the formulation and implementation of sustainable development for the Greater Mekong Subregion, and the Heart of Borneo initiative, which facilitates cooperation among parties in protecting, conserving and sustainably managing remaining forests and adjacent areas.

Since 2009, countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion have agreed to use the Biodiversity Conservation Corridors Initiative (BCCI) to accelerate efforts to address conservation and climate change. One BCCI initiative is to channel economic stimulus to the rural poor within the corridors. The aim of this initiative is to strengthen sustainable management of forest and water resources. As the people become poorer and need resources to get out of poverty, there is likely a huge pressure for further and faster natural resource extraction – hence, actions to address poverty tends to have positive results on the environment.

The Heart of Borneo recently launched a ‘green economy’ approach aimed at concretely and seriously tackling threats from unsustainable land-use activities and further improving enabling conditions like good economic policy. This will create positive incentives for stakeholders to employ sustainable practices and foster good governance, clear land tenure and reformed sectoral development.

Reports also show an increase in the private sector’s involvement in the promotion, development and application of sustainability principles in their management of key commodities including forestry (through the Forest Stewardship Council) and palm oil (through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).

In November 2007 only 0.8 million hectares of Southeast Asia’s natural forests were certified under the Forest Stewardship Council. Now more than 2 million hectares of natural forests have been certified under a similar scheme. In mid-2011, just three years after certification commenced under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the palm oil industry reached one million hectares of certified production area globally. The biggest contributors were Malaysia and Indonesia.

ASEAN has commenced the Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative. Since 2008 ASEAN and its member countries have developed programs to improve in-countries’ capacity and have initiated demonstration projects so that stakeholders are ready to implement REDD+.

These efforts to retain the remaining forests of Southeast Asia may nevertheless be inadequate given constant pressures from global and regional demand for commodities like palm oil and timber. A 2010 UN report estimated that the illegal timber trade in Southeast Asia was worth US$3.5 billion.

There is urgent need for ASEAN countries to scale up their collaboration on deforestation so that they are seen as a strong front that can negotiate the channelling of financial and technical support to address deforestation in their region. At the United Nations Framework of Convention on Climate Change, ASEAN is not seen as a strong lobby group that can influence the negotiation of the financial and policy aspects of REDD+.

In setting up a monitoring system for deforestation, countries in the region can learn from Brazil, which is considered to have an advanced deforestation monitoring system. The Brazilian system combines real-time satellite observation and regular ground checking. Using an ASEAN platform, countries in Southeast Asia have the opportunity to replicate such a system in a cost-effective and transparent way.

Stronger collaborative efforts among countries, state and non-state actors in Southeast Asia is the key to significantly reducing deforestation and mitigating its impacts. Further involvement of producers in the REDD+ initiatives through timber concessions and incentives for oil palm plantations could accelerate the implementation of sustainable practices.

Financial institutions in the region and at global level also have a significant role to play. They must develop robust investment screening policies to discourage high-risk investment patterns leading to deforestation. Consumers of related commodities can also help by favoring goods that are produced through certified sustainable operations.

If done properly, efforts like these would lead to fundamental changes in how Southeast Asians manage, protect and sustain their forests. The impact of those efforts will be felt by the global community in the form of emissions reductions, and by people in Southeast Asia through their ability to maintain timber and non-timber forest production, water supply, and other ecosystem goods and services.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

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Vol.4 No.4: October – December, 2012
Energy, resources and food
About this issue
In this issue we address one of the most important concerns in Asia: security over natural resources or about how to ensure we have sufficient food, water, energy, and other resources at an accessible cost and within tolerable levels of risk now and into the future. Managing resource risks in an insecure world will differ by country, the type and possible magnitude of the risks, and national, regional vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, the multidimensional nature of resource security demands that critically important natural capital stocks be conserved at a regional and global level and that special consideration be given to the particular vulnerabilities of poor countries while following market-based approaches to ensure adequate resource supplies. Whatever the national approach adopted towards resource security, we stress that promoting resource security is not a zero-sum game. All countries can benefit from a multilateral and a sustainable market framework that provides incentives for producers and delivers reliable supply to consumers.
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In search for agreed land use solutions

Published in COAL ASIA MAGAZINE, OPINION, SEPTEMBER 22-OCTOBER 22, 2012, PAGE 102-103

by Fitrian Ardiansyah

To see the pdf version, please click: Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_Sep2012

Searching for agreed sustainable land-use management in a developing country like Indonesia is a balancing act. The two recent government regulations issued this year, namely number 60 and 61, provide ample proof on this issue.

