OPINION: Reflecting on Indonesia’s leadership on forestry
Mochamad Indrawan, CDKN’s Country Engagement Leader in Indonesia, in collaboration with Geoffrey Blate, Asia Regional Forest Adivisor of the USDA Forest Service, reflects on the current debates in Asia on climate compatible forest management.
Introduction: Reversion of trends is possible
Indonesia has embarked on the long journey towards combatting deforestation, forest degradation, and fires by reforming the country’s approach to forest management. The world’s largest archipelago is now planting 4 billion trees. Thus remarked H.E. President of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during the opening of the Forest Asia Summit convened earlier this year in Jakarta. The President, whose term will end next month, called on his successor to continue a moratorium started in 2011 on issuance of new forest concession licenses.
These comments set the scene for the major themes of the summit,which was organized by a consortium led by Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), including governance, green returns, perceived trade and investment, climate change mitigation and adaptation, energy, food security, nutrition, and low carbon development. The more than 120 speakers included Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Ambassadors from around the world; more than 20 top executives from the private sector (including Golden Agri Resources and APP); development partners; scientists, including Chair of the IPCC, Dr. Pachauri; civil society organisations (including Greenpeace SEA); and institutions representing indigenous peoples’ interests (e.g.AMAN-Alliance of Indigenous People of Indonesia).
Better valuation of resources is paving the way
The summit highlighted some encouraging signs that Asia’s forests are starting to be valued. For instance, Vietnam has established one of the first Payment for Eco-system Services (PES) schemes that the world has seen. Close to USD$17 million in revenue gained between 2009 and 2014 was channeled back to incentivize and protect Vietnam’s forests. Brunei continues to commit to forest conservation and has so far managed to limit expansion of agricultural land to no more than 1 percent of the country’s total land use. The Philippines, beginning in 2011, implemented a logging ban in conjunction with forest protection and enforcement, and as a result, the number of illegal logging hotspots has decreased. Indonesia, with appreciated support from the European Union and Forest Stewardship Council is increasing its credibility in the legal timber market.
Governance continues to be a priority issue
Despite signs of progress, substantial challenges remain. The need for improved governance was among the issues highlighted. The relationship between governance, forest fires, and trans-boundary issues has received special attention. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Singapore emphasized that fire and haze is a problem of misaligned interests. Local communities are the victims of these incidents, and thus the Government and local communities must insist on effective prosecutions and transparency in governance.
Another major challenge summarized by Dr. Pachauri, IPCC Chair, was the accelerating warming of the planet. Among the many impacts of unabated climate change, he warned that increased water scarcity would likely give rise to conflicts and even large scale displacement of people. Forests, agriculture, and food supplies will also be adversely impacted. Although deep emission cuts are needed immediately, many impacts will be unavoidable, and therefore adaptation will need to be combined with mitigation.
Green returns need to be inclusive and resilient
Trade and investment in forest products needs to turn towards producing green returns, but achieving this goal will require new ways of conceptualizing what this means. A‘Green Economy’ does not have to be a ‘less economy’, but some practical and ethical changes to finance can create new ways of doing business, such as the use of green bonds. In addition, GDP must also capture the commonly overlooked perspective of the livelihoods of the people living in and around forest areas. Pavan Sukhdev, UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, proposed a new way to measure GDP that includes both development and conservation indicators.
Drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, and forest fires occur at landscape scales, thus making a landscape approach an imperative for sustainability. The private sector has the capacity to operate at a landscape scale, and increasingly appreciates the need for stopping deforestation, protecting peat, and sustainably managing forests. With the right incentives in place, there is therefore an opportunity to utilize the private sector for new ethical investment in forestry.
Certainty of tenure is needed for local businesses
There are many legitimate challenges faced by local businesses in the forest sector, including social conflicts, oversight issues, and licensing inefficiencies. Shinta Kamdhani, Vice Chair of KADIN – Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, speaking at the summit stressed that benefit distribution is closely linked with tenure arrangements. Secure tenure is important otherwise licenses will overlap and cause conflicts. Businesses therefore viewed Indonesia’s One Map initiative (which is a mapping system that standardises different accounts of forest cover, land use, and administrative boundaries used by ministries/ agencies and local governments) as an indispensable tool for coordination. Many summit participants mentioned the need to complete the One Map initiative in the shortest time possible. The private sector also view secure tenure rights as a pre-requisite for effective financial mechanisms such as REDD+.
Businesses are increasingly involved in low carbon development and forest management discourse, as government and civil society recognize common interests and values. In Indonesia, business communities worked towards establishing social conflict resolution mechanisms within KADIN, encouraging best management practices for small holders, and promoting zero deforestation as a business community movement.
Scepticism may remain. For instance, zero deforestation was declared in Indonesia amidst intense forest degradation and even mining activities. NGOs therefore still play an important role in providing balance to the equation, and especially safeguarding against potential ‘green washing’.
Planning ahead cannot be without the voice of youth
The Forest Asia Summit included not only discussion of progress in sustainable forest management, but it also convened relevant stakeholders, provided a platform for dialogue, trust building, and effective shared learning. More inclusive participation and drive to put forestry into the larger context for climate compatible development produced a compelling vision.
In the opening, the President of Indonesia remarked that youth must be involved from now on in decisions about land use because the next generation will inherit our earth and its resources. Indeed, listening to the youth’s voices throughout the summit it is clear they have the enthusiasm, energy, and intellectual capacity to make a valuable contribution, and that they are crucial for maintaining the current positive momentum.
Image Courtesy: Bridget Besaw