Bali Road Map: Workable, Effectual, with Attainable Results

By Frances Seymour
For The Bali Times

BOGOR, West Java ~ Last December 10,000 people met in Bali to attend the United Nations Climate Conference and look at how governments around the world could tackle climate change together. Two weeks later, the delegates from 180 countries emerged from their discussions with the so-called “Bali Road Map,” consisting of a number of forward-looking decisions that chart a negotiating course toward a secure climate future.

Crucially, the road map points the way towards including Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, or REDD, into the global climate protection regime. REDD proposals currently under discussion would create mechanisms for industrialized countries to compensate developing countries for reducing forest-related greenhouse gas emissions. Land-use change currently contributes about 20 percent of annual global carbon dioxide emissions.

The Republic of Indonesia and its forests will play a big part in determining the outcome of this global debate. Indonesia has the world’s third largest area of tropical forest, around 90 million hectares. Indonesia’s forests directly support the livelihoods of some 20 million people, provide important biodiversity habitats, and, if sustainably managed, will continue to make a significant contribution to Indonesia’s economic development.

Despite the importance of Indonesia’s forests, deforestation levels are reported to be between 1.6 and 2.1 million hectares per year. This land-use change translates into carbon dioxide emissions that are estimated to constitute around 8 percent of all global emissions from all sources. As deforestation and forest degradation assume renewed importance due to their newly appreciated role in climate change mitigation and adaptation, the world is increasingly looking to Indonesia to exercise leadership in forest-related responses to climate change, both domestically and in international negotiations.

The good news is that we know a lot about the direct and underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and other organizations have done more than a decade of research on this topic. We summarized the results relevant to REDD in a publication released last December in Bali, Do Trees Grow on Money? In brief, deforestation is directly caused by conversion of natural forests to agriculture, destructive logging practices and infrastructure development.

But the underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation are market failures, policy failures and governance failures that keep forests from being appropriately valued, or used in ways that benefit a broad set of stakeholders. As a result, the bad news is that those underlying causes will be difficult to overcome, even in the face of new political will and prospective new finance associated with REDD.

For example, research indicates that illegal logging in Indonesia is mainly the result of industrial overcapacity – in other words, an imbalance between the demand from wood-processing industries and the legal and sustainable supply from plantations and natural forests. Unless this imbalance is rectified, illegal logging is here to stay.

As one step toward meeting this challenge, the government of Indonesia has announced plans to expand significantly the areas planted to fast-growing timber, as well as areas planted to bioenergy crops such as oil palm. There is evidence that in the past, plantation development plans have been used as a cover by unscrupulous actors for looting timber from Indonesia’s forests. In contrast, more responsible companies have established plantations on imperata grasslands. In order to meet both economic-development and emissions-reduction objectives, new plantations must be established on deforested land rather than coming at the expense of standing forests that are still productive.

In the meantime, intensified forest law enforcement can be an effective check on illegal logging and timber smuggling. CIFOR’s research shows security sweeps such as Operasi Hutan Lestari (Forest Conservation Operation) have had some success. For instance, in the aftermath of sweeps in Papua and Kalimantan in 2005-2006, timber smuggling dropped by as much as 70 percent.

But research also shows that such sweeps can negatively impact the income of the rural poor, and so need to be better targeted to the big guy with the bank account rather than the little guy with the chainsaw. Intensified application of Indonesia’s anti-corruption and anti-money laundering laws would be a good way to focus on such “big guys.”

Finally, there is reason to be optimistic that REDD demonstration activities – encouraged as a learning process under the Bali Road Map – can help accelerate improved governance in Indonesia’s forestry sector and elsewhere. In order to be effective in reducing deforestation and forest degradation, and therefore climate emissions, REDD schemes will depend on better forest monitoring, and clarification of forest-related property rights.

In addition, transparent mechanisms will be needed for channeling compensation funds to forest stewards who reduce emissions below an agreed baseline. Some stakeholders have expressed concerns that REDD resources will be misappropriated by “bad actors” who have plundered valuable forest resources in the past. These stakeholders require reassurance that the allocation of the benefits of protecting forest carbon will be distributed more equitably.

The government of Australia was among the first to announce significant financial support for the development of REDD, in March 2007. The Rudd administration, which took office immediately before the UN event in December, has kept this commitment, and has already pledged significant funding for REDD-related initiatives in Indonesia. Only last month the Australian government announced a AUS$3 million (US$2.8 million) grant to CIFOR for REDD-related research.

In collaboration with a range of partners in Indonesia and elsewhere, CIFOR’s research will assess the relative effectiveness, efficiency and fairness of alternative approaches to REDD. For example, we need research results to inform:

• Cost-efficient methods for determining REDD baselines and for monitoring changes in forest carbon stocks;

• Improved polices, institutional arrangements and reward mechanisms for cost-efficient and pro-poor REDD schemes at the national level;

• And negotiation of the REDD architecture at the global level, taking into consideration the barriers to adoption of REDD by key forest countries such as Indonesia.

REDD clearly presents both promise and peril for better governance of forests in Indonesia and throughout the tropics. We hope that CIFOR’s research will help policymakers and other stakeholders to minimize the risks of REDD while exploiting its large potential.

Frances Seymour is director general of the Bogor-based Center for International Forestry Research.

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