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Reuters Summit-Indonesia aims to overhaul forest mess with moratorium

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 14 Jun 2011 07:01 AM
Author: Reuters
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(For other news from Reuters Global Energy and Climate Summit, click on: http://www.reuters.com/summit/GlobalEnergy11?pid=500)

* Forest clearing ban hasn't met high expectations -Presidential aide

* But is a useful first step in forestry reform

* National forestry maps to help transparency, questions remain over data

By Olivia Rondonuwu

JAKARTA, June 14 (Reuters) - Indonesia's moratorium on clearing rainforests has not lived up to high expectations but is still a chance to fix the country's poor forestry management to spur projects to gain emissions credits, said the official in charge of the scheme.

Indonesia's president in May finally signed the two-year moratorium as part of a ${esc.dollar}1 billion climate deal with Norway, after a five-month delay, revealing a long-list of exemptions that disappointed environmentalists but were a boost to the hard-lobbying plantation industry.

Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the head of a taskforce on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), had proposed including secondary forest as well as untouched primary forest in the moratorium.

But the final wording was closer to another draft pitched by the forestry ministry -- which makes billions of dollars each year from handing out permits to firms to clear forest.

"This is not what I imagined it would be," said Mangkusubroto in an interview for the Reuters Energy and Climate Summit.

"We know that the practices that have caused the face of our forests to be in their current state is the product of past management...That's what we want to fix," said Mangkusubroto, also head of the president's delivery unit.

Mangkusubroto said his taskforce's version of the moratorium had stated how to do this, but the version signed into law was unclear and left the forestry ministry in charge.

The dispute showed how difficult it will be for Indonesia to reach a target of reducing emissions by at least 26 percent by 2020 from projected levels, while still spurring economic growth to achieve its aim of becoming a world top-10 economy by 2025. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says the country can achieve both.

The moratorium deal, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, was still praised by Norway, and its implementation will be a test of how nations can achieve bilateral deals in the absence of agreement on a broader U.N. global climate pact following years of talks.

"Change for the better always faces rejection from the establishment, from those who are in a comfort zone and refuse to change," said Mangkusubroto.

He said the moratorium could be used as an entry point to reform the forestry sector. Currently many forests are included under land marked for development while areas meant to be protected forest have already been illegally logged.

DATA DILEMMA

The government will map tropical forests across the archipelago and update this every six months, though some in the mining industry have criticized this saying it increases future uncertainty over what will be included in the ban.

"If the map is to be uploaded to a website then everyone can see whether what's on the map truly reflects the situation on the ground, and there can be a step towards fixing it," said Mangkusubroto.

"This is an extraordinary step because those maps were inaccessible for the public before," said Mangkusubroto.

Data on forest cover from the forestry ministry currently differs to data from the presidential advisory team for climate change led by Agus Purnomo, he said.

The forestry ministry said the area subjected to the moratorium is 55 million hectares (137.5 million acres) of primary forests and 17 million hectares of carbon-rich peatlands, while the presidential advisor said it is 64 million hectares of primary forests and 20 million hectares of peatlands.

"This is a mess. Who would not be confused by this? Even I am confused," said Mangkusubroto, who has a "Gone Surfing" door hanger in his office and tries to stay relaxed despite trying to fix the country's notorious bureaucracy.

Mangkusubroto said once forest data was sorted out and mapped in greater detail, Indonesia could offer degraded land to businesses in return for forested land they hold permits to clear. The forestry ministry estimates there are 35 million hectares of degraded land.

He also plans to launch a national strategy next month on an expanded form of REDD, which includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. The strategy would also include regulations and monitoring to verify what areas were eligible to receive cash for trapping carbon.

REDD uses carbon offsets to reward projects that protect forests under threat of clearing. Each credit represents a tonne of carbon locked away.

Indonesia has 44 REDD projects and the programme could contribute towards a multi-billion dollar global market in forest carbon credits if nations agree on a new climate pact.

The moratorium is good for investors trying to save carbon-rich forests, but only if the ban is enforced and progress is made in using the market to save the environment.

(Editing by Neil Chatterjee and David Fogarty)

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