Illegal logging fells Indonesia’s climate credibility

Would you buy a used forest from this country?

Check out this report by the BlueGreen Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club and United Steelworkers for a sobering reminder of the costs of illegal logging in Indonesia. It’s further evidence that Indonesia, at its current stage of mismanagement and corruption, cannot be trusted as a partner in any international market for carbon credits linked to avoided deforestation (known by the acronym REDD).

I’m not knocking REDD as a concept, but it’s just not going to make any difference to greenhouse gas emissions until major players like Indonesia get their act together and stop the illegal logging. My fear is that countries like Australia, which has been pushing REDD projects in Indonesia, will throw billions of dollars at forest conservation in a cynical bid to offset their own coal-burning energy emissions without any real regard for how much carbon has actually been stored as a result of their tax-payers’ dollars.

The BlueGreen Alliance report puts it thus:

There is great risk that the international community will rush into REDD investments that can provide crucial “offsets” for carbon markets in the US and elsewhere, without the necessary safeguards to protect the environmental integrity of the outcomes. This will leave forests vulnerable to further destruction and prevent meaningful actions by Northern countries to reduce emissions. The Indonesian government’s recent attempts to classify environmentally devastating oil palm plantations as forests are an alarming yet telling sign of the challenges that lie ahead. Further incentivization of the creation of oil palm plantations would legalize further deforestation – much of it technically illegal – and accelerate natural forest clearance, biodiversity loss and greenhouse gas emissions.

Some salient points from the BlueGreen report:

  • 40 to 55 percent of timber taken from Indonesian forests is illegally logged
  • Timber is illegally harvested from 37 of the nation’s 41 national parks
  • Deforestation accounts for one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions (more than all cars and planes in the US)
  • US industry losses due to illegal logging-related depressed wood prices and lost exports put at over $1 billion
  • Indonesia is home to 11 percent of the world’s plants species, 10 percent of its mammal species and 16 percent of its bird species, a majority of which live in forests
  • At current rates of deforestation, 98 percent of Indonesia’s lowland forests may be destroyed by 2022
  • A third of the market value of illegal timber is paid in bribes to government officials
  • Indonesia’s timber industry is currently capable of processing two to five times the legal supply of timber

Meanwhile the Rainforest Action Network has a campaign to name and shame US company Cargill over its alleged involvement in rainforest destruction in Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations:

Cargill’s palm oil is found in almost half of consumer goods sold in grocery stores, including over 100 General Mills products like Cheerios and Lucky Charms. It also poses a direct threat to the survival of endangered orangutans, Sumatran tigers, elephants and more than 20 million Indigenous people dependent on forests for their survival.

It encourages people to call Cargill CEO Gregory Page at 952-742-7575 to lodge a complaint.

(Photo courtesy of Curt Carnemark and the World Bank via flickr)

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