As a tropical forest developing nation, rapid development of forests – for forestry, agriculture, infrastructure or mining activities – in Indonesia has led not only to economic growth but also to environmental degradation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

If no immediate actions taken, the unsustainable economic growth may push the already fragile ecosystems in this country close to its ‘tipping point’ – a threshold in which damages to ecosystems are irreversible and causing unacceptable environmental changes.

This country is home to peatlands, savannas and the third largest of the world’s tropical forests, which are considered among the most valuable ecosystems in the world.

Indonesia is hence considered as one of the mega-biodiversity countries. In the 2010 State of Biodiversity of Asia and the Pacific, however, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) ranked Indonesia second after Australia as having the most threatened plant and animal species in the region. This is due to, among other things, high rates of fragmentation and net loss of forests that have continued between 2000 and 2009.

In 2009, data from the Forestry Ministry show that Indonesia had 132.4 million hectares of forest estates (kawasan hutan) and out of these only 90.1 million hectares were covered by forest vegetation – of this roughly one-third was covered by primary forests, one-third by logged over areas and one-third by vegetation other than forest.

To address the ever declining state of the country’s forests, the Indonesian government has issued the moratorium of forest conversion in 2011 and introduced the overall REDD+ framework – that include efforts to reduce deforestation, forest degradation, conservation, sustainable management of forest and enhancement of forest carbon stock.

Implementing the moratorium, REDD+ and sustainable forest management is of course very challenging given the pressures coming from variety of sectors that have interests in forest and land use – sectors which, furthermore, are often regulated under different ministries and layers of government. These institutions are known to have issued overlapping policies on land use and land use changes, and influenced the issuance of different documents and maps of forest and land use.

These respected sectors are, nevertheless, crucial in the development of the economy of Indonesia. They are the main engine of this so-called emerging economy.

Commercial exploitation of natural forests began in 1967 and was one of the main drivers of the Indonesian economy since then. Billions of US dollars contributed from the export of forest products on a yearly basis consisting of plywood, sawn timber, and processed timber as well as pulp and paper, furniture and other processed timber products.

With regard to agriculture production, especially the palm oil sector, Indonesia in 2009 surpassed Malaysia to become the biggest producer of palm oil in the world, with production accelerating dramatically in recent years. Indonesia’s CPO (crude palm oil) exports and resultant revenues have increased significantly, from 3.8 million tons (valued at US$1 billion) in 1999 to 17.85 million tons in 2010 (US$10.03 billion).

The mining sector also contributes significantly to the country’s revenue. For instance, it is reported that the mining industry accounted for 10.8 percent of Indonesia’s GDP in 2009, with minerals and related products contributing one-fifth of the country’s total exports. This sector looks set to post strong average annual double-digit growth of 11.2 percent in real terms over the forecast period to reach US$149.8 billion in 2015.

To date, many scholars agree when it comes to land use change – including forest cover change – in Indonesia, forestry, palm oil, mining and infrastructure sectors are the most important and influential causes.

Given close association of these development sectors with land use and forest cover change, agreed and appropriate solutions need to be identified and reached so that economic development can still flourish while forest protection is ensured.

The issuance of the two government regulations – the Government Regulation (GR) No. 60 of 2012 on the amendment of No. 10 of 2010 on Procedures for Conversion of Allocation and Functions of Forest Areas and GR No. 61 of 2012 on the amendment of No. 24 of 2010 on Forest Area Utilization – has been perceived as an attempt by the Indonesian government to find such solutions.

As analyzed by one law firm (LGS) in its website, these two regulations have been issued to address a number of outstanding issues with the regulatory framework. This law firm argues that GR No. 60 of 2012 simplifies land replacement for permanent or limited production forests by removing the “adjacent to a forest” requirement, and GR No. 61 of 2012 is intended to provide certainty for borrow to use license holders, allow strategic industries to operate in forest areas, and reconcile conflicts with the Law No. 26 of 2007 on Spatial Planning Law.

There are always two sides of the coin. In the context of GR No. 60, the supporters of this regulation argue that this regulation improves legal certainty for the development activities, especially agriculture plantations, to take place.

