Decentralization and avoiding deforestation: the case of Indonesia

“Decentralization and avoiding deforestation: the case of Indonesia”. Authors: Fitrian Ardiansyah and Frank Jotzo.

A book chapter (Chapter 9) in S. Howes & MG Rao (eds), Federal Reform Strategies: Lessons from Asia and Australia, Oxford University Press (2013), Oxford.

Please check this link to access the chapter:

http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198092001.001.0001/acprof-9780198092001-chapter-9 

Or see the pre-published version of this chapter:

Indonesia-decentralisation-deforestation_FitrianArdiansyah_FrankJotzo_proofedition_2013

Abstract:

Indonesia has undergone far-reaching political, administrative and fiscal decentralization over the last decade. Significant powers now rest with the district level including the management of natural resources and the environment. A large share of state revenue goes to district governments. Deforestation has been a part and parcel of Indonesia’s economic development and it is the principal source of Indonesia’s large greenhouse gas emissions. Indonesia has committed to curb its greenhouse gas emissions, mostly through reduced deforestation. We assess challenges and options for avoiding deforestation under the decentralized system, using Indonesia’s fiscal transfer system. We find that schemes for improving land management and deforestation need to be structured around the interests of local governments and actors. Positive incentives for local governments will need to be created to compensate them for foregone profits and to facilitate alternative development. This could be done through intergovernmental transfers, using either outcome-based or input-based payment schemes.

Keywords: Indonesia, decentralization, avoiding deforestation, REDD+ programme, forest and land use governance, intergovernmental fiscal transfers

Federal Reform Strategies$

Flooding: looking beyond Jakarta

by Fitrian ArdiansyahErik Meijaard and Jessie Wells, published in The Jakarta Globe, 4 December 2013, Opinion.

Original link: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/opinion/flooding-looking-beyond-jakarta/

Anyone living in Jakarta is more than familiar with the huge impacts of flooding, and the need for greater efforts for prevention and management. And yet, when it comes to the focus and support from the government for these actions, Jakarta may be more “fortunate” compared to other parts of the country that suffer from frequent floods, such as Kalimantan.

Heavy tropical rainfall causes flooding nearly everywhere in the Indonesian archipelago. According to the recent projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in the coming decades Indonesia may receive less rainfall between July and October, but increased rains (and higher intensities) are expected during the wet season.

A combination of continuing environmental degradation (e.g. through deforestation and erosion), climate change that leads to sea level rise and extreme weather events, and poor infrastructure, has increased the urgency for Indonesia to address flooding issues not only through emergency response, but pro-actively through land use planning, mitigation and adaptation.

Some government agencies at the national and sub-national levels, including the Jakarta government, appear to be increasingly aware of the significant social and economic impacts that flooding can have, and are starting to take steps to reduce risks and mitigate impacts.

Others are yet to take action. In Kalimantan, for example, the government and key stakeholders need to make a dramatic shift away from their current business-as-usual approach to development and reactive approach to flooding, to avoid severe impacts that risk collapse of the island’s economic and humanitarian systems.

More than 20 major rivers flow through Kalimantan. Disturbances to the hydro-climatic systems, ecosystems and land use in the catchment areas of these rivers will have serious consequences for the island’s water supplies, transportation networks, and the capacity of its people to further develop their economies and moderate the impacts of droughts and fires.

With regard to flooding, a recent study titled Forests, Floods, People and Wildlife on Borneo showed that problems caused by flooding in Kalimantan are much larger than previously recognized, that flood risks are being exacerbated by trends in climate, land use and urbanization, and that urgent and forward-thinking actions are needed to address these issues.

This study, published by the United Nations Environment Program, estimates that between April 2010 and 2013, media-reported flood events inundated between 197,000 and 360,000 houses in Kalimantan, and displaced between 776,000 and 1.5 million people. The authors emphasize that these are conservative estimates, since many events go unreported, and independent surveys in 354 villages indicated that flooding occurred annually or even more frequently in at least 49 percent of villages in the island — with large social and economic impacts.

