PALANGKA RAYA, Indonesia (18 August 2011)_The general public will remain indifferent and uninterested in REDD+, a global mechanism to compensate developing countries for reducing deforestation and forest degradation, as long as the programs fail to affect them directly on the ground, say journalists that cover the issue in Indonesia’s pilot province Central Kalimantan.
“Central Kalimantan is 1.5 the size of the whole island of Java. That’s too big for a pilot area,” said Satriadi, a journalist with Tabengan daily in Palangka Raya, at the sideline of a visit to a REDD+ demonstration activity in Kapuas regency Central Kalimantan, part of a media training held by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) recently. “The government should focus their efforts in some areas — at least people living there will care,” he said.
The Indonesian government in December appointed Central Kalimantan to be the pilot province for REDD+ as part of an agreement to get as much as US$1 billion from Norway, pending verified emission cuts from the forestry sector. Although several REDD+ projects have emerged in the province, which boasts the third biggest area of forest and carbon-rich peatland and also the second largest producer of emissions due to deforestation and land use change among the provinces in Indonesia, no regencies have been announced to be the main try out areas.
“The regent of Kapuas is the only regent who’s eager to promote REDD,” said M. Harris Sadikin, a journalist who started following REDD issues actively since Central Kalimantan was selected as pilot province. Kapuas Forest Climate Partnership (KFCP), a REDD+ demonstration activity under a bilateral agreement between Indonesia and Australia, operates in this regency. Other areas are lacking enthusiasm as they don’t feel to be target beneficiaries, said Sadikin.
Another difficulty for the media to cover REDD more extensively in Central Kalimantan, with a total area of 157,984 square kilometers, is that most pilot projects are yet to be implemented on the ground. Of more than 40 REDD projects in Indonesia, most are still in the planning stage. Therefore, activities are “limited to ceremonials” with high-level officials and speeches, said Abdul Rokim, a journalist with Borneo News.
Projects to reduce emissions from the forestry sector that were already taking off on the ground are often challenging to reach. For example, it would take 7 hours boat ride and 4 hours walking to arrive to the tree replanting site managed by villagers from Katunjung and KFCP.
Added to this is the fact that REDD is an evolving and developing mechanism, whose form is yet to be agreed by all parties. Experts cannot explain clearly how REDD would work and there was a lack of coordination between the central and local governments, said Satriadi. To gain public interest, understanding and support, governments and related organizations should speed up REDD processes to show what benefits local communities can actually get from the mechanism, said Rokim.