Reducing deforestation in RI

Jakarta Post – December 5, 2007
Opinion: Daniel Murdiyarso

Deforestation and land clearance in developing countries are responsible for annual carbon emissions measuring approximately 1,600 million tons. That’s roughly a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making deforestation a major cause of global warming.

Unfortunately, the Kyoto Protocol, in its current form, fails to include measures to combat deforestation as part of the armory to reduce carbon emissions. All this is set to change.

Two years ago, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) launched discussions on reduced emissions from deforestation (REDD) in developing countries.

Shortly afterwards, the influential Stern Review, an analysis of the economics of climate change published by the UK government, argued that "avoided deforestation" should be an important element in any future international agreement.

The decision about precisely how this might work – in other words, what sort of incentive schemes might encourage developing countries to reduce deforestation rates – will be made during the Conference of Parties in Bali, which is now underway.

At present, the world tropical forest estate covers some 13 billion hectares, and this is being reduced by 11 million hectares – almost one percent each year.

The loss in Indonesia alone amounts to almost 2 million hectares. But the scale of the problem in Indonesia is worse than these figures imply.

A report published in 2006 – `PEAT-C02’looked at the impact of forest conversion on peat lands in South East Asia. Of the 27 million hectares of peat lands, 12 million have been deforested and most of this has been drained.

Each year, peat land fires release 1,400 million tons of C02, and total emissions from peat lands amount to around 2,000 million tons or 8 percent of fossil fuel emissions. Ninety percent of peat land emissions come from Indonesia, making it the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after the United States and China.

Many of us working in this field are embarrassed that Indonesia which is not categorized as an industrialized country under that Kyoto Protocolis such a serious climate polluter.

One could quibble about some of the figures in the PEAT-C02 Report, but its findings should stimulate us into changing the way we manage our tropical forests.

There is, after all, a silver lining to these dirty clouds. In any future REDD negotiations; Indonesia should be able to use its past emissions as a reference level for future reductions.

If it could control peat drainage and peat forest fires, then the reductions could be immense, and Indonesia would have much "hot-air" to sell, for example to countries buying carbon credits to offset their own industrial emissions.

A similar situation prevailed in Russia when the Kyoto Protocol first came into force. Russia’s quota for reducing emissions was 17 per cent of the global target, second only to the United States. During the following years, the country experienced an economic crisis and its emissions reduced dramatically, by default rather than design. As a result, Russia found itself with plenty of "hot air" to sell under the Kyoto Protocol’s Joint Implementation and Emission Trading schemes within Annex I countries.

Indonesia clearly has something to sell in any future REDD agreements, but to do so it will need to take a number of measures. For one thing, it needs to improve its ability to draw up inventories of forests and carbon stocks. It will also need to improve forest governance and dramatically decrease land-use conflict while recognizing property rights.

Indonesia could lead other countries by establishing pilot projects to reduce deforestation, without waiting for the new Kyoto Protocol to come into force. Indeed, the next five years could be used as a training session to evaluate best and worst practice.

The writer is a meteorologist at the Center for International Forestry Research and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).