This study also found that 18 percent of villages experienced an increase in flood frequencies over the past 30 years. Increases in flood frequencies were primarily concentrated in the middle Mahakam area in East Kalimantan, the lower and middle reaches of the Barito, Kahayan, Sampit and Lamandau Rivers in South and Central Kalimantan, and the low-lying swamps around the Kapuas River in West Kalimantan. Reports of increasing flood frequencies were also strongly associated with increased turbidity and declines in water quality.

These are all areas with high human population densities and increasing agricultural developments, indicating that future economic impacts of flooding could be larger still.

One important aspect specifically explored in the study is the link between deforestation and changes in flood frequencies. The study concludes that it is not possible yet to understand the full picture of the complex relationships between land cover, topography and flooding, but the data indicate that increases in flooding were most likely in areas that have experienced more extensive deforestation for oil palm development, or severe degradation through logging and fires.

Such findings are important for Indonesia’s land use policies. Indonesia’s regulations (including Agriculture Ministry Decree No. 837 of 1980), have provided guidance for identifying lands that play an important role in watershed protection, based on considerations of slope, soil type and rainfall intensity.

However, vast areas of lands that meet these criteria have not been gazetted with any protection status such as protection forest (hutan lindung), but instead have been given out to industrial logging or other development activities incompatible with maintaining their hydrological functions. Such areas include large areas of Kalimantan’s forests on steep slopes or on deep peats, which continue to be converted despite the consequences.

The recent moratorium policy on forest and peat land conversion issued by the national government provides an opportunity for remaining areas to be protected, conserved and sustainably managed.

Taking up this opportunity will require governments at each level to effectively implement and monitor existing policies; to strengthen capacities for landscape planning that sustains the vital functions of watersheds, alongside other ecosystem benefits and economic developments; and to integrate land use planning with local preventive measures for flooding and adaptation to flooding regimes.

Otherwise, flooding impacts associated with deforestation and forest degradation in Kalimantan are only going to get worse.

In addition, rapid migration and urban expansion in the coastal and riverine lowlands affects both the likelihood of flood events (e.g. through altered hydrology and land subsidence), and amplifies the likely impacts of those events on larger and more concentrated populations of vulnerable people. Trends toward urbanization are likely to continue, and so an urgent and sustained effort is needed to reduce the impacts of urban and upstream development on flood risks, and to make settlements as resilient as possible to the risks that remain.

The government needs to act urgently. Agus Purnomo, a member of the Special Staff to the Indonesian President on Climate Change and the head of the secretariat of the National Council on Climate Change, states that many weather-related disasters in Indonesia, such as flooding and landslides, are having increasing impacts. He further argues that it is not only new policies that Indonesia requires, but also increased capacity, sufficient resources and adequate technology to address this issue.

Such comprehensive thinking, however, needs to be translated and supported at the local level, particularly in Kalimantan’s political agendas. Reading local newspapers, one wonders whether politicians in Kalimantan share similar concerns, since most discussions or actions related to flooding focus on mitigation through hard infrastructure (e.g. flood defenses), and appear to neglect efforts for hazard reduction or prevention (e.g. maintaining forested watersheds and improving infrastructure) or risk-reduction and adaptation.

It is time for government to put into effect its own, existing policies, including the government’s commitments to sustaining essential watershed functions, to reducing emissions from land use, and to maintaining at least 45 percent of Kalimantan’s land area as forest (Presidential Decree No. 3 of 2012).

To achieve this, the national government, through its Forestry Ministry, Environment Ministry and recently established REDD+ Agency (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, plus conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks), needs to enhance collaboration with local governments to enable land use planning that integrates the multiple functions of landscapes, including rigorously identifying which forests should be protected from development and which areas can be sustainably used or developed, and how.

The One Map Initiative, for example, can be used to guide the process on the ground so that needs for economic development can be met in concert with (rather than at a cost to) environmental protection and ecosystem services.

It is essential for the government and key stakeholders to show that the country’s commitments to addressing deforestation, climate change and disaster risks are concrete and meaningful. With this, as a society, we can hope that Indonesia will be able to beat the flooding challenge.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University and program development director at Pelangi Indonesia.

