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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Risk, Resilience and Human Security in Cross-Border Areas: the Greater Mekong Subregion, the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle

“Risk, Resilience and Human Security in Cross-Border Areas: the Greater Mekong Subregion, the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle” (in the beginning of 2011 the old version of this was published as a working paper by Centre for Non-Traditional Security of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore). Authors: Fitrian Ardiansyah and Desak Putu Adhityani Putri.

Published as a book chapter (Chapter 8) in an edited book entitled “Human Security and Climate Change in Southeast Asia”. The editors are Prof Lorraine Elliott and Prof Mely Caballero-Anthony. The book is published by Routledge and the offer to buy this book has been put on Amazon.com, Routledge.com and a number of online bookshops.

Human Security and Climate Change in Southeast Asia

Edited by Lorraine Elliott, Mely Caballero-Anthony

Published August 2012 by Routledge – 240 pages

Series: Routledge Security in Asia Pacific Series

Part 1: Setting the context 1. Human security, climate change and social resilience Lorraine Elliott 2. The economics of climate change in Southeast Asia Juzhong Zhuang, Suphachol Suphachalasai and Jindra Nuella Samson Part 2: Conceptual approaches 3. A sociology of risk, vulnerability and resilience Devanathan Parthasarathy 4. Community rights and accessKeokam Kraisoraphong Part 3: Local risk and strategies for local resilience 5. REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation): mitigation, adaptation and the resilience of local livelihoods Enrique Ibarra Gené 6. The challenges for gender-responsive adaptation strategies Bernadette P Resurreccion Part 4: Scaling up to the region 7. Development for climate security Irene Kuntjoro 8. Risk, Resilience and Human Security in Cross-Border Areas: the Greater Mekong Subregion, the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle Fitrian Ardiansyah and Desak Putu Adhityani Putri 9. Regional cooperation: enabling environments for adaptation and social resilience Mely Caballero-Anthony

Original links:

http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415684897/#contents

Abstract of my chapter (Chapter 8):

This chapter investigates the security impacts of climate change in three Southeast Asian cross-border areas– the Greater Mekong Subregion, the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle – through an examination of the ways in which climate change results in human insecurity and possibly social unrest, tension and conflict. The three cross-border areas are significant in that they host unique but threatened large-scale freshwater, terrestrial forest, coastal and marine ecosystems. In addition, they are home to more than 400 million people and provide important ecosystem goods and services to many countries in the region. This paper explores and evaluates regional agreements and actions in each of the three areas, with an emphasis on the mainstreaming of climate adaptation as well as mitigation in the development agenda. The analysis also points to the importance of reaching out to other actors beyond state and intergovernmental ones if adaptation and mitigation efforts were to succeed. There is a need to identify other actors, such as the business sector, local communities and the public, with the aim of getting them involved in these important issues.

Purchasing Options:

  • Hardback: 978-0-415-68489-7: $140.00

Chapter8_Risk_resilience_FA_DPAPutri

 

Risk and resilience in three Southeast Asian cross-border areas: the Greater Mekong Sub-region, the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle

Asia Security Initiative Policy Series: Working Paper No. 11, February 2011

Published by the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore

MacArthur Working Paper_Fitrian_and_Desak

Risk and Resilience in Three Southeast Asian Cross-Border Areas: The Greater Mekong Subregion, the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle

By Fitrian Ardiansyah and Desak Putu Adhityani Putri

Abstract

This paper investigates the security impacts of climate change in three Southeast Asian cross-border areas– the Greater Mekong Subregion, the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle – through an examination of the ways in which climate change results in human insecurity and possibly social unrest, tension and conflict. The three cross-border areas are significant in that they host unique but threatened large-scale freshwater, terrestrial forest, coastal and marine ecosystems. In addition, they are home to more than 400 million people and provide important ecosystem goods and services to many countries in the region. This paper explores and evaluates regional agreements and actions in each of the three areas, with an emphasis on the mainstreaming of climate adaptation as well as mitigation in the development agenda. The analysis also points to the importance of reaching out to other actors beyond state and intergovernmental ones if adaptation and mitigation efforts were to succeed. There is a need to identify other actors, such as the business sector, local communities and the public, with the aim of getting them involved in these important issues.

Read more…

The original link is: http://www.rsis.edu.sg/NTS/resources/research_papers/MacArthur%20Working%20Paper_Fitrian_and_Desak.pdf