More doubts about REDD in Indonesia

At last someone has quantified what percentage of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation on land not covered by areas earmarked for UN-backed (and Western taxpayer funded) conservation. And it ain’t pretty.

Bukit Tiga Puluh, Sumatra

The World Agroforestry Centre reckons as much as a third of the country’s emissions – which are the third biggest in the world after China and the United States – come from areas not officially designated forest.

This means areas that would not be preserved under a scheme known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), which could be a key plank of a future world climate deal. Under REDD, taxpayers in industrial countries pay emerging countries to preserve their forests and thereby cut carbon emissions from deforestation, which are said to account for about 80 percent of those produced by forest-slashing Indonesia.

In a perfect world the scheme sounds like a brilliant way to make quick cuts to climate-warming emissions while preserving the biodiversity contained in forests. The problem is that it’s not a perfect world, and countries which are as thoroughly corrupt as Indonesia simply cannot be trusted to implement the scheme in a way that guarantees any real reductions in emissions.

The fact that Indonesia’s forestry sector is trying to get palm oil plantations designated as “forests” that foreign taxpayers would pay to “preserve” is a pretty good indication of how far Indonesia needs to go to convince critics that it is sincere about making REDD work and not just seeing another chance to line its pockets with foreign aid.

The agroforestry centre says:

Although Indonesia has shown leadership in committing to voluntarily reduce emissions by 26 per cent, the large quantity of carbon emissions from outside forest areas may cancel out any net emissions reductions that are achieved.

In that case, all those billions of dollars pledged for REDD schemes in Indonesia by countries like Norway and Australia would be a total waste of resources, and the carbon offsets they were intended to create would be a farce. The planet would keep on cooking in greenhouse gases just the same.

The centre says 0.6 gigatonnes of carbon are emitted each year in “areas that are not officially considered forests in Indonesia”, so they are “not accounted for” under the country’s current REDD policy. That’s convenient for Indonesia’s palm oil producers, who have strongly resisted REDD and routinely deny persistent allegations that they engage in illegal and unsustainable practices of land clearing.

(Photo courtesy of Greenpeace)

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