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 

Environment Day: A good day for RI’s forests?

The Jakarta Post, Opinion, Fitrian Ardiansyah, Canberra ACT | Mon, 13 June 2011. 6:44 PM

Original link:

This year’s World Environment Day, which sports the theme “Forests: Nature at your service” is likely to be celebrated in a more “colorful” way in Indonesia.

This may be due to the fact that in the last two weeks prior to June 5, three influential policies were issued by the government. These were two presidential decrees concerning forests and the most recent economic development master plan.

If not properly guided, managed and implemented, these three policies have the potential to be contradictory and hence could ruin a significant chance for Indonesia to sustainably manage its remaining valuable forests.

For instance, on Friday, May 20, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a presidential instruction number 10 of 2011 regarding a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear primary forests and peatland throughout Indonesia.

This long-awaited moratorium, which was intended to reduce deforestation, may provide a relative degree of certainty for pushing the overall program of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and land use management and development in Indonesia.

However, the decree has been met with polarized reactions and many believe it is a product of a heavy compromise.

The first issue to be debated has been the clarity of figures used as the basis for the moratorium.

According to the recent government data which may be based on an indicative map attached to the moratorium document, the moratorium would cover 64.2 million hectares of primary forests and 24.5 million hectares of peatland.

These figures appear to contradict earlier figures released by the government.

In February 2010, for example, the forestry minister himself stated that the remaining amount of primary forest in Indonesia was 43 million hectares.

In addition, the National Working Group on Peatland Management, a government taskforce led by the Home Ministry, estimated that in 2006 Indonesia had around 20 million hectares of peatland, distributed mainly in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.

Observing the indicative map, another important aspect that needs to be scrutinized is that a significant percentage of the primary forests are already protected under Indonesian laws in the form of national parks and other conservation areas.

Several conservation organizations have said the moratorium will extend protection to only an additional 14 percent of primary forests.

Another critical dimension to this decree is that it only prohibits the issuance of new permits for logging, conversion and different types of exploitation of primary forests and peatlands.

The challenging question now is to calculate the size of areas of primary forests and peatlands that are already under old and existing concessions, or areas listed under “vital” development programs excluded by this moratorium, as stipulated in the decree.

We may all be surprised to see the exact number and size of these permits.

Another presidential decree released the day before, on May 19, allowing conditional underground mining in protected forest areas, for example, could further cloud the definition of what are regarded as “vital” activities that can continue to operate in primary forests.

Not only does the decree allow geothermal activities to be developed, but also possibly encourage other destructive mining activities to take place.

Furthermore, critics say the presidential instruction covers only primary forests and peatland, leaving out secondary forests.

Secondary forests in Indonesia cover an area of more than 20 million hectares and these areas have been constantly threatened by both legal and illegal logging activities and clearing for agricultural or industrial purposes.

If the government is serious about its commitment to reduce Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent, it needs to comprehensively take into account its efforts in avoiding deforestation in primary and secondary forests as well as peatlands.

A crucial aspect which seems to have been left out is support for actors, sectors, regions or communities negatively impacted by the moratorium, for example in the form of alternative economic schemes, opportunities or technological or financial means.

As we may know, without comprehensive support for these parties, it may be very challenging to implement the moratorium in the field.

The government needs to send a clear signal, particularly to those who stand to lose as result of the moratorium, that they will be treated fairly.

There is a huge opportunity to use the last week’s published Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI) to tackle this challenge.

The government has informed the public it will invest around Rp200 trillion (US$23.4 billion) to develop six economic corridors promoting palm oil, rubber and other industries under the MP3EI program.

If it utilizes the MP3EI funding carefully, the government could assist planters, loggers and other land users to achieve more efficient and productive output when it comes to utilizing their land.

In the case of palm oil, according to a study conducted in 2007, if oil palm plantation productivity can be improved, there would be no need for the oil palm plantation sector to further expand its land usage, as growth in demand could be met by improving yields of existing plantations by 1.5-2.0 percent per year.

This intervention could poten-tially reduce the need to convert forests and peatlands to oil palm plantation.

If this opportunity is ignored and the MP3EI program is not synergized with the moratorium and vice versa, the parties not benefiting from the moratorium will use the economic development master plan as an excuse to continue their “business-as-usual” activities.

If this is the case, Indonesia and its people will still be struggling to achieve balanced development, promoting economic development on the one hand and taking care of the environment on the other.

As citizens of this country, we need to ensure that the government and influential parties make the right decision and that the Environment Day we celebrate this year is meaningful.

