“Carbon confusion” in Indonesia

Location of Central Kalimantan in Indonesia

Location of Central Kalimantan in Indonesia Image via Wikipedia

Via Eurekalert:

Hotspots of carbon confusion in Indonesia threaten to warm the world more quickly

Indonesia has promised to become a world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, the president committed to a 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to below ‘business-as-usual’ levels. Of this total, 14% would have to come from reducing emissions from deforestation or forest degradation. Investments by foreign governments and other bodies are expected to raise total emission reduction from 26% to 41%.

While international negotiations on rules about how to reduce emissions and slow global warming are slow but ongoing, the Indonesian and Norwegian governments signed a letter of intent under which up to US$ 1 billion is available to assist in setting up a ‘stop deforestation and forest degradation’ system that also addresses peatland emissions. Part of the agreement is that Indonesia will implement a moratorium or ‘two-year suspension on all new concessions for conversion of peat and natural forest’.

Promising as this may sound, the devil is in the detail. A lot depends on how ‘peat’ and ‘natural forest’ are defined and how rights are agreed upon. Strong lobbies from the forest and tree-crop plantation industry argue that the economy will be harmed if ‘business as usual’ is interrupted. According to news sources, definitions of ‘natural forest’ and ‘peat’ differ between drafts prepared by the Indonesian Government’s emissions reduction taskforce and by the Ministry of Forestry. There are several key issues that need to be resolved.

First, if the moratorium is limited to the ‘kawasan hutan’ (forest estate), one-third of current emissions from clearing or converting woody vegetation will remain unaccounted for. The institutional mandates and types of permits issued by the government differ between ‘kawasan hutan’ and the ‘other land uses’ category, however. Multi-strata agroforests managed by farmers used to cover approximately 10% of the country (or 20 million hectare) in 1990 but were reduced to about 17 million hectare by 2005, with further conversion continuing to this day. Part of this change is based on the economic incentives farmers perceive from conversion to monoculture farming and part is due to external pressure.

Second, the draft of the Ministry of Forestry aims to allow for new plantation concessions in logged forests, where tree planting or conversion to monocultural tree plantations is presented as forest improvement. The Ministry proposes a moratorium limited to protecting primary forests, and defines these as ‘natural forests untouched by cultivation or silvicultural systems applied in forestry’. Part of Indonesia’s logged-over (secondary) forest still has high carbon stocks and is important for biodiversity conservation. It would help if a map of Indonesia could clarify where the moratorium applies.

Third, peatlands are immense storage houses for carbon and their protection from drainage and fire play a crucial role in the reduction of carbon emissions. Peatlands occur both within and outside of the forest estate and are source of emissions whether forested or not. The Ministry of Forestry draft excluded any new concessions on peatlands deeper than three metre, but this is already illegal and yet still occurs. A further challenge is that existing maps of peat depth are not very accurate.

Fourth, laws, regulations and customary norms applied by different levels of government, the private sector and local communities have often conflicted in the past and continue to do so in the present. These conflicts hamper the application of any scheme and will need serious attention to resolve.

These issues are hot in peatland-rich Central Kalimantan, which has been selected by the Indonesian and Norwegian governments as the primary pilot province for the proposed emissions reduction scheme. Over the past few decades in the province, shifting national policies have shaped the distribution of power and the actual use of peatland, with hundreds of thousands of hectare cleared of forest in a failed attempt to create farmland.

Expectations of payments for carbon emission reduction are currently shaping decisions over natural resource management. But any actions to reduce emissions will need to appreciate the institutional complexity. Different levels of government and the private sector are attempting to influence policy and exercise power, each interpreting history, facts, rules and norms differently in support of their own claims.

The World Agroforestry Centre’s research shows that the contesting claimants used the current contradictions and inconsistencies of Indonesian laws, multi-sector policies and the articulation of local property and customary rights for their own purposes. Legal arguments were not necessarily decisive in settling disputes and the lack of respect for legality contributed to confusion, undermining authority.

Furthermore, carbon rights in the area were not clear. They are at least as complex as the laws, regulations, layers of government, NGOs and private sector players that interact during the process that starts with a natural forest and ends with a landscape with few trees, high emissions but still high carbon stock, that is, the peatlands of Kalimantan.