This also ensures that plantation activities using particular forest estates need to replace these areas with the same size or bigger. The regulation, furthermore, puts the threshold of forests that cannot be converted in that particular estate (30 percent of the total area) and explicitly mentions about the importance of ensuring the environmental carrying capacity of the estate.

With regard to GR No. 61, this regulation offers improvement of legal certainty for particular mining activities which have been operated or obtain licenses in forest areas.

Many critics, however, claim that this regulation will only jeopardize the future sustainable forest management and forest protection in this country. Some environmental organizations refer to the fact that rapid expansion of oil palm plantations, for instance, has caused the conversion of a significant area of forests and peat lands.

These organizations are backed up by some scholarly studies including the one conducted in 2008 that estimated that palm oil development was responsible for a significant percentage of deforestation in Indonesia.

A similar accusation is labeled against the mining industry. A study conducted in 2000 argues that the development of mining will result in negative impacts including extensive land disturbance, loss of forest cover and habitat, contamination of rivers used for drinking water and food supplies, and increasing social conflict over access to mineral resources.

It is clear that regardless of the issuance these two regulations, conflicting claims and arguments will remain.

The role of the government is critical to ensure that land use processes and outputs resulting from these two regulations are synchronized with the efforts carried out by the process put in place under the moratorium of forest conversion that has resulted in one land use and forest cover map as well as the overall REDD+ process.

Without synergizing these two regulatory and substantive processes, Indonesia will miss the opportunity to provide legal certainty for both economic development and environmental protection.

As a country that has committed to sustainable development agenda, it is important that the country is not just focusing on economic performance but also on the environmental and social aspects of development. This means that the government needs to provide guidance and push for sustainable and responsible practices in the plantation and mining industry’s operations.

Many has argued that plantations and mining operations which overlap with Indonesia’s forests, especially overlaps with areas of high ecological values, have already caused significant impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems.

It is, therefore, important for the players in these sectors, particularly the private sector, to show that they are as much as responsible and willing to improve their practices for the better.

Indonesia is at the cross road in showing whether the country can develop its economy without further harming its environment.

These two recently issued regulations show once again the challenge in achieving that balancing act.

——

Fitrian Ardiansyah

The writer is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award. He can be reached at fitrian.ardiansyah@anu.edu.au

Balancing energy development and forest protection

Published in COAL ASIA MAGAZINE, VOL. 2, OPINION, AUGUST 17-SEPTEMBER 17, 2012, PAGE 94-95

by Fitrian Ardiansyah

To see the pdf version, please click COALASIA_OPINION_fitrian ardiansyah_energy&forest_Aug2012

As the largest energy producer and consumer in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is currently struggling to cope with the increase in energy demand each year, causing short-term energy shortage and likely leading to worse situation if no immediate actions taken.

Albeit having enormous energy potential, developing energy sources in this country, while desirable, is fraught with hurdles, ranging from regulatory and pricing issues, lack of capacity and investment, to the problematic location of energy sources.

The heavy reliance on subsidized fossil fuels means it has brought about significant problems of energy security and economic issues, especially ever since Indonesia became a net importer of both crude oil and refined products in 2004.

The new extraction of oil, gas and coal as well as the development of new and renewable energy sources has been viewed as a priority by the government but this development faces a number of challenges, such as the fact that some locations of these energy sources overlap with Indonesia’s remaining important and fragile ecosystems, including its forests.

It has been reported by the Forestry Ministry in 2011 that the area of forests within mining concessions, which include for oil, gas and coal activities, covers approximately 2.03 million hectares – based on 842 licenses given for mining related exploration and exploitation between 2005 and 2011.

A number of environmental organizations, such as Mining Watch Canada and Walhi, even claimed a higher number stating that as of 2005, mining activities have encroached on or threatened 11.4 million hectares of forest in Indonesia, including 8.68 million hectares of protection forests and 2.8 million hectares of conservation areas.

A 2008 study conducted in South Kalimantan by M. Handry Imansyah and Luthfy Fatah of Lambung Mangkurat University, published in ASEAN Economic Bulletin, found that a massive coal exploitation without a proper technical handling for reclamation can cause serious water contamination and land degradation, because many mining areas are often left without rehabilitation.

A similar concern may also be said when it comes to the development of renewable energy, namely biofuels and geothermal.

