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

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.

Fixing legal loopholes in Indonesia’s forest and land use governance

January 27th, 2011

Published on East Asia Forum, Author: Fitrian Ardiansyah, ANU

As a country with one of the largest areas of rainforest in the world, it is not surprising that Indonesia is also considered a pioneer in the development of REDD+ (Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

In early 2007, the Ministry of Forestry (MoF) formed the Indonesia Forest Climate Alliance (IFCA) with the help of various government departments, donor agencies, research institutions and NGOs to initiate the development of REDD+ policies. Later that year, IFCA managed to outline key elements of REDD+, including methodologies, land-use policies, institutional arrangement and benefit distribution mechanisms.

Following the work of IFCA, the MoF has issued a number of ministerial decrees, which aim at governing REDD+ demonstration activities and providing an umbrella for benefit distribution mechanisms.

Last year in Oslo, on the same occasion as the signing of a letter of intent between the Indonesian and Norwegian governments, to signal his support for REDD+, the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced his commitment to halt all new concessions for conversion of peat and natural forests in two years, supposed to start in January 2011.

To realise this, the Indonesian government has to produce a clear strategy and legal framework which guides the moratorium of forest conversion and the overall REDD+. However, these existing and potential future regulations may not be sufficient to provide firm legal direction in developing and exercising REDD+.

A number of organisations argue that to have successful REDD+ the country has to reform its forest and land use governance, starting from the regulations that have shaped this governance system.

The latest institution to speak out about this issue is Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). When releasing its study on forestry late last year, the KPK emphasised that unclear definitions of forest areas in Law No. 41 of 1999 on Forestry and other relevant regulations (i.e., Government Regulation No. 44 of 2004, and MoF’s Decree No. 32 of 2001 and 50 of 2009) can be considered as one of the indirect causes of deforestation.

According to the KPK, this unclear definition and boundary of forest areas, 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).

To make things worse, the KPK found that not all of these forest areas have been gazetted in law.

A study carried out by the MoF 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.

This situation, according to the commission, has created a legal loophole for illegal loggers and illegal miners to continue their actions and avoid legal implications.

Another revelation by the KPK is that the division of authorities, roles and responsibilities among different layers of governments remains unclear and problematic, especially in determining forest areas in the spatial planning process.

In its study, the KPK found that an agreed synchronised map of forest areas which can be used by stakeholders does not as yet exist. Instead, there are at least four different versions which, utilising various scales, are not compatible with each other.

It is of course very challenging to resolve this given the variety of sectors that have interests in forest and land use — sectors which, furthermore, are 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.

For example, based on Law No. 41 of 1999, the authority to manage state forest is under the national-level MoF. The ministry has control over almost every activity in state forest and this law has repealed much of the authority decentralised under Law No. 22 of 1999 on Regional Governance.

This arrangement appears to be centralistic and contradict with the authority of local governments in their spatial planning under the decentralised system. As a result, there are often cases in which spatial planning which allocates forest areas at district level is contradictory with the planning at the higher ruling.

With de facto decentralisation processes, particularly in the forestry and land use sectors, occurring more quickly than de jure ones it is therefore imperative to deal with this issue seriously. The KPK has recommended the MoF to patch these legal loopholes, at the latest, by the end of this year. And, if REDD+ is to be actively and effectively carried out, it is urgent this advice is heeded.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is advisor to WWF Indonesia on climate and energy, a PhD candidate at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University and a recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Original link: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2011/01/27/fixing-legal-loopholes-in-indonesia%E2%80%99s-forest-and-land-use-governance/

Mencermati Nasib Hutan Indonesia Pada 2011

Dipublikasikan di ANTARA, Karkhas, 09 Jan 2011 21:55:19

Oleh Fitrian Ardiansyah*

Dalam pergantian tahun banyak yang berharap bahwa Indonesia akan menjadi lebih baik dari sebelumnya, termasuk tentunya keberadaan hutan yang menjadi lebih lestari dan terjaga.