Erik Meijaard is a long-term Indonesia-based conservation scientist leading the Borneo Futures initiative as a consultant for People and Nature Consulting International.

Jessie Wells is a postdoc at the Environmental Decisions Group, University of Queensland, researching hydrological ecosystem services in Kalimantan.

Reconciling differences for better forest and land use

Published in Coal Asia, May 25 – June 20, 2013, page 100-101

by Fitrian Ardiansyah

for the pdf version, please see Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_MayJune2013

CoalAsia_MayJune2013_forest_landuse

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has just recently extended the country’s forest conversion moratorium for two more years. As when the initial presidential decree on the moratorium issued two years ago, this extension has also been met with polarized reactions.

Parties supporting the extension of the moratorium applauded the decision and, furthermore, stated that the additional two years period would provide sufficient time for the central government to continue reforming Indonesia’s forest governance and policies.

In its newest analysis, World Resource Institute, for instance, believes that this moratorium extension can strengthen the country’s forest governance, particularly if the government is focusing on tracking forest permits and strengthening permit review process.

The Institute argues that the aforementioned approaches can help increasing the level of transparency in forest and land use governance, by providing a more complete set of permits data. With the factual situation whereby central and local governments often do not share information with each other on permits (e.g. for logging, mining, palm oil and other development activities), the provision of a more transparent set of permits data can help the governments to overcome conflicting claims over forest and land areas.

A group of environmental NGOs, including Walhi, when interviewed by the Jakarta Post, appear to support this argument by saying that the implementation of the extended moratorium needs to contribute at least to resolving prolonged natural resources conflicts.

Such reforms on the permit process, if comprehensively carried out for all Indonesian provinces and districts, may even lead to improving the level of certainty of doing business in Indonesia, especially in forestry, agriculture and other land-related sectors.

A 2008 report on investment climate in 33 provinces in Indonesia, conducted collaboratively by the Regional Autonomy Implementation Monitoring Committee (KPPOD) and Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), has identified uncertainty, claims and conflicts over land as some of significant barriers of investment.

The provision of a transparent and comprehensive set of permits data, in fact, can likely answer some criticisms thrown by the opponents of forest conversion moratorium.

It was revealed in the 2011 Indonesian Coal Report, for example, that a lengthy approval process of permits and unclear forestry boundary issues – likely resulting from overlapping permits over forest areas – have put a huge obstacle in mine operators. The introduction of forest conversion moratorium at that time and until now has been further viewed by these operators as additional “legislative nightmare”.

The development of a transparent and comprehensive set of permits data, especially if synergized with the already developed and refined moratorium-indicative map (MIM), therefore, could lead to an increase in legal certainty over forest and land use. Such approach could also contribute to the level of playing field for all land users and the wider public.

To date, the MIM has been updated and revised for a third time with the support of at least five ministries and institutions, i.e. Forestry Ministry, Agriculture Ministry, National Land Agency (BPN), Geospatial Information Agency (BIG), and the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4). It is arguably one of the most significant progresses achieved during the first two-year period of the implementation of forest conversion moratorium.

Using the easily accessed MIM, the wider public can provide comments and feedbacks with regard to forest cover data and situation in their respective areas.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), with the help of the Participatory Mapping Network (JKPP), for example, has built a set of indigenous maps and added on to the MIM. Such product which has been submitted to the UKP4 and BIG as part of the MIM exercise may well be a good initial step to be used as the basis for implementing the recent decision made by the Constitutional Court that acknowledges indigenous and customary forests.

The importance of the MIM is clearly highlighted in the new Presidential Instruction No. 6 of 2013 that regulates the extension of forest conversion moratorium. In his instruction, not only the president emphasizes on its importance but also intends to use the MIM as the ultimate reference for the moratorium implementation and monitoring, as well as reforming the forest governance and its system in this country.

Regardless of the progress made in the MIM part, however, huge challenges still remain for forest conversion moratorium to continue and future efforts in reforming forest and land use in Indonesia to take place.

One of these is the fact that there is yet any (present or new) organisation or institution given a clear and strong mandate to officially coordinate – among ministries, agencies and different layers of governments – the implementation of forest conversion moratorium and further forest and land use governance reforms.