In the case of biofuels development, mainly from palm oil, although considered as one of renewable sources of energy and therefore has the greenhouse gas (GHG) saving potentials, the development of these crops can further increase GHG emissions if the plantation replace forests and peat lands.

A 2011 article written by Gayathri Vaidyanathan in Nature shows that, for example, in North Sumatra and Bengkulu provinces, 38 and 35 percent, respectively, of peat-swamp forest were converted to oil palm plantations by the early 2000s – leading to the release of about 144.6 million tons of carbon from biomass above ground and peat oxidation below ground.

Another study conducted by Lian Pin Koh and David S. Wilcove in 2008, published in Conservation Letters,estimates that over 56 percent of oil palm expansion occurred at the expense of natural forest cover for the period between 1990 and 2005. In addition, according to the 2009 BAPPENAS (National Development Planning Agency) report, as of 2006, plantation licenses (i.e. predominantly for oil palm) on peatlands totalled 1.3 million ha.

With regard to geothermal energy, this type of renewables has a significant potential to contribute to the future electricity generating capability – with 10 gigawatts of total geothermal potential that is presently ready for commercial extraction as reported in 2009 by the World Bank.

If developed appropriately and immediately, geothermal energy can at least reduce the burden of approximately 35 percent of the current total generation capacity in 2035, as argued in a 2012 paper written by a research team from the Christian University of Indonesia, and eventually contribute to climate change mitigation.

Accelerating the development of geothermal energy is likely to be challenging since up to 60 percent of its potentials and reserves are located in the remaining important forest areas, according to a 2009 paper written by Montty Girianna, the Energy, Mineral and Mining Resources Director of Bappenas.

The exploration, extraction and overall activities of oil, gas, coal and geothermal have been previously subjected to the laws regulating the protection and management of pristine forests, including employing stricter conditions under which licenses are to be issued.

A 2011 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers explains that the Forestry Law No. 41 of 1999 (and its amendments No. 1 of 2004 and 19 of 2004) prohibit oil, gas and mining activities in protected forest areas except where a government permit is obtained.

This, however, was gradually altered, particulary since February 2010 when Government Regulation No. 10 of 2010 on Forest Areas Utilization was introduced. According to this regulation, development projects, including oil and gas activities, power plants, mining, transport and renewable energy projects, can take place in protected forests if they are deemed strategically important.

Specifically on geothermal, a presidential decree (No. 28 of 2011) released on 19 May 2011, allows conditional underground mining in protected forest areas, which includes geothermal energy. This decree was later strengthened with the release of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and the Forestry Ministry (No. 7662 of 2011) aiming at accelerating the permit issuance of geothermal energy development in forest areas.

Critics, however, view that these regulations and policies which promote and accelerate energy development in forest areas will also encourage other destructive mining activities to take place since the use of the definition of ‘strategic’ or ‘vital’ development activities can have multiple interpretation.

Furthermore, these critics question the level of seriousness of the Indonesian president’s pledge to reduce Indonesia’s GHG, if many of his government’s policies still incorporate a large number of activities that will lead to deforestation in primary and secondary forests as well as peatlands.

It is, therefore, imperative for Indonesia to find practical and applied solutions to balance energy development and forest protection.

The balanced development of energy and forest protection is also crucial since the pledge made by Indonesia’s President particularly mentioning his commitment to changing the status of Indonesia’s forests from a net-emitter sector to a net-sink sector by 2030 and more specifically, emphasizing the preservation of areas under forest protection as one of key programs.

One immediate step to do this, for example, is by harmonizing and synergizing different regulations and policies that will result in a clearer guidance from the government. Vague words like ‘vital’ or ‘strategic’ development activities need to be clarified so that these will not be used as a loop hole.

Synergyzed policies will not be implementable if data regarding conventional energy sources, renewables and forest areas are not synergized as well. Recent actions taken by a number of government’s institutions to synchronize and agree on a map of forest and land use in Indonesia – adhered to across all sectors and levels of government – are therefore crucial to contribute to balancing energy development and forest protection.

Following these steps, a set of sustainability benchmarks is deemed urgent to be instituted to provide technical directions to mitigate the impacts and risks of energy development on forests.

