Experts and environmental activists raised their concerns and hopes Saturday over the unsettled implementation of Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) scheme during a workshop on climate change and forest.
Some of them expressed pessimism that REDD would deliver justice to indigenous people in forestry countries. Some others doubted the readiness of the government and regional administrations to adopt the scheme.
Abdon Nababan of the Indonesian Alliance of Indigenous People (AMAN) said the REDD had reduced forest into a commodity to absorb carbon, rather than a mechanism to protect the rights of indigenous people to access, control and benefit from their forests.
"REDD should not neglect the rights of indigenous people. We warn developed countries against making it a leeway to justify their highly-carbon-emitting activities," Abdon said.
World Wildlife Fund reasearcher Iwan Nababan added: "A clear mechanism has to be in place to reach the target of emissions cut. We don't want REDD to merely serve as a scheme to raise money, while neglecting the roles of local people in preserving the forest. We should make it an opportunity to improve forest management."
Despite the criticism, the Forestry Ministry maintained that it had developed action plans by issuing a package of regulations to enforce emissions cut. It has also regularly mapped out and recorded deforestation across the archipelago and identified the causes.
"Our strategy is to convince local people that they can earn more benefit from this process by conserving the forest. We have no scenario to put them off," said ministry researcher Retno Mariani.
Since REDD is part of a political process, she said, the government would also wait and see how things develop in the ongoing negotiation at the global level, especially in the upcoming forum in Copenhagen, while continuing its own approaches at the national level.
Participants of the workshop proposed some recommendations on protecting forest under the REDD scheme, including provision of advocacy and supervision to the government to uphold the rights of local people. All stakeholders should also work together to improve community participation and empowerment on forest conservation efforts.
Johannes Muller of Misereor, a German-based NGO, said that if applied properly, REDD could be an opportunity to decrease deforestation and mitigate climate change since it would provide financial support.
"One of the keys is to build the capacity of local people because they are an indispensable part in tackling deforestation and climate change," he said.