Hutan di Indonesia merupakan salah satu yang terluas di dunia. Selama bertahun-tahun hutan kerap berfungsi sebagai salah satu mesin pertumbuhan ekonomi nasional dan daerah, serta bertindak sebagai penyokong kehidupan masyarakat setempat dan adat.

Pada tahun 90-an, Indonesia dikenal sebagai pengekspor utama produk kayu lapis di dunia. Selain itu, negara ini juga mengekspor produk sektor kehutanan lainnya secara signifikan.

Tahun 1985, devisa yang dihasilkan dari ekspor produk sektor kehutanan mencapai 1,2 miliar dollar AS. Nilai ekspor ini kemudian naik pada 2003 menjadi sekitar 6,6 miliar dollar AS, atau sekitar 13,7 persen dari total ekspor non-migas Indonesia.

Meski pada 2009 dan 2010 penerimaan dari sektor industri kehutanan nasional turun, nilai ekspornya masih cukup besar yaitu mencapai 6,7 miliar dolar AS.

Hanya saja, keuntungan ekonomi yang diraup dalam bentuk nilai ekspor ini sering kali tidak tercermin ke dalam bentuk peningkatan kesejahteraan masyarakat yang hidup di sekitar hutan dan dampak lingkungan yang terjadi karena kerusakan dan kehilangan hutan.

Secara nasional, berdasarkan data Kementerian Negara Pembangunan Daerah Tertinggal (PDT), jumlah penduduk yang tinggal di desa hutan itu mencapai 33,5 juta jiwa dan diperkirakan hampir setengahnya masuk dalam kategori keluarga miskin.

Kehilangan dan kerusakan hutan yang berkontribusi terhadap bencana lingkungan, semisal banjir, kebakaran hutan dan lahan, kekeringan serta tanah longsor, mempunyai laju yang mengkhawatirkan.

Dari data Kementerian Kehutanan (Kemenhut) sendiri dan analisis akademis, tercatat bahwa laju kehilangan hutan di tahun 90-an merupakan yang tertinggi yaitu sekitar 1,87 juta hektare per tahunnya.

Data terbaru dari Kemenhut menunjukkan bahwa walaupun berkurang, laju kehilangan hutan masih mencapai 0,8 juta hektare per tahunnya, dari tahun 2006 ke 2008. Sedangkan hutan yang rusak terhitung seluas 59,7 juta hektare sampai tahun 2002.

Lalu, apakah harapan akan perbaikan pengelolaan hutan untuk lebih lestari hanya akan menjadi harapan kosong? Seharusnya tidak.

Presiden Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pada 2010 berkomitmen menyelamatkan hutan alam yang masih tersisa di bawah naungan inisiatif REDD (pengurangan emisi gas rumah kaca dari pencegahan kehilangan dan kerusakan hutan).

Komitmen ini di sampaikan dalam bentuk janji presiden untuk menghentikan izin baru bagi aktivitas yang akan membuka hutan alam dan gambut sejak Januari tahun ini, seiring penandatangangan perjanjian bilateral antara Indonesia dan Norwegia untuk mendukung inisiatif REDD.

Januari 2011 sudah tiba dan kita memasuki Tahun Hutan Internasional yang dicetuskan PBB.

Satu tahun juga hampir terlampaui sejak penandatangan perjanjian bilateral REDD dan disampaikannya janji presiden tersebut.

Tahun ini, karenanya, adalah saat yang tepat untuk melihat apakah janji tersebut diwujudkan ke dalam produk hukum yang jelas dan tegas, mekanisme keuangan yang adil, dan program pembangunan yang menjamin terselamatkannya hutan alam dan gambut yang masih tersisa di bumi Nusantara.

Produk hukum yang jelas dan tegas ini sangat dibutuhkan, karena menurut hasil penelitian Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) yang dipublikasikan awal Desember tahun lalu, salah satu hal yang penting yang mendorong terjadinya korupsi dan kejahatan kehutanan adalah adanya ketidakjelasan dalam aspek hukum kehutanan.