The sustainability benchmarking – promoting principles of high conservation value forest, effective environmental assessment, management plans and monitoring, and multi-stakeholders participation – is required because not only the actual environmental impacts have to be mitigated but also the perceived risks coming from energy projects on these ecosystems need to be addressed, in which local communities and the public may have substantial interest.

The development and implementation of these benchmarks will also align with other laws regulating forest and biodiversity protection, namely the 2009 Forestry Law, the 1990 Biodiversity Conservation Law and the 2009 Environmental Protection and Management Law.

As an emerging economy with a significant increase in energy demand, supplying energy while reducing environmental impacts is definitely a balancing act.

Finding solutions, as elaborated above, is hence urgently required and if these solutions are applied appropriately, Indonesia is likely to secure its future energy in a sustainable way.

——

Fitrian Ardiansyah

The writer is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award. He can be reached at fitrian.ardiansyah@anu.edu.au

Igniting the Ring of Fire: a Vision for Developing Indonesia’s Geothermal Power

Early July 2012, Published by WWF-Indonesia, Author: Fitrian Ardiansyah and Ali Ahsat.

WWF-Indonesia released a report, co-authored by Fitrian Ardiansyah and Ali Ashat, entitled “Igniting the Ring of Fire: A Vision for Developing Indonesia’s Geothermal Potential” – an essay that elaborates the challenges and opportunities involved in the development of geothermal energy in Indonesia, as well as gives a picture on their possible workarounds.

For the pdf file of the complete report: please read geothermal_report or alternatively click http://awsassets.wwf.or.id/downloads/geothermal_report.pdf

This report discusses economic, social, policy, financial and environmental aspects of geothermal energy development in Indonesia, including balancing geothermal energy development and forest protection, and setting the price right for geothermal investment.

 

 

Indonesia’s forest: a year in moratorium

Published in COAL ASIA MAGAZINE, OPINION, JUNE 14-JULY 14, 2012, PAGE 133-134 and OGE ASIA MAGAZINE, OPINION, JUNE 25-JULY 25, 2012, PAGE 50-51

by Fitrian Ardiansyah

To see the pdf version, please click Opini_CoalAsia_July2012 and/or opini OGE

A little over a year ago, Indonesia issued a two-year moratorium on new permits for primary forest and peat-land clearing. To date, a critical question remains whether the country has come up with better forest and land use management while allowing other sectors to develop.

This moratorium is intended to contribute to the program of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), and to some extent provide a degree of legal certainty in land use governance in Indonesia.

Prior to the issuance of moratorium, for instance in December 2010, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) found in its study on forestry policies and systems that unclear definitions and boundary of forest areas in Law No. 41 of 1999 on Forestry and other relevant regulations are perceived to be a key reason of chaotic land use management in this country that eventually leads to a significant increase in deforestation.

Furthermore, according to the KPK, this situation, coupled with the lack of applied fair procedure in designating forest areas, has weakened the legitimacy of 88.2 per cent of forest areas (more than 105.8 million hectares). In fact, the KPK found that not all of these forest areas have been gazetted in law.

A study carried out by the Ministry of Forestry in 2009 concurs with this argument by stating that one of the indirect causes of deforestation is the difficulty of controlling the boundaries of production and protected forests, leaving them vulnerable to illegal logging, mining and conversion.

The above situation has also created uncertainty among different sectors intending to utilize land for their development projects.

It is, therefore, not uncommon in Indonesia to have overlapping claims for power over state forests and peat lands, between national and sub-national levels, as well as among sectors regulated by different government ministries (i.e. forestry, agriculture, energy and mineral resources and public works).

The above ministries are often known to have overlapping policies on land use, including processes for obtaining permits.

Hence, the issue of whether the forest conversion moratorium or REDD+ program in general will achieve its goal will not necessarily depend on one particular sector, but rather on multiple sectors and actors involved in land use activities.

Given such complexity, it appears that the REDD+ taskforce, which is given a mandate by Indonesia’s President to develop the national REDD+ strategy and oversee the moratorium, has achieved some initial progress in working with different agencies and sectors, particularly to arrive at an agreed moratorium indicative map (MIM), which would contribute to avoiding confusion and creating legal certainty.

The agencies engaged include the National Survey and Mapping Coordinating Agency (Bakosurtanal), the Ministry of Forestry, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Land Agency (BPN) and the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4).

