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The Jakarta Post
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REDD: Reducing decentralization

  • Pungky Widiaryanto

Ann Arbor, Michigan | Wed, November 28 2012 | 10:43 am

On Oct. 22, the House of Representatives endorsed formation of the province of North Kalimantan and regencies of Pangandaran, South Coast Lampung, South Manokwari and Arfak Mountains. A study jointly conducted by researchers from the London School of Economics (LSE), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and South Dakota State University (SDSU) found that advancement in regional autonomy could make it more difficult for Indonesia to meet the deforestation target as the main objective of Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+).

REDD+ was originally an incentive offered to developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation (RED) in order to mitigate climate change. Indonesia as a tropical forest country can generate substantial new economic income through the REDD+ scheme. Payment will require demonstrated emissions reduction through improved forest protection, sustainable forest management and enhancement of carbon stocks. For Indonesia, the main priority of REDD+ is reducing deforestation.

A key factor cofounding good forest governance, including centralized regime, is that most drivers of tropical deforestation originate outside the traditional forestry sector.

In the context of decentralization in forest governance, Agrawal, a forest expert from the University of Michigan, argues that decentralized forest resources management in developing nations such as Indonesia is believed to be “the most significant, most distinctive and most visible shift in national environmental policies since the late 1980.” Decentralization seems to allow stakeholders to redefine property rights and management of forests.

Decentralization, moreover, could also improve governance, counter international force, increase efficiency on responsibilities and respond to local community’s demand.

Even though the outcomes of decentralization vary, effective decentralization reforms have increased local actors’ benefit and property rights in natural resources, declined costs of protection and delivered opportunities for biodiversity conservation.

Agrawal also finds that 80 forest commons in 10 countries that adopt rule-making autonomy at the local level are associated with greater forest carbon storage and higher livelihood benefits.

Meanwhile, at current international negotiations, REDD+ is a proposed performance-based mechanism under negotiation through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in which developed country donors, corporations and individuals will compensate developing countries for reducing forest emissions, including through market mechanisms. The ambitious idea of addressing governance problems also changes the scope of REDD+ from only reducing emission projects to provide benefits to developing countries with high opportunity costs when they are able to curb deforestation and forest conversion.

The incentive from developed countries, dominated by industrialized countries, will be delivered based on reports that detail how forested developing countries deal with the deforestation. Preserving forests and preventing forest conversion into other uses will result in the loss of opportunities.

Agriculture expansion, oil palm plantations for biofuel and infrastructure development, such as road and mining projects, will drive the economy but contribute to deforestation more than logging.

Under REDD+, recipient governments will formulate strategies for national land use and forest sector planning, stakeholder negotiations, tenure clarification, carbon brokering, national-level carbon accounting, and provision of funds and services to local actors. A national approach is considered important to the success of REDD+ projects since it can help avoid leakage, ensure permanence, and provide reliable monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).

This approach might be a reason for Jakarta to reverse decentralization to centralization, as centralized forest governance could effectively reduce deforestation.

Furthermore, according to research conducted by Ghazoul, an expert from the Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, REDD+ could further limit opportunities for local economies to grow and reduce tax revenue. A variety of indirect economic, social and political impacts will potentially occur, for example a loss of employment and revenue generation from raw material processing and other value-adding downstream industries.

Donor countries may be not attracted to invest in such regions, particularly if REDD+ requires long-term contractual agreements that tie land to forest cover.

Consequently, reduced investment might lead to poor infrastructure and telecommunication, limited mobility and market access, lower quality of public services such as education and health, less supply of reliable energy and water and reduced access to bank credit. Such a chronic underdevelopment would impact population at local and
regional scales.

Looking beyond the purely economic implications of REDD+, it will also be necessary to consider less tangible, but equally important political and socioeconomic issues relating to national and local development. These include potential social disruption of communities, which may happen if cultivators who depend on forest clearing activities are sidelined, and dissociation of agricultural societies from their land. Committing land to REDD+ project may constrain the future livelihood options of local communities, as is arguably the case with protected area systems.

Providing alternative employment opportunities, even if these were available, might incur social costs for people forced to adjust to new livelihood cultures, as well as costs associated with acquiring the new knowledge and skills needed to successfully engage in such new employment opportunities.

To deal with decentralization and social economic impacts, REDD+ needs to acknowledge and provide adequate compensation for loss of both direct and indirect contributions made by the forestry and other sectors to local and national economies.

The writer is studying at the department of forestry, Michigan State University in the US.

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