KPK menemukan ketidakpastian definisi kawasan hutan dalam UU no. 41 tahun 2009, PP no. 44 tahun 2004, SK Menhut no. 32 tahun 2001, dan Permenhut no. 50 tahun 2009.

Situasi seperti ini memungkinkan terjadinya perlakuan memihak yang dapat dimanfaatkan untuk meloloskan pelaku pembalakan liar (illegal logging) dan penambangan ilegal dari jeratan hukum.

Selain itu, ketidakpastian ini juga menimbulkan tumpang tindih kewenangan dalam menentukan kawasan hutan antara pusat dan daerah terkait Rencana Tata Ruang Wilayah.

Temuan KPK lainnya menunjukkan lemahnya legalitas dan legitimasi penunjukan 88,2 persen kawasan hutan (lebih dari 105,8 juta ha) yang sampai saat ini pun sebenarnya belum seluruhnya selesai ditetapkan.

Keadaan semacam ini mengakibatkan pengelolaan ruang dan hutan di Indonesia rentan korupsi dan konflik yang pada gilirannya berujung kepada ketidakpastian hak dan ruang investasi serta tidak jelasnya pengelolaan kawasan hutan di lapangan.

Padahal agar tercapai pemanfaatan ruang yang optimal sekaligus menjaga hutan dan ekosistem penting yang masih tersisa, kepastian hukum menjadi syarat mutlak.

Karena tanpa kepastian hukum dengan didukung penegakannya yang sungguh-sungguh, investasi yang serius untuk membenahi pengelolaan hutan secara lestari dan pengelolaan ruang yang merangkum pihak swasta sekaligus masyarakat setempat dan adat sulit terwujud.

Kepastian hukum ini tentunya harus pula didukung oleh mekanisme keuangan yang adil dan program ekonomi yang secara kreatif meningkatkan nilai tambah bagi produk hutan.

Program ekonomi yang bukan saja berorientasi kepada devisa dari hasil ekspor produk kayu, tetapi juga kepada produk non-kayu dan jasa lingkungan sehingga menaikkan kesejahteraan ekonomi masyarakat setempat dan adat, sekaligus menjaga kelestarian hutan serta menekan bencana lingkungan.

Banyak yang menanti apakah janji yang diucapkan untuk penyelamatan hutan Indonesia terwujud mulai tahun ini?

*Fitrian adalah Penerima Australian Leadership Award dan Allison Sudradjat Award, Penasihat Program Perubahan Iklim dan Energi, WWF-Indonesia, dan Kandidat Doktor di Australian National University

Original link: http://www.antarajatim.com/lihat/berita/52788/mencermati-nasib-hutan-indonesia-pada-2011

Clearing up the region’s hazy future

Fitrian Ardiansyah, Climate Solutions Column, The Jakarta Post | Tue, 10/26/2010 10:58 AM | Environment

Forest and land fires break out again. Last week, Singaporean and Malaysian governments contacted the Indonesian government to “register their concerns” over the recurring haze problem.

According to news in the region, a number of schools in Malaysia were advised to temporarily close because the haze reached a “hazardous” level and the air pollution index in Singapore also reached unhealthy levels with cases of respiratory problems including asthma increasing significantly.

Fires and the associated haze have not only affected Singapore and Malaysia. Dumai airport in Riau province, in the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, was closed last Wednesday due to limited visibility.

The residents of Pekanbaru, the capital city of Riau, as reported by this paper, have complained about a thick haze blanketing the city as it has caused a number of health problems, ranging from eye irritations to respiratory infections.

Some Indonesian officials suggested traditional farmers practicing slash-and-burn agriculture were the major culprits of this year’s forest and land fires.

However, as detected by the Modis Terra Aqua satellite, 172 hotspots which were found in Riau during the period between Oct. 18-21 occurred mainly on pulpwood concessions and oil palm oil plantations. Only a small number of hotspots were found in forest and other land.