The MIM, required to outline the areas covered in the moratorium, is being updated every six months incorporating the latest sets of data from the above agencies and results from site visits. A second MIM is currently available, albeit with some discrepancies of figures between the two maps, as reported by the taskforce.

Since there are many sectors, layers of government and actors involved, it is understandable that to get an agreed MIM, some additions or reductions of relevant forest and land cover figures are required. Also, negotiations and trade-offs are likely to take place among these sectors and actors.

The future of this moratorium (including the improvement of MIM) and the overall national REDD+ strategy will depend so much on whether the initiative could increase positive involvement of the businesses, actors, and layers of government that are influential in causing land use change.

The development sectors of forestry (e.g. logging concessions, industrial timber plantations), agriculture (e.g. oil palm plantations), mining, and infrastructure are the key players in Indonesia’s development, and therefore their involvement and coordination in the moratorium and REDD+ process is crucial.

Gaining positive involvement or support from these actors and sector is truly a challenge, especially if the moratorium and REDD+ strategy do not clearly lay out the subsequent steps that allow these sectors to develop options.

For instance, there is a need to further improve data quality and transparency, showing which areas are protected (“no go areas” for development) and are not (“go areas” – that could include fallow lands and degraded lands).

According to the World Resource Institute (WRI), although releasing the current map was a landmark step toward improved transparency, the additional data provided were incomplete, did not include metadata, were difficult to download, and were not up to date.

Without accurate data on forestry and other permits, it is a herculean task for the government to enforce the moratorium and for the private sector to invest in areas that will not replace forests or peat lands.

The WRI argues that technically sound, legally accurate, and up-to-date spatial data, including license and permit data, should be made available, independently reviewed, maintained, and continuously improved.

Another fundamental factor that could lead to attracting positive support from these actors and sectors is the provision of positive incentives to get out of unsustainable practices and eventually maintain and properly manage forests and peat lands.

Currently, the private sector, communities and local governments have little direct incentive to manage and conserve these natural ecosystems.

In fact, there are cases when incentives planned to be used for better forest management (e.g. the Reforestation Fund) have been abused. As a result, the figures of forest degradation and deforestation further increase dramatically.

On the contrary, there are big investments for large-scale development in different sectors, which lead to greater exploitation of forest and peat land resources.

Market access for sustainable products and REDD+ fund for better forest and land use management can be named as potential candidates of incentives provided for land use actors who would like to pursue sustainable practices.

The question, however, still remains as to whether these incentives will be able to compete with such big investments which have thus far been responsible for changing Indonesia’s land use patterns.

World Bank in 2006 argues that adequate positive incentives are required, and must go hand-in-hand with forest law enforcement and governance initiatives, to increase the costs of non-compliance.

According to the Bank, insufficient incentives, on the other hand, would not result in a long term investment in and stewardship of forests and production facilities which are important to ensure the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation.

A year of experience in implementing this two-year forest conversion moratorium provides a good reminder for Indonesia and its citizens that the challenges of achieving better land use and forest management while developing its economy are greater than ever.

The above mentioned issues, include, among others, increasing legal certainty as well developing options and incentives for sustainable practices, need to be further addressed, quickly and seriously.

Failure to address these issues may hinder the development and implementation of the moratorium, the overall REDD+ program and consequently disrupt Indonesia’s opportunity to develop its economy in a greener and sustainable way.

The writer is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award. He can be reached at  fitrian.ardiansyah@anu.edu.au 

Pushing forward to better land use

The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah and Thomas Barano, Jakarta | Sun, 27 May 2012, 8:00 AM

May and June are shaping up to show if Indonesia has achieved significant progress in promoting better land-use management, particularly in reducing deforestation and land degradation.

May 20, for instance, marks the completion of the first year of Indonesia’s two-year moratorium on new permits for primary forest and peat-land clearing. June 5 is World Environment Day, with its “Green Economy: Does it Include You?” theme — in which land-use management is considered to be one of six high-growth sectors in the green economy.

The moratorium is an integral part of REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, and sustainable management of forest) policy development and is expected to improve forest and land-use governance, especially in synergizing mapping and licensing systems.

A synchronized, synergized and agreed-to map — adhered by various sectors and layers of government — of forest and land use in Indonesia is fundamental to address the challenges facing our land-use management.

