Indonesia has formally applied to the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, a sort-of precursor of the REDD scheme. Launched at the Bali negotiations in December 2007 its objectives are:

  • To build capacity for REDD in developing countries; and
  • To create and test a series of incentive schemes.

Although Indonesia did not participate in the initial round of funding (totalling $82 million), the Government of Indonesia has decided now is the time to get involved. And there are plenty of good reasons too: $350 million on the table; only two other countries – Guyana and Panama – applying so far; the presence of 20 pilot REDD projects in the country; and the development of the eagerly awaited REDD rules. However two aspects of the submission raise some questions.

Blaming the poor

In the submission it suggests that “the main drivers are extensive forest harvesting by pulp, paper and palm oil firms, expansion into rainforests and peat land by agriculture and forest plantations as well as encroachment by low-income communities into forest lands.” It therefore equates the behaviour of local level cultivators with the huge commercial interests of the timber and palm oil interests. This is problematic because the Indonesian Government has a history of blaming local cultivators for actions that at best, they contributed only partially to. For example, with the fires of 1997-98, local villagers were deemed culpable despite the fact that there was little evidence to prove such an assertion. Indeed current research suggests that these fires come from a variety of sources and that due consideration must be given to local cultivators.

There must be concern that any new funds flowing into Indonesia will be first used against the indigenous users rather than the commercial interests. What safeguards will be put in place to prevent such abuses remain to be seen.

OK: Why did they open up the peat lands?

The submission also provides an analysis into how much the scheme would have to pay to prevent such deforestation. While failing to mention the cost for clearing virgin tropical rainforest, it does provide figures for degraded forest and peat land. To deter palm oil plantations on degraded land would take a pricing of $21.54 (27 Euros) a tonne while for peat lands it would only need to be priced at $4.19 (5.25 Euros) a tonne. Therefore any deforestation scheme based on the current depressed price of carbon (10.83 Euros as of 6th March) would not deter plantations on degraded land, but would on peat lands. It has also been suggested that Indonesia losses a potential $1 billion a year in opening up the peat lands for agriculture through carbon loss.

It has been suggested that the reasons for the decree are twofold: the upcoming Indonesian elections and the need for money in the light of the global financial crisis. Given the timing of this submission, barely two weeks after the decree I would suggest a third possibility: to ‘encourage’ a pay-out from the Carbon Partnership Facility. By announcing the decree before the submission and then attaching a ‘price tag’ in the submission, the Government of Indonesia is effectively setting a price for this decree to be set aside. And given that it is below the current price of carbon, it can be viewed as a ‘bargain’.

Is this far-fetched? Only time will tell…

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