In the Presidential Instruction No. 6 of 2013, the President clearly instructs ministers, governors and bupatis (heads of districts) or mayors to halt issuing new development permits of primary forests and peat lands.

However, without a clear mechanism of coordination and governance structure, it is almost impossible for forest conversion moratorium to be implemented and for more serious forest management reform to commence, especially beyond 2014 – the year when Indonesians are busy with the national wide election.

The current National REDD+ Task Force has insufficient power and mandate to perform such tasks, while the Forestry Ministry and other sectoral ministries have no cross-sectoral mandate either.

Furthermore, forest and land use governance in Indonesia is even more complex due to its decentralized system. Although the central government claims to have control over forest areas in the country, the reality on the ground may be different. With significant powers now rest with the district level, and a large share of state revenue goes to district governments, provincial and district governments can have much more say about forest and forestry.

Any institution given a mandate to coordinate forest and land use reforms hence is required to not only take into account provincial and local aspirations, but also proactively involve them in a decision-making process. A positive incentive mechanism may also need to be created to encourage local key stakeholders to support the reforms.

Without a definitive institution having a definite mandate to coordinate forest and land use management, the division of authorities, roles and responsibilities among different sectoral ministries and layers of governments will likely remain unclear in many respects.

Various laws, regulations and policies which have resulted in overlapping forest and land use management, are likely to continuously operate.

With the election period approaching rapidly, the windows of opportunity to strengthen the reforms have become more limited.

This year, therefore, seems to be the most appropriate time for the government to establish such institution or give such mandate to any current institution. Otherwise, the hope for future forest and land use governance reforms may be in jeopardy.

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The author is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award

Geopolitical Map of REDD+ negotiation: An analytical report

UNREDD Geopolitical mapThis report is prepared by Pelangi Indonesia, commissioned by the UN-REDD Indonesia Programme. The writing team consists of Fitrian Ardiansyah, Melati, Boyke Lakaseru, Reza Anggara and Yasmi Adriansyah. This report presents an analysis to stimulate discussion on the geopolitical situation of REDD+ negotiation at the global level, prior to the COP (Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC)-18 in Doha, Qatar. The views expressed are entirely of Pelangi Indonesia and the writing team’s own and not that of the UN-REDD Indonesia Programme or the Government of the Republic of Indonesia.

This report was submitted to the UN-REDD Indonesia Programme in October 2012.

For the full report, please click here GEOPOLITICAL MAP OF REDD+ NEGOTIATION: An analytical report

A review and outlook of Indonesia’s forest governance

Published in Coal Asia, January 22 – February 22, 2013, Page 86-87

by Fitrian Ardiansyah

for the pdf version, please see Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_JanFeb2013

CoalAsia_JanFeb2013_ForestThe year 2013 is here and when it comes to forest and land use governance, this year has replaced a period that was filled with seized opportunities, conquered challenges but also with shattered hopes and unrealized potentials.

In the yesteryear, Indonesia witnessed some interesting dynamics in forest and land use policies.

Firstly, these include the issuance of Kalimantan and Sumatra spatial planning (i.e. Presidential Regulation No. 3 and 13 of 2012). Based on these two policies, there is a clear mandate for the government to at least maintain, conserve, restore and sustainably manage 45 percent of remaining forests in Kalimantan and 40 percent in Sumatra.

These are ambitious targets, since the total forest cover loss for Sumatra and Kalimantan in 2000-2008 was 5.39 million hectares (representing 5.3 percent of the land area and 9.2 percent of the year 2000 forest cover in both islands) as revealed by researchers from South Dakota University and World Resources Institute in 2011.

In addition, according to a 2009 peer-reviewed scientific publication written by the two institutions which also collaborated with the Forestry Ministry and State University of New York, 40 percent of the lowland forests in both islands were cleared from 1990 to 2005.

Hence, to achieve its own targets in 2013 onward, the government would need all support it can get to see the desired changes on the ground, particularly from district and provincial governments. With a decentralized government system in place, district and provincial governments hold relatively more power and authority to manage and control their natural resources.