The recent debate between Greenpeace and the President’s special staff on climate change on the exact figure of forest cover loss has reaffirmed the importance of having a credible, reliable, accessible and transparent mapping system of forest and land use. Without that, Indonesia cannot measure and account for greenhouse gas emissions, land-use changes and forests.

More importantly, a credible map would lay the foundations for the settlement of land conflicts.

In December 2010, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) found in its study on forestry policies and systems that a synchronized map of forest areas that can be used by stakeholders did not exist. Instead, there were at least four different versions that, utilizing various scales, were incompatible with each other.

According to the KPK, the lack of a consolidated map, coupled with unclear definitions and boundaries of forest areas as well as a lack of fair procedures in designating forest areas, has weakened the legitimacy of 88.2 percent of forest areas, or more than 105.8 million hectares.

Despite the fact that it is very challenging to have an agreed map, given the variety of sectors and actors that have interests in forest and land use, it appears that this issue has been gradually addressed through the development and refinement of the moratorium-indicative map (MIM).

The REDD+ taskforce, which is given a mandate by Indonesia’s President to develop the national REDD+ strategy, has been working with different agencies to arrive at an agreed, indicative map of the moratorium, to avoid confusion and create legal certainty.

The agencies include the National Survey and Mapping Coordinating Agency (Bakosurtanal), the Forestry and Agriculture Ministries, the National Land Agency (BPN) and the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4).

The MIM is required to outline the areas covered in the moratorium and is being updated every six months to integrate the latest sets of data from additional agencies and to incorporate results from site visits.

To date, a second MIM is available, albeit with some discrepancies of figures between the two maps, as reported by the taskforce.

In the first MIM, the total moratorium area was 69.1 million hectares with, primary forests and peat-land accounting for 7.2 million and 10.68 million hectares. In the second MIM, the total moratorium area was reduced to 65.5 million hectares, with primary forests and peat-land covering 8.39 million and 5.9 million hectares.

Overall, the total change in moratorium area is 3.6 million hectares, with changes in primary forests and peat-land of 1.16 million and 4.76 million hectares.

The taskforce argues that such differences occurred because the first MIM only used definitions of natural-primary forests from the Forestry Ministry and definitions of peat-land from the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) and Wetlands International, incorporating areas with ongoing land-use activities such as for estate crops and settlements, covered only by licenses issued by the ministry without any field-survey
components.

The second MIM, according to the taskforce, has covered information provided by different agencies involved. This map, for instance, has taken into account the definitions and data of peat-land from the Agriculture Ministry, licenses issued by the BPN, and some field studies and research on peat-land nationwide.

Since there are many sectors and actors involved, it is understandable that synchronizing the map may add or reduce the relevant forest and land cover figures. Also, negotiations and trade-offs are likely to take place among these sectors and actors.

To obtain a credible map, however, such processes need transparency that allows the wider public to access the map.

The recent case of the clearing and burning of Tripa peat-swamp forests for palm oil in Aceh’s Nagan Raya district is a clear example of a “small” but serious discrepancy of forest and land cover in the MIM that needs to be urgently addressed, especially when it comes to monitoring and evaluating land-use licenses and activities in more than 400 local governments.

The involvement of civil society in protesting the license issued for this land and reporting this case to the central government has eventually pushed the REDD+ taskforce, the Environment Ministry, the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office investigate this case.

This recent case clearly provides a valuable lesson. For instance, to avoid future land conflicts at the local level, improving spatial resolution of the MIM needs to be prioritized.

Further, it is imperative to produce a common map not only for the sake of legal certainty but to also provide credible and transparent mapping and licensing systems — feeding back to district/provincial land-use policies and regimes — so that land-use management will bring about better social, economic and environmental outcomes.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University and a recipient of an Australian Leadership Award and an Allison Sudradjat Award. Thomas Barano is conservation spatial planning specialist of WWF-Indonesia.

Saving Sumatra’s forests: World heritage in danger

The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah and Thomas Barano, Canberra/Jakarta | Sun, 04/22/2012 12:49 PM

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/04/22/saving-sumatra-s-forests-world-heritage-danger.html

In light of the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, celebrated this year on April 22, the government and citizens of Indonesia are again reminded of the huge challenges they face in halting or reversing the declining state of their natural forests, including those on Sumatra.

Sumatra is a rare island in that it harbors four endangered and unique mammals, namely the Sumatran orangutan, the Sumatran elephant, the Sumatran rhino and the Sumatran tiger.

