Norwegian Minister for Environment praises Indonesia’s fight against climate change

Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development, Mr. Erik Solheim

JAKARTA, Indonesia (27 September, 2011)_Norway’s Minister for the Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, has praised Indonesia’s commitment to the fight against climate change at today’s Forests Indonesia conference in Jakarta.

“The president has issued an overall policy about how Indonesia will combat climate change…what he has done today is a very positive step in making Indonesia a world leader in the fight against climate change.”

Solheim opened today’s conference Forests Indonesia: Alternative futures to meet demands for food, fibre, fuel and REDD+, hosted by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and in this video speaks of Norway’s involvement in the implementation of the bilateral agreement on REDD+, what Indonesia can learn from Brazil’s bilateral agreement and issues surrounding carbon offsets.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4toeB3K542g

Find a transcript of the interview below:

Why is Norway involved with forests in Indonesia?

This is a very important issue in many dimensions. 15-20% of all climate emissions originate from destruction of rainforests, so if we want to be successful in combating climate change we must reduce emissions from forest destruction. Indonesia is the third biggest emitter in the world after China and the United States, if you include deforestation in the climate emission account.

What is Norway doing?

We signed a letter with the Government of Indonesia, a so-called letter of intent, in presence of our prime minister and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The idea is that Norway will provide assistance to Indonesia’s effort to conserve and sustainably use the rainforest. We will not want to be involved in how exactly this is done: Indonesia will design the path and decide what is to be done, and we will supply assistance on the basis of produced results.

Basically, if deforestation goes down, Norway will provide money, if it does not go down, we will not provide assistance. That is exactly the scheme we have also developed with Brazil and Guyana, a small Latin American nation. In the meantime we are supporting the establishment of monitoring and verification systems, of competence building, and we are supporting the new pilot REDD province, which will be Central Kalimantan. We will support competence building in the meantime, but the main bulk of the money will be available when deforestation goes down and that is verified by an international system of verification.

What are the important updates from your talks with Government of Indonesia today?

From our perspective there are two pieces of positive news. One is that the president has issued an overall policy as to how Indonesia will combat climate change. That makes Indonesia, and President Yudhoyono in particular, a world leader in this regard. At a time when there has been negative news from climate talks, the positive is that many nations are doing a lot domestically. What the president has done today is a positive step in making Indonesia a world leader in the fight against climate change. Also, one controversial decree, which met some negative comments and debate in the media, is where palm oil plantations was to be recognised as forest. That decree was revoked by the Minister of Forestry – he just told me a few minutes ago. This is also positive news from our perspective.

What are the aims of the Forests Indonesia conference?

Tomorrow there is a seminar to be opened by the president that will bring together business, media, non-government organisations, and everyone with an interest in the conservation and sustainable use of the forests. To me the main issue there is to find the path for Indonesia that will make certain that rapid economic growth and development can continue, while at the same time conserving and sustainably using forest. That can be done: Brazil has reduced deforestation by 70% without any negative impact on economic growth whatsoever. Brazil has had impressive economic growth while conserving forests.

Are there concerns with the time frame for the agreement being implemented in Indonesia?

This is a huge issue that will transform Indonesian society over the next years, so I don’t see these as delays. It’s absolutely normal. We are completely satisfied that all the groundwork has been done: the moratorium is in place, the taskforce headed by Kuntoro is keeping the proper role, so I’m not worried about that. Direction is the most important, and direction is positive. We expect to be able to pay results-based in 2014. The time up to that will be to establish the systems, for Indonesia to show that deforestation can go down, and then compensation will follow.

How involved is Norway in the implementation of the bilateral agreement on REDD+?

We want to support Indonesia’s policies. We do not want to be involved in devising exactly what strategy should be followed in Indonesia or for that matter in Brazil. We believe that Indonesia knows much better how to do this in Indonesia, as well as Brazil knows much better how it’s done in Brazil. There are a few issues: one, there must be the highest standard for anti-corruption measures – we cannot use Norwegian taxpayers money for anything where there is not a very high standard for that. Secondly, there must be consultation process with indigenous peoples. Except for that, whether Indonesia wants to use money for agriculture projects, or industrial projects, or for road building or clinics or schools, that’s up to Indonesia.

