Business as usual important for forest conservation strategies

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Palm oil plantations are booming businesses which are not showing any signs of slowing down. Photo courtesy of marufish/flickr.

BOGOR, Indonesia (19 April, 2011)_With the Indonesian economy set to grow by 7 percent next year, climate change mitigation policies such as the proposed logging moratorium will only succeed if they recognise the need for Indonesia to continue to do business as usual.

“It would be unrealistic to think that with the current population and economic growth, that Indonesia could still be a country with a forest cover of 70 percent in 30 years time,” said Dr Nur Masripatin from the Ministry of Forestry at a climate change workshop held in Jakarta last week.

“But it is a challenge that must be met.”

Indonesia accounts for much of the world’s deforestation, especially on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, where forests have been cleared for palm oil and acacia plantations. The moratorium, part of $1 billion deal reached with Norway, would see a two-year halt on forest clearing concessions which would protect millions of hectares of land from being destroyed.

Though pledged in mid-2010, the moratorium has yet to be ratified by the Indonesian President due to arguments over the terms of the agreement. This has left environmental experts and organisations questioning its potential impact.

“There needs to be a more robust agreement which includes the protection of all forests including peatland and secondary forest. We already know that businesses, like the paper industry, find loopholes in concessions to further exploit resources”, said Greenpeace Campaigner, Yuyun Indradi.

Addressing bad practice is just one of the reasons why a moratorium is needed, argued Robert Daniel, Joint Head of the UK Climate Change Unit at the British Embassy.

“Rather than clearing new forest or peat lands for oil production, we need to be boosting productivity on the land that is already in use.  We also need to look at using the 30 million hectares of currently unused degraded land for production purposes.”

Indonesia’s story is typical of the environmental challenges currently being faced by developing countries. How can the expansion of industry and economic growth be reconciled with the need to cut carbon emissions by investing in adaption and mitigation policies?

Brazil is just one example of how successful technical and agricultural policies for the sustainable development of the rainforest have led to a reduction in deforestation. By banning the commercialisation of soya grown in the Amazon and using degraded land for agribusiness, beef and soya productivity have increased significantly whilst overall deforestation has decreased by 67%. Brazil is set to meet its pledge to cut deforestation of the Amazon by 80% in 2020 – 4 years ahead of schedule.

Whether Indonesia could also be a world-class model for low-carbon development remains to be seen. The success of climate mitigation policies, such as the moratorium, will depend on the re-evaluation of the ‘business-as-usual model’ to include both environmental and commercial interests.

“We need the certainty of business; we need investors to feel confident in the Indonesian economy. However, this moratorium is a chance to shift the focus from short-sighted exploitative business opportunities to long-term investment that protects our natural resources,” said Dharsono Hartono, President Director or PT Rimba Makmur Utama, a forest conversation organisation in Kalimantan.

The agreement should not be seen as a quick fix to halt deforestation and reduce carbon emissions, but as part of an intervention to improve Indonesia’s land use policies and develop low carbon alternatives. If business is to continue as usual, then it should be in a more productive and sustainable way.

 

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