Its lowland forests are recognized as part of the Global 200 Ecoregions — nature regions, landscapes or seascapes that are exceptionally important and symbolic for the survival of rich biodiversity features.

In 2004, 2.5 million hectares of Sumatra’s rainforests were included on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for their rich and unique biodiversity.

According to UNESCO, the tropical rainforest heritage of Sumatra, comprising Gunung Leuser, Kerinci Seblat and Bukit Barisan Selatan national parks, is home to an estimated 10,000 plant species, more than 200 mammal species and some 580 bird species.

However, the forests on this island have come under the constant threat of destructive and illegal logging activities, expansion of agriculture and pulp plantations, as well as infrastructure development.

Then environment minister Gusti Mohammad Hatta stated in 2010 that Sumatra had experienced tremendous pressures resulting from natural resource exploitation. He further argued that natural forests had decreased, leaving only 29 percent of forest cover on the island.

A 2010 technical report submitted to the National Forestry Council and the National Development Planning Agency, which provided scientific analysis of the state of Sumatra’s natural forests, found a steep decline in forest area from 25.3 million hectares (58 percent of land cover) in 1985 to 12.8 million hectares in 2008/2009 (29 percent), which equals an annual loss of 0.54 million hectares (approximately eight times that of Jakarta’s territory).

In 2011, UNESCO placed the tropical rainforest heritage of Sumatra on the list of those world heritage sites in danger. The organization viewed that the forests had been frequently under pressure from poaching, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment and road development.

To respond to these challenges, plans and initiatives have been developed, with activities undertaken at different levels, particularly focusing on sustaining the management and conserving the remaining forests on the island.

One of the key initiatives is the Road Map for Saving the Sumatra Ecosystem: Sumatra’s Vision 2020, which was signed in 2010 by four ministers (forestry, environment, home and public works) and 10 governors (Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, Riau, Bangka-Belitung, Bengkulu, South Sumatra and Lampung).

This initiative outlines the governments’ commitment to developing spatial plans on the island based on ecosystem values, functions and services, restoring critical areas and protecting the remaining conservation high value areas.

Key components of this initiative include the promotion of sustainable forests, responsible agriculture development and payments for environmental services, such as for water services and forest carbon.

An initial good sign appears in the form of Presidential Decree No. 13/2012 on Sumatra Island Spatial Planning, which stipulates the intention of the government to at least maintain 40 percent of remaining forests as conservation areas and restore already degraded forests.

Yet, there is a gulf between a high-level commitment and seeing desired changes on the ground.

To bridge the gap between commitment and implementation, strong support from the corporate sector is required, mainly from agriculture and pulp plantations, to ensure that the development of plantations will no longer replace forests and peat lands.

A recent petition signed on behalf of various organizations submitted to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to save the habitats of orangutans in the Gunung Leuser ecosystem proves the necessity of engaging the aforementioned sector. In this letter, these organizations say that the fires that are intended to clear forests in the province of Aceh for oil palm plantations have threatened the ecosystem, endangering 300 orangutans and pushing the species even closer to extinction.

Another aspect crucially required to realize the commitment is the support and involvement of local governments and people as well as indigenous communities. With a decentralized government system in place, regional governments hold relatively more power and authority to manage and control their natural resources.

Options or incentives provided to help local governments to develop their economies in sustainable ways are, thus, imperative to keep the remaining forests intact.

Such incentives — for forest protection and management — particularly have to be significant so that they are sufficient enough to counter the economic drivers of deforestation, which include logging and plantation development.

More importantly, these incentives have to reach local and indigenous communities, who are considered the users and providers of ecosystem services. Without their support and involvement, any initiatives may yield results but will not last long.

Furthermore, since Sumatra’s rainforests have been acknowledged as one of the world’s treasures, international communities have a high degree of responsibility to contribute to the creation of positive incentives that can advance the conservation and sustainable management of these globally significant forests.

As reflected by this year’s Earth Day theme: “Mobilizing the Earth”, initiatives to save what remains of Sumatra’s forests clearly require strong support from and the involvement of different actors at different levels.

Such a broad-based effort in garnering support is definitely a good test-case as to whether we, the people of this planet, can stand united in creating a sustainable future, at least, for Sumatra and its inhabitants.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award. Thomas Barano is a conservation spatial planning specialist from WWF Indonesia.