But on anti-corruption measures, there must be the highest global standards for financial management. This is not specific for our forestry relationship with Indonesia. This is what we apply in every nation where we spend Norwegian money. I cannot go back to Norway to tell the people that I lose on this matter – there would be a very negative reaction. There must be the strictest standard. We see in our own work, whenever there is corruption: that is theft. Someone is stealing money that should be used for the poor people, putting it into their own pockets. It’s not acceptable and we have a no tolerance policy for that – that’s not only for Indonesia, if it were in China, US, Africa, or wherever, it would be exactly the same policy.

Has any of the money pledged in the agreement been given to Indonesia?

Up to now, only a small amount has been handed out to Indonesia, approximately US$30 million, a tiny fraction of what we have promised, which is US$1 billion. That’s because the main bulk of the money will only come as the result-based compensation for defacto deforestation. We expect that to come from about 2014. In the process up to that we will establish the pilot province and all the monitoring and verification systems, the competence building and training centres. Still that is relatively small money compared to the results-based money. This is an exact mirror image of what is happening in Brazil. In Brazil there has been an enormous reduction in defacto deforestation, but still most of the money has not been paid because it comes afterwards as a result of good policies.

The issue of carbon offsets

Let me mention one issue, which you have not brought up, and that is the idea that Norway is supporting Indonesia as a kind of offset rather than doing our homework. That is not the case. We do not get any carbon credits from our support for Indonesia, that’s completely additional. We are in the process of establishing a national policy for national climate reductions. Adding to that, we are offsetting within the European Union, but there is no offset from the conservation and sustainable use of rainforests.

Are there lessons for Indonesia from the bilateral REDD+ agreement with Brazil?

We are somewhat informed by our experience with Brazil because that partnership was established earlier. If anyone had gone to Brazil seven years back and said, ‘please reduce the deforestation rate by 70%’, frankly that guy or lady would be kicked out as some strange environmentalist without any understanding of economics. But the Brazilians and present rulers have shown that they can do it without any harm to the economy. So that provides a shining example to everyone.

Norway is a small part of that, because though very little has been paid up until now, because of the result-based systems, the promise alone has made a huge impact on Brazil. And the same we hope will happen here, though two nations could never be equal, but still there are lots of similarities. As in Brazil, there’s a huge debate there also. A new forest code is being debated in the senate, and maybe it will be rejected by the president.

There’s a lot of debate about these issues, but that’s normal. We do have a lot of controversies back home on environmental issues. I tend to believe that most of the controversial issues in our government are in one way or the other about the environment. That’s normal, but you cannot stop moving ahead though there will be controversies and different views.


  • Mr. Bule

    Indonesia has jungle, not forests. Trees and plants grow much faster here in the tropical climate compared to seasonal forests. For example, a vacant lot behind my house in Central Indonesia was clear cut two years ago. It is completely overgrown now, with trees over 4 meters tall and so dense a person cannot walk through it. This fact is overlooked by western conservationist who think in terms of the seasonal forest they are accustomed too which take 30+ years to grow back. Even if Indonesia quits cutting trees altogether, what will they do about the millions of poorly tuned automobiles and two cycle motorbikes that are everywhere. Most of the cars on the road still use inefficient carburetors tuned by mechanics who have no idea what they are doing, (mixture to rich, idle too fast). In a country where used motor oil is commonly just poured out on the ground, I think Mr. Solheim’s praise is a bit short-sighted at best. Keep trying Indonesia, you have a long way to go. The West is expected to pay for all the pollution of the rest of world, but the west is running out of money. Will Indonesia take the lead?

    • Michelle Kovacevic

      Thank you for your comments Mr Bule. You’re right- Indonesia still has a long fight ahead of it when it comes to conserving their forests, but acknowledgment of this problem at the governmental level and a commitment to protect these forests, no matter how idealistic, is a step in the right direction. Cheers, Michelle

  • not yet convinced

    Acknowledging the problem is one thing, addressing it is another.

    Step in the right direction?

    Danger listing for Indonesia’s Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra
    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    The need to mobilize support and raise awareness to overcome threats facing the 2.5 million hectare Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra has led the World Heritage Committee to place the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
    The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra , inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2004 for its biodiversity, has been placed on the Danger List to help overcome threats posed by poaching, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment, and plans to build roads through the site.
    The decision was taken by the World Heritage Committee holding its 35th session in Paris.