Indonesians Must Own Lead Role on Forest Issues: Norway

19 September 2014

by: Adelia Anjani Putri (Jakarta Globe)

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At the start of his second term in 2009, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared ambitious targets for Indonesia to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

It was a bold pledge, coming from the world’s third-largest emitter — an ignominious distinction owing largely to Indonesia’s rate of forest destruction, which has surpassed that of Brazil.

Yudhoyono later parlayed his commitments into an incentive-based partnership with the Kingdom of Norway.

Under the scheme, called REDD+, Indonesia would receive up to billion for following through on its promises of institutional and policy changes and delivering real results.

Progress has been slow. To date, Indonesia has only achieved enough targets to draw down less than 5 percent of the substantial sum on offer.

Norway says it has good reason to be interested in Indonesia’s forests — due partly to its own experience with deforestation (some scientists say Norway was only saved from environmental disaster by emigration in the 19th century), as well as a sense of global stewardship.

“Indonesia has some of the most important and biggest forests in the world. What happens in Indonesia not only affects Indonesia, but also the rest of the world,” Norwegian Ambassador Stig Traavik told the Jakarta Globe.

“Among developing countries, Indonesia has made the biggest commitment to stop the deforestation. So, we said, ‘Yes, we want to help,’ and so far it’s been moving since 2010 — a little bit slower than we had hoped, but in the right direction.”

Four years after Yudhoyono signed the 2010 partnership agreement establishing REDD+ in 2010, Indonesia has only now begun moving on to the second phase of the agreement — transformation.

This phase was originally slated to start in 2011 and end in 2013.

It includes a two-year moratorium on new forest concessions, law enforcement against illegal logging, and establishing a database of degraded lands. The moratorium has been extended until 2015, and Indonesia has created a unified map to address land issues.

“Lately there’s been a lot of progress on some issues like the moratorium — no more licenses [and] the ‘one map’ initiatives to fight out all license issues,” Traavik said.

“I think it’s also important to work against forest fires. Last year Sumatra was covered in smoke; it was horrible for the people there. It’s still a problem, but it’s much less [severe] now.

“In terms of big companies, there is also lots of progress, as now many of the big, serious companies are saying, ‘No, we will not cut any more forest, we will support growth that is more green and friendly to people,’ ” Traavik said.

The ambassador added there had been some progress in defining the roles and rights of Indonesia’s peasants — who, while entitled to clear their land, are starting to put some effort into forest conservation.

In addition to Indonesia, Norway is also assisting Brazil, Guyana and Tanzania through the REDD+ scheme.

While progress with the latter two nations has gone badly “awry,” according to a report by Norway’s international development cooperation agency published in August, the ambassador in Jakarta prefers comparing Indonesia to its middle-income analogue, Brazil.

Still, in comparison to Brazil, Indonesia has shown slower progress.

“Brazil and Indonesia both have had a difficult situation politically, but Brazil came out of this problem a little bit earlier. Twenty years later, they’ve managed to achieve economic growth, and [Brazil is] starting to see it’s possible to protect the forest while continuing [to grow],” Traavik said.

“Indonesia is following exactly the same path. Not slower, I think, but maybe you start a bit later. The process with Brazil started 25 years ago. Although many people have been impatient with … Indonesia, if you compare the situation with 15 years ago, of course Indonesia had made an enormous progress.”

The ambassador did not clarify why he believed a 15- to 25-year baseline for comparison was relevant to Norway’s REDD+ activities, which began in 2007.

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Hands-off approach

Norway’s “light touch” approach to its climate partnerships has drawn criticism from scientists, activists, and even Norway’s own auditors. According to the frameworks Oslo has inked, cash is only disbursed once its development partner delivers results — without any intervention or guidance.

Traavik said objections to this arrangement were acceptable, but off-base.

“I think it’s good that they’re impatient, but in a way I think that they’re wrong because we don’t know better than the Indonesians on how to fix things in Indonesia,” he said.

“Sometimes, if you’re an expert, it’s so easy to see what is the right way to do things. But often there’s a reason why it’s not easy to change from something wrong to something that theoretically is the right thing to do.

“There are rules that are already in place, ministries that need to be brought on board, and local people to bring together,” Traavik said, adding that only Indonesians could accomplish this in a way that would last.

If Norway did decide to intervene in implementing change, Indonesians would likely be resistant, Traavik said.

“It think it would be arrogant for us to come and say how to do it, and start spending money. If somebody tries to do it in Norway, we wouldn’t like it.

“We don’t like people coming from outside telling us how to run our country, and I think Indonesians are the same as well. So I think it’s about having respect and patience also.”

Traavik said he was confident about the incoming administration of President-elect Joko Widodo, whom he met hours before speaking with the Globe.

“I’m very confident that with Jokowi and the team he will bring, progress will be even faster. Once you get a more educated population and highly advanced industries, you don’t need to take so much land,” the ambassador said.

“We will try to adjust to the new government’s priorities, because our job is to assist Indonesia.”

Traavik suggested Joko’s impatience might be beneficial for the partnership. “He doesn’t like to spend much time planning; he likes to implement. There has been a lot of planning, so I think if the next government gives the right instructions, it’s ready to move. I’m quite optimistic.”

However, he qualified his enthusiasm with a characteristically Norwegian colloquy on the value of continuity and cautious prudence: “Being on time is important, but arriving at the right place is even more important.

“We should speed up, but not so much that we lose our way. To reach the goal is more important than the timing. Now, the new president, the increasing business, the people are aware so I guess the condition is coming to the right place. So I guess this also displays what we’re working on is about: The process of the people realizing the need for change. The change is never easy and its never comfortable.”


Jakarta Globe Friday, September 19, 2014

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