Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 06/17/2008 10:05 AM
Indonesia is expected to be the first nation to carry out forest carbon projects to help combat climate change thanks to a newly launched forest carbon partnership with Australia.
Under the partnership agreement, signed by the two country's leaders in Jakarta on Friday, Australia will help Indonesia develop mechanisms needed to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD).
"With this partnership, we are upbeat and ready to carry out the first REDD demonstration activity, hopefully in August. Australia will help us implement a REDD project in Central Kalimantan forests," Soenaryo, a senior official at the Forestry Ministry, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
"This project is vital because the world is watching to see whether or not the REDD concept can be used as a legal mechanism to slash greenhouse gas emissions."
Germany, Britain, Japan, Spain and Norway have also submitted forest partnership proposals to conduct REDD projects with Indonesia, Soenaryo said.
"We will sign a forest partnership with the German government in the near future," he said.
The REDD concept was adopted during the UN-sponsored climate change conference in Bali last year where negotiators from 190 countries held intensive talks on cutting carbon emissions, recognized as the main contributor to global warming.
The Bali meeting required forestry countries first to perform demonstration projects and build REDD mechanisms to be examined in a Copenhagen meeting next year.
One aim of the Copenhagen conference on climate change is to determine whether the REDD concept can be adopted as one of the legal mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when the Kyoto Protocol commitment ends in 2012.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, rich nations, except the United States, are bound to cut emissions by about 5 percent. The protocol allows only the clean development mechanism and forestation/reforestation projects as legal mechanisms for developing nations to take part in emissions cuts.
Developing nations, which are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, will be able to trade their carbon with rich nations to receive financial incentives based on tons of carbon reductions.
Indonesia is the third-largest forestry country in the world, with 120 million hectares of tropical forests.
The forest carbon partnership signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd focuses partly on policy development and capacity building to support participation in international negotiations and future carbon markets.
Australia will help Indonesia develop a forest carbon accounting mechanism and set up a monitoring system.
"Australian experts will help Indonesians with calculating carbon emissions stocked in forests. This skill is important because it will enable us to compute the potential financial incentives through REDD projects," Soenaryo said.
He said carbon emissions from projects that avoid deforestation would be traded on a voluntary basis because there was no international legal treaty on REDD projects.
Australia will also set up monitoring stations to check forest conditions after the implementation of REDD projects, he said.
Many have expressed concerns about possible leaks in the implementation of REDD projects.
Australian former prime minister John Howard pledged a total of A$240 million last year to curb deforestation in Southeast Asia.
The fund included a promised A$30 million to plant 100 million trees in Borneo.
But Greenpeace Indonesia activist Arif Wicaksana expressed doubt the partnership could stop rapid deforestation in Indonesia.
"We want the government to take real actions to stop deforestation including imposing a forest moratorium and avoiding overlapping permits for forest use.
"The partnership gives no clear targets on how to stop deforestation," he said.
Arif urged the Australian government to also help improve the condition of Papua New Guinea's forests, which he said had been destroyed to meet high Australian demand for forest products.
He said he doubted Australia's capacity to calculate forest carbon.
"So far, there is no valid mechanism in the world on how to calculate carbon in the forests," he said.