The latest story from Aceh could provide a good example. The new provincial government, as reported by Fairfax Media, for instance, has confirmed that a draft spatial plan was finalized. With massive development on forest and land has been placed as priority, the plan may lead to total forest cover reduction from about 68 percent of the province’s land mass to 45 percent.

Such situation could contradict and hamper a national policy milestone achieved in mid last year, which was the completion of the first year of Indonesia’s two-year moratorium on new permits for primary forest and peat-land clearing.

As many may have known, the first year of the moratorium was marked by continuous development and refinement of the moratorium-indicative map (MIM). In 2012 alone, the government has produced two latest versions of the MIM, version II and III.

Between these two maps (as well as with the first one), some discrepancies of forest figures, however, have occurred, as reported by the REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus) Task Force. Research institutions such as the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) showed that the area to be addressed in the latest version of MIM is much less (64.7 million hectares compare to the original 69.1 million). Although smaller, this area appears to have a higher degree of problems in terms of governance.

To respond to such criticism, the task force argued that such differences happened because different agencies involved in the MIM development, in which they have used different forest definitions and sources of maps.

Up to this point, these agencies were the Forestry Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry, the National Land Agency, the Geospatial Information Agency and the Presidential Office (UKP4). Since most key agencies have contributed – although the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry has yet to get officially involved – and many sectors and actors have tried to influence the process, it is understandable that synchronizing this one national map may require compromises, and hence may add or reduce relevant forest and land cover figures.

It is just the reality of life, i.e. negotiations and trade-offs on contentious issues would require ‘giving’ and ‘taking’ among sectors and actors. There will be winners and losers. A crucial question to answer is whether this negotiation process will result in greater benefits for the wider Indonesian public, which are, among others, productive but sustainable economy and much healthier environment.

Although may be considered as sub-optimal, this one-map development (in which four different agencies have agreed to consolidate their maps/data on land use) has contributed to the increase in the level of transparency, including increasing the level of public access to forest and land use data, as the MIM is uploaded online.

The case of peat swamp forest burning in Kuala Tripa for palm oil in Aceh’s Nagan Raya district reported by NGOs and media is an example of the importance of this map and the access given to the public to utilize the map. The wider public, NGOs and the media have reported this case and sent a letter to the Indonesian president. As a result, UKP4/the REDD+ Task Force and the Environment Ministry sent a fact-finding team, and the accused – a plantation company – is being prosecuted.

The willingness of different agencies to collaborate and share substantive data on forest and land use, albeit difficult, is encouraging.

Another example of collaborative works that can be further nurtured in 2013 is the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) 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. The MoU aims at addressing approximately 60 percent of geothermal energy potentials and reserves currently located in forest areas, as reported in 2009 by a senior high-ranking at Bappenas (the National Development Planning Agency).

It is, therefore, urgent under this MoU to develop standards, benchmarks and applied solutions that could and would balance geothermal energy development and forest protection.

A similar collaborative case that leads to appropriate solutions may be explored in areas which have conflicting interests between general energy/mining development and forest. Finding balanced solutions is a huge task, because based on a 2011 report by the Forestry Ministry, forest areas within mining concessions, which include for oil, gas and coal activities, cover approximately 2.03 million hectares.

Saying it as a huge task is perhaps an underestimate.

Indonesia’s political and governance system is not homogenous. While some government agencies may be willing to collaborate, others such as the parliament and local governments need to feel the ownership of such ‘ideal call’ to get involved. Otherwise, they may come strongly against it.

The strong voice from some factions of the parliament calling for the end of moratorium suggests that this important body in the Indonesian governance system may feel sidelined and do not see any benefits provided by the initiative.

Also, with the Constitutional Court recently has returned the authority to determine mining areas from the central government to local (mostly district) governments, for example, district governments appear to have more ‘say’ in forest and natural resources development.

The aforementioned less than ideal situation has undoubtedly brought about many challenges ahead, especially when it comes to sustainably managing and improving the country’s forest, land and natural resources.

Yet, changes are possible. It is, therefore, now up to all components of the Indonesian governance system to turn this around and make positive progress.

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Fitrian Ardiansyah is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

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.

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