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

This article was re-published in East Asia Forum on 16 July 2011 at:

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2011/07/16/environment-day-a-good-day-for-ri-s-forests/

A critical year for REDD in Indonesia

Published in The Jakarta Post, Opinion, page 6 | Mon, 01/10/2011 9:36 AM |

Fitrian Ardiansyah and Aditya Bayunanda, Canberra

The new year has begun and the need to deal with environmental degradation, including deforestation, have become more pressing than before, yet the challenges are greater than ever.

For a few decades, Indonesia has paid a high price in terms of economic, environmental and social costs as well as negative reputation for the continued obscurity of policies to curb deforestation and a less than encouraging record in managing natural resources.

As part of efforts to alter this, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2009 stated that his government was devising a policy that would cut the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26 percent by 2020 from “business as usual” levels. A significant portion contributing to this would come from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

To politically and financially back up REDD+ development and implementation in this country, a letter of intent (LoI) was signed by the Indonesian and Norwegian governments in Oslo in late May last year.

The LoI came with a pledged provision of US$1 billion for Indonesia. This could be considered as the biggest single support any country has given Indonesia to date in the area of environmental management and climate change, and a significant initial step toward saving Indonesia’s peatlands and natural forests.

To show that he was serious in addressing the issue of deforestation and giving a boost to the REDD+ platform, the Indonesian President in Oslo also announced his commitment to halting all new concessions for the conversion of peatlands and natural forests in two years, supposed to start in January 2011.

January has arrived and after approximately seven months of continuous public discourses and reviews within the relevant ministries as well as inside UKP4 — a special presidential delivery unit charged with managing this LoI — the government is yet to produce a clear strategy and legal framework to support this initiative.

One sign of progress is the formation of a special taskforce that has a mandate to establish a special agency that will report directly to the President and coordinate the efforts pertaining to the development and implementation of REDD+.

Another recent development following this LoI, which happened just before the turn of the year, was the selection of Central Kalimantan province as a province-wide REDD+ pilot.

However, these moves are far from sufficient and adequate to show that Indonesia has a credible REDD+ platform.

Credibility is a key part of all REDD+ schemes that are being employed internationally. Credibility cannot be achieved without a firm national strategy and clear framework as well as legal certainty that support REDD+.

Furthermore, the absence of these aspects will hinder the development of national monitoring, reporting and verification system for GHG emissions coming from forests and peatlands – as stipulated in the LoI.

More importantly, tackling deforestation and land use changes involves different layers of governments and various sectors and actors.

These sectors are regulated under different ministries (i.e. forestry, agriculture, energy and mineral resources, and public works) and layers of governments. These institutions are known to have issued overlapping policies on land use and land use changes.

There are cases in which spatial and land use planning at the district level are different to if not contradictory with the planning at the provincial or national level.

Early in December last year, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) released the outcome of its study on forestry policies and systems. The KPK found an unclear definition of forest areas in Law No. 41/1999 on Forestry and a number of other relevant regulations.

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

According to the KPK’s findings, the division of authority, roles and responsibilities among different layers of governments remains unclear and problematic, especially in determining forest areas in a spatial planning process.

This situation has led to legal uncertainty, which is a prerequisite for serious investment in sustainable forest management and land use as well as community-based forest managed by local and indigenous people, which would support the country’s sustainable development.

It is therefore essential for the government to immediately come up with an initial but clear regulation (e.g. government regulation or higher ruling), strategy and framework that indicate the high level of seriousness to solve the uncertainty of land use systems, planning and coordination.

Substance-wise, this legal backing for REDD+ needs to prioritize the termination of  the conversion of natural forests, peatlands and other terrestrial ecosystems that are rich in carbon and have significant ecological and social values, but are at risk of being converted or destructively logged.

The legal framework backing up REDD+ is also required to clearly state that halting deforestation will not hinder development in other sectors.

On the other hand, a good regulation on REDD+ would create the urgency needed for the country to arrive with decisions over conflicting land use that have remained unresolved and have disrupted development, despite the fact that the Forestry Law stipulates this issue should be completed by the end of last year.

This overall process must be seen as a step forward to reform natural resource management of the country.

With or without foreign aid, the country’s future depends so much on the development path that we choose today.

Embarking on a sustainable path may be daunting but it is imperative for Indonesia, for the sake of its economy, environment and, most importantly, people.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is an advisor to WWF-Indonesia on climate and Aditya Bayunanda is Forest Trade Network manager of WWF-Indonesia.

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/01/10/a-critical-year-redd-indonesia.html