One billion trees program ‘verifiable’: Govt
The government on Monday defended its ambitious plan to plant 1 billion trees this year to check carbon emissions, saying the program would comply with international standards in which all trees must be verified on the ground.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said his office would allocate 500,000 hectares of land to plant about 500 million trees using the state budget. Each hectare will be planted with 100 trees.
“The remaining target will be shared between members of the industrial forest concessions [HTI].
But all the planted trees must be measured, reported and verified [MRV],” he told reporters on Monday.
He admitted that the much promoted tree-planting movement in previous years could not be verified because most trees were planted by the public in their own area.
“This year’s target for 1 billion trees is different with the previous campaigns, since in the past we don’t know where the trees were planted,” he said.
Tree planting is part of mitigation programs promised by the government to combat climate change.
The UN climate body requires any emmissions cut strategies should meet the MRV system to ensure the countries are serious in fighting the climate change.
The MRV was one of thorniest issues in recent Copenhagen climate talks, as many developing countries objected the system out of fear that it could violate their national sovereignty.
Under the MRV system, international inspectors would conduct ground checks to verify on whether the emission cuts reported by the country are in line with the real condition in the field.
Indonesia, which accepted the MRV system, said it would use local auditors to check emission reductions in the field because the projects were funded by local budget.
It is not yet clear where the planned 1 billion trees will be planted and the program’s total cost to the state budget.
“Planting trees is also aimed to restore critical forested land in the country,” said Minister Zulkifli.
The reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD plus) scheme recognizes the planting of new trees as part of carbon projects of which carbon emitters, including HTI companies, could receive financial incentives based on the total carbon offset by the trees.
Activists, however, have doubted whether the government has the ability to fulfill its pledge to plant a billion trees.
They have also warned that tree-planting could speed up forest conversion by plantation firms in Indonesia, which would then harm the country’s plan to cut emissions.
Greenpeace Indonesia said the tree planting could be a way to hide conversion activities by HTI companies.
Indonesia has bound itself to a 26 percent cut in emissions by 2020 by allocating some Rp 83 trillion of the state budget.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono tasked the Forestry Ministry office to cut 14 percent of the emissions through reducing deforestation, combating illegal logging and stopping forest fires.
Minister Zulkifli argued that two important keys in combating illegal logging were to enforce the law and improve the welfare of local communities; which was the responsibility of other departments.
“We are not the only [office] that is responsible for combating illegal logging. We urge the courts and police officers to enforce the law,” he said.
Hasan also claimed that most of fires are outside forested areas.
“About 70 to 80 percent of the fires are outside the forest, it could be in agriculture land. It is not our responsibility,” he said.
A lack of coordination between departments has seen illegal logging and forest fires go unchecked for years, despite repeated promises from the government.
Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.