Forest and land fires occur in many countries around the world such as in the US (in California), Australia, Turkey, Spain, Russia, Greece and countries in Southeast Asia.

When discussing Southeast Asian fires, especially in Sumatra and Borneo, nevertheless, most studies and peer-reviewed journal articles agree that these fires were human induced.

These studies conclude that a combination of plantation and timber companies, unresolved land tenure disputes as well as land clearing by a massive number of individuals are believed to be the main causes of the fires.

Fires and the associated smog are not a new issue in Southeast Asia. Serious fires and haze seasons have recurred, mainly on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, in 1982-1983, 1987, 1991, 1994, 1997-1998, 2005 and 2006-2007.

At the peak of massive forest and land fires, the amount of hotspots could reach 25,000 to 35,000 in a month. The highest occurred in August 1997 when 37,938 were counted.

This year’s hotspots may be nowhere near the amount of those in 1997-1998, 2005 or 2006-2007, but the manner in which the Indonesian government tackles this problem would indicate its willingness, power, assertiveness and capacity in dealing with bigger challenges of deforestation and peat land conversion.

“Extinguishing” fires in Indonesia is not a simple matter. Conventional suppression approaches — extinguishing fires after they occur — have been proven inadequate.

There is a pressing need for more comprehensive solutions and to address a wider range of concerns that cut to the heart of political-economy and administrative reforms in the country.

The first critical approach is prevention measures that can minimize the risks of destructive fires, which include a moratorium — i.e. the government stops granting licenses for land clearing on forest and peat lands — and a zero burning policy.

Since deforestation and peat lands clearing and drainage — for logging or to establish plantations and other land uses — very often give way to fires during the dry months, the moratorium is perceived to be an urgent solution to tackle deforestation and fires.

Following the agreement between Norway and Indonesia on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus (REDD+), the Indonesian government appears to be seriously preparing a moratorium on clearing forest and peat lands for two years starting next January.

However, with this year’s fires, the government is required to speed up this process so that the country can have clear regulations, an incentives mechanism, operational guidelines and technical guidance to implement, monitor and enforce the moratorium.

This clarity is needed because policy on a moratorium ought to be translated by different ministries — especially those influential in land use — at the national level and different layers of governments at the provincial or district level.

Some people may take advantage of unclear translation of policies and division of authorities on a moratorium among ministries and different layers of governments. If this is the case, deforestation, peat lands conversion and drainage, and forest and land fires are likely to continue to occur.

This pressure would be alleviated if investors and the private sector could work with the Indonesian authorities and other stakeholders to ensure sustainable practices such as by increasing productivity on existing plantations and developing non-forested land and non-peat land for timber and oil palm plantation expansion.

Timber concessions and oil palm plantations (owned not only by Indonesians but also Malaysians and Singaporeans) can further promote, adopt and implement zero-burning practices and help smallholders to follow suit.

Financial institutions, for instance, could develop robust investment screening policies to discourage high-risk investment patterns leading to deforestation or forest and land fires.

The consumer market can also help by favoring goods which are produced through guaranteed sustainable operations.

Jakarta will host the eighth Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) next month. The RSPO has incorporated the above important interventions in its principles and criteria (P&C) on sustainable palm oil.

RSPO and its members have, therefore, a momentous opportunity to demonstrate: that their P&C, when effectively implemented, can indeed help alleviate the problems of deforestation and fires on the ground.

Finally, the Indonesian government needs to lead swift actions on forest and land fires. However, Indonesia cannot and should not be expected to solve this problem alone.

Collaborative efforts between key countries, partners and players is the key to putting an end to the region’s widespread and recurring haze problems, and keeping its sky clear in the future.

The writer is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award and advisor to WWF-Indonesia on climate and energy. He can be reached at fitrian.ardiansyah@anu.edu.au.

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/10/26/climate-solutions-clearing-region%E2%80%99s-hazy-future.html