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Indonesia's big REDD+ project announcement "premature", but moving forward
December 18, 2012

Deforestation near Rimba Raya in Central Kalimantan. Photo by Rhett Butler.

The Indonesian government's announcement at climate talks in Doha that it had approved the country's forest conservation project under its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program was premature, argues a new report from an Indonesian environmental group.

Greenomics-Indonesia says that Ministry of Forestry documents show the Rimba Raya project has not yet been formally approved. One of the key outstanding issues include the size of the conservation concession, which was announced as "nearly 80,000 ha". Greenomics notes that only 21,963 ha of the area — currently classified as permanent production forest — could be immediately available for a ecosystem restoration license, which is needed for project activities. 17,256 ha of the area targeted for the project is nominally part of Tanjung Puting National Park, according to the report. However the park's boundaries have undergone several revisions in recent years and parts of the part have been deforested and even converted for oil palm plantations.

Infinite-Earth, the project developer, says that while the final license for the project has not yet been issued, "all requirements have been met and the license will be forthcoming." The company also produced a letter from the Ministry of Forestry supporting and encouraging the Doha announcement.

"The press announcement given by the Indonesian government at the UNFCCC in Doha, stated accurately that the project was approved by the Ministry of Forestry," Infinite-Earth told via email.

"Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve was designed to provide much needed orangutan habitat, to help protect the National Park by providing a well funded buffer while helping the surrounding communities develop sustainably through introduction of new or improved forms of livelihood. We hope that all interested parties will continue to follow the progress of Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve as a pilot project for Indonesia and a project determined to set “best practices” for REDD+ projects throughout the world.”

Elfian Effendi, Executive Director of Greenomics, nonetheless says the Indonesian government should not have announced the project's approval before the Ministry of Forestry actually issued the permits. "This is not a model of good governance," he told

Deforestation for an oil palm plantation next to Tajung Puting N.P. in Central Kalimantan. Photo by Rhett A Butler.

Indonesia's REDD+ program aims to cut destruction and conversion of its forests and peatlands, which is the source of more than three-quarters of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. However implementation has been complicated by opposition from powerful interests in the forestry sector, chronic corruption, unclear land title, confusing regulations, and overlapping and competing bureaucracies. Indonesia has one of the world's highest deforestation rates, losing nearly 900,000 ha of forests per year between 2000 and 2010.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made ending deforestation by the end of his term in 2014 a priority. Accordingly, REDD+ is a key component in his "7/26 plan" which 7 percent annual economic growth with a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

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