Reduce emissions. Consume less. Shift to renewables. Conserve forests. Save energy. Share technology. Take global action. These are the solutions President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono prescribed for Indonesia to pursue
sustainable growth with equity.
The solutions were simple but were hard to achieve, thus the importance of political will to overcome the resistance to environmentally-sound policies, the President said in a major policy address at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor on June 13.
SBY said sustainable growth with equity can not be achieved without addressing climate change. Critical to climate mitigation efforts is sustainable forestry, given that forests cover 69 percent of Indonesia’s land area and 31 percent of the world’s land mass.
Although SBY spelt out a few of the instruments used to reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, he did not dwell on the institutions and the role they play. One such institution is the Forestry Ministry that is steward of the country’s 130.68 million hectares of forests, according to ministry figures.
For the 2010-2014 period, the Ministry has a six-point program titled: Lasting Forests for the People’s Prosperity with Equity. The program covers forest rehabilitation, security from forest fires and biodiversity conservation to name three points. To support its work, the ministry has mapped out 50 conservation areas. They stretch from the million hectare Gunung Leuser in northern Sumatra to the 413,000 hectare Wasur in the southeast corner of Papua.
For its climate mitigation effort, the Forestry Ministry lists at least seven schemes. One scheme is to rehabilitate 700,000 hectares of deforested land. Another is to restore the ecosystem of areas up to 7.4 million hectares. These schemes serve the overall Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD)+ initiative.
Another central institution is the REDD+ task force. As a provisional body, its mandate ends in December 2012 to give way to a permanent REDD+ agency, yet to be named. The designated REDD+ agency will have the onerous task of coordinating the national effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, a major cause of global warming.
The present task force has 10 work teams. Their responsibilities cover: the REDD+ national strategy, institution building, funding instruments, MRV (monitoring, reporting and verification), provincial pilots, moratorium monitoring, communication and engagement of parties, legal studies and enforcement, mainstreaming REDD+ in national planning and knowledge management and support.
In any new or established public body, building capacity is the key to effectively yield deliverables. Competency depends on the institutional components and the human resources that go into them. The designated new agency could have a steering board that also has an oversight function, an advisory board, and an executive board. Given the all-inclusive nature of the REDD+ initiative, these boards should have representatives from all engaging parties. That would include indigenous communities, the private sector, women, environmental activists, academics as well as public officials and professionals.
The executive board will have the demanding task of planning, implementing and overseeing all REDD+ activities in coordination with all related public offices as well as with relevant nongovernment parties and international partners. Thus the board must be an astute consensus builder.
Given the MRV nature of REDD+ activities, the designated REDD+ agency will have to be an open book. It should be accessible to public scrutiny regarding its plans, decision-making and bidding process, spending and funding sources.
Beyond institution design, work on REDD+ is slow. One reason is some aspects of REDD+ are sensitive. Data relevant to REDD+ can include sensitive information from proprietary business plans, maps showing illegal land conversion, and testimony regarding violent conflicts over land tenure, Frances Seymour, the outgoing director general of CIFOR, writes in a new CIFOR study.
The 426-page review on REDD+ experiences in seven countries including Indonesia is titled: Analyzing REDD+: Challenges and Choices. Released June 18 during the Rio +20 Earth Summit, it is authored by numerous researchers and scientists. Norwegian economics professor Arild Angelsen is its lead editor.
The study lists six “no regrets” policy moves that would be beneficial even though they may not reduce carbon emissions: clarify land tenure, remove perverse subsidies, strengthen the rule of law, improve the availability of forest-related data, strengthen institutional capacity and improve forest governance.
The highly detailed 18-chapter book cites four factors in Chapter 5 which can help overcome the politico-economic constraints to policy reform. They are: a high level of autonomy of state actors from business interests linked to forest exploitation and conversion; ownership and control by national governments of national REDD+ strategies; a high degree of inclusiveness in policy processes; and the presence of coalitions for transformation change.
These are critical factors Indonesia has to deal with. Its REDD+ agency will require the competence and the mettle for consensus building to make the grand scheme work. The work can be slow so long as it is on a sure and straight track. As Seymour and Angelsen have stated, REDD+ is urgent but it can’t be rushed. Reducing emissions, conserving forests and sharing technology can’t be rushed.
The writer teaches journalism at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute, Jakarta.