Indonesia - Norway REDD+: A giant step for mankind
Since its announcement of the two-year moratorium on the conservation of natural forests in the recent forest and climate summit in Oslo, the eyes of the world are on Indonesia.
Also from the Netherlands, we follow with great interest the recent developments regarding sustainable forest management in Indonesia. Not just for nature conservation interests, but certainly for business reasons as well.
Even though the effects may be hard for certain people and certain companies in the short-term, these measures will lay the foundation for a sustainable business sector in Indonesia.
It will ensure that the most precious forests of the world are not lost to mankind but, instead, will be restored to their full productive capacity thus adding to the welfare of future generations of Indonesians.
The series of directives and measures by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over the past two years aimed at reducing deforestation in Indonesia have come to a new milestone with the announcement of a 2-year moratorium on the conversion of natural forests.
The President can be commended for his consistent directives. He has decided his actions already in the Bali climate summit a few years ago and has since then followed a straight course towards reducing deforestation in climate change.
Now the actions are becoming really tangible — and far beyond international expectation.
Deforestation in Indonesia in the past years reached an average of 2 million hectares annually, being roughly a third of the deforestation of tropical forests worldwide.
Especially Indonesia and Brazil hold a key role in controlling deforestation, 50 percent of the world’s rain forests have been cleared already while Indonesia and Brazil hold around two-thirds of the remaining tropical rain forests in the world. Deforestation is accountable for more than 20 percent of the total carbon output worldwide. It seems therefore fair to assume that the Indonesian moratorium potentially affects 7 percent of world carbon emissions.
This significant and bold decision puts Indonesia in the forefront of leading nations in the battle against global warming. The step is impressive given the area involved and the economic interests at stake.
This call to action needs to be answered by those who benefit from it and not just with funding — the US$1 billion support pledged by the Norwegian government as a compensation for the moratorium is substantial but the rest of the world holds a large responsibility as well for collateral measures.
It should not be underestimated how much influence international demand can exert on the adherence of Indonesian producers of paper or wood products to sustainability criteria. Illegal logging and controversial forest conversion schemes loose their economical base when the products from these methods are refused in the international markets.
Most technical or industrial methods for the reduction of carbon emissions take years and sometimes decades to prepare, let alone to implement. In contrast, the moratorium is not only one of the most effective ways to curb carbon emissions, but also one of the best fast-track options with immediate results.
Furthermore, the moratorium should be seen in combination with other significant steps Indonesia is taking to enhance the sustainability of the forest industry, including the up-coming introduction of timber legality verification system (SVLK).All these measures boost the sustainability of the forest sector in all respects i.e. ecologically, socially and business-wise. This creates an advantage for Indonesian firms in the world market. The forest industry must focus now on different markets and clients that value products that are produced more sustainably for which they are willing to pay even though the cost price may be more elevated.
For example, very promising is the fast increase of larger international companies that require FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification as a minimum requirement. These FSC guidelines need a local interpretation though — the recently renewed cooperation between LEI (Indonesia Eco labeling Institute) and FSC offers good hope that mutual alignment of these sustainability certificates is in the making.
With our organization, The Borneo Initiative, we support said market development in Europe, while at the same time we offer grant funding to Indonesian forest concessionaires who decide to adopt the guidelines for responsible logging as promoted by FSC.
This year only we have started our program in Indonesia with concessions exceeding 1.5 million hectares and herewith operate the largest tropical forest certification program in the world.
For Indonesian companies and their trading partners, the moment has come to promote this new face of Indonesia that is looking towards a sustainable future. Indonesia has the opportunity to assume a globally recognized leading position on reducing carbon emissions.
Of course still a lot of work has to be done, but these directives call for respect of the world and now need to be answered, not only via financial compensations, but also by ensuring a demand in the world market for sustainably produced, certified wood products or paper.
The author is executive board member of The Borneo Initiative, an international platform that supports LEI-FSC certification initiatives in Indonesia.