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Indonesia's forest moratorium: to extend or not to extend?

CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research) - Fri, 7 Dec 2012 00:47 GMT
Author: Kate Evans
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DOHA, Qatar (6 December, 2012)_ Experts on the sidelines of the UN climate conference in Doha are weighing in on whether Indonesia should extend its two-year ban on the issuance of new forestry concessions in order to give the country a chance to meet its emissions reductions goals by 2020.

In May 2011, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a two-year ban on new forestry concessions in primary forest and peatlands, as part of the country’s aim to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from a projected 2020 baseline.

Last week, Indonesia’s Forestry Minister announced that he will recommend to the President that the moratorium be extended when it expires in May 2013.

But in response, lawmakers in the House of Representatives threatened to freeze the budget for reforestation projects should Yudhoyono decide to extend the ban until the end of his term in 2014.

“It’s not worth it,” the head of the House of Representatives forestry and agriculture commission Romahurmuzy said, according to the Jakarta Globe. “The reward is not equal to the economic potential being lost in the forest sector.”

But at the UN climate change talks in Doha, during a side event organized by Washington DC-based World Resource Institute (WRI), some experts had different views.

“Extension is a lot better than creating a new one later, because you already have buy-in from stakeholders, as well as established cross-ministerial processes which were never exercised before this moratorium,” said Daniel Murdiyarso, senior CIFOR scientist.

Murdiyarso said the government should consider expanding the ban on new forestry concessions to include Indonesia’s vast secondary forests, and carbon-rich mangroves.

Secondary forests could add 47 million hectares to the 22.5 million already covered by the moratorium – and mangroves, while covering only a small area, sequester and store much more carbon, and yet suffer sky-high deforestation rates.

“If the moratorium is going to be extended, a more targeted approach should be devised regarding forest types to be included and the mechanism to be adopted,” Murdiyarso said.

Mas Achmad Santosa, head of the Working Group for Legal Review and Law Enforcement on the Indonesian REDD+ Taskforce, agreed the ban should be extended.

“To achieve governance reform and consensus in forest related issues and natural resource management, it will take time. So two years is not enough,” he said.

“We need to learn lessons from the past two years, we need to improve it, to sharpen it, and to be more specific what kind of reforms are needed.”

But he says political support is critical.

“To extend and expand, we need more supporters. Engaging lawmakers is very important,” Santosa said.

“There are many groups that oppose the moratorium and they are now lobbying to end it without extension.”

“We need to have radical governance reforms, and we need to have bravery from the policymakers.”

At the same event, Jonah Busch – a climate and forest economist from Conservation International – presented new research examining how much deforestation would have been reduced in Indonesia, had a moratorium on new forestry concessions been in effect from 2000-2010.

Busch and colleagues found that over the ten-year period, oil palm concessions increased deforestation on average by 60 percent, while timber concessions boosted it 110 percent.

They calculated that a ban on new timber and oil palm concessions in high-carbon forests and peatlands over the decade of the 2000s would have reduced emissions from deforestation by more than 8 percent.

“That’s a substantial amount of reduced emissions,” Busch said. “In addition, modest carbon gains could have been achieved by including secondary forests and new logging concessions.”

However, he said, to reach Indonesia’s goal of reducing emissions through deforestation by 26 percent, a ten-year moratorium would also need to address land use conversion within existing concessions, or conversion taking place outside of the concession system.

“By hypothetically applying the moratorium to the recent past we can draw some implications for the moratorium Indonesia has in place now,” he said.

“There is strong potential for a moratorium to have real impact.”

“Obviously having the moratorium for only two years can achieve less than over 10 years – but even then it would need to be expanded to get to Indonesia’s emissions reduction goal of 26 percent.”

To watch CIFOR’s presentation at the WRI side event, click here.

For more stories from the UN climate talks in Doha, click here.

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