A letter from Yayasan Petak Danum (Water Land Foundation, an NGO in Central Kalimantan) published on 27 February 2011 on red-monitor.org (http://www.redd-monitor.org/2011/02/27/community-concerns-with-the-kalimantan-forests-and-climate-partnership-no-rights-no-kcfp/#comment-111415) highlights the impact of these complexities on indigenous people’s groups involved with one of the pilot projects designed to help reduce emissions in the province, the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership. The World Agroforestry Centre conducted research into tenure and other issues for the Partnership in the early days of the project, which has been encapsulated in ASB Policybrief 21, Hot spots of confusion: contested policies and competing carbon claims in the peatlands of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia (http://worldagroforestry.org/sea/publications?do=view_pub_detail&pub_no=PB0017-11).

All this is also pertinent in a place like the Tripa swamp along the western coast of Aceh, where a block of dense swamp forest on peatland, high both in carbon stock and orangutan population density, is threatened by conversion to oil palm.

Part of the permits for such conversion exist but conflicts remain between local communities, local and national governments and private companies. The land status was changed a decade ago from ‘watershed protection’ forest to ‘other land uses’. The forest is, therefore, outside the proposed definition of ‘forest’ under the emission reduction scheme yet it is exactly the type of carbon stock that the world wants saved.

If conversion to oil palm takes place, it will be widely seen as a failure of the moratorium and the international commitment made by Indonesia.

Recent studies by the World Agroforestry Centre, Yayasan Ekosistem Leuseur and PanEco provide details on the case (http://worldagroforestry.org/sea/searchpublication?pub_type=0&call_number=&author_editor=&pub_title=Human+livelihoods%2C+ecosystem+services+and+the+habitat+of+the+Sumatran+orangutan&pub_year=&search=Search).

Although it is a challenge to resolve all the above issues in a country the size of Indonesia, it can happen if a) the goal of reducing carbon emissions while supporting human wellbeing is kept in focus; b) the moratorium is clear and operational; and c) it goes beyond restating existing regulations that have not prevented ‘business as usual’. This leads to several recommendations.

First, all forests, irrespective of their location and land status, should be included.

Second, logged forests should be included and protected under any emissions reduction scheme because they still contain high carbon stocks and substantial biodiversity.

Third, all peatlands should be included, irrespective of their depth.

Fourth, the definition of ‘forest’ should be made relevant to its purpose, which is to reduce carbon emissions by avoiding removing or decreasing woody vegetation.

Fifth, national and provincial governments are two among several contesting players and a negotiated settlement is needed rather than asserting a single legal authority.

Sixth, market-based implementation of an emissions reduction scheme will add confusion because unresolved carbon rights are an addition to the already complex layers of unresolved property rights. A ‘co-investment’ approach, in which all parties work together for human and environmental benefit at local and global levels, can contribute to resolving disputes on property rights and see more transparent use of state authority.

For the moratorium, a simple rule could be that it applies to new concessions on all lands, except those with an aboveground carbon stock of less than 35 tonne of carbon per hectare, and it applies to all peatlands regardless of the amount of above-ground carbon. This would be relatively easy to map and monitor. It would set clear rules to move forwards for now. It would buy time to think through the issues that relate to the lands that are included in the moratorium and refine rules in future as needed.

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MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Dr Meine van Noordwijk, Chief Science Advisor, World Agroforestry Centre, m.vannoordwijk@cgiar.org; +62 251 862 5415

The World Agroforestry Centre, based in Nairobi, Kenya, with offices and operations in other parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America, is the world’s leading research institution on the diverse role trees play in agricultural landscapes and rural livelihoods. The Centre’s Southeast Asia Program, based in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, has carried out extensive research on the proposed REDD+ scheme and related issues in collaboration with national and international partners. www.worldagroforestry.org

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29 thoughts on ““Carbon confusion” in Indonesia

  1. Deforestation has an anthropogenic effect on climate through it’s effect on the water cycle and has a much lesser effect on the carbon cycle. Natural tropical forests are carbon neutral in that they produce as much CO2 as they consume. Trees store water and reduce the rate of evaporation and runoff. Also, they lower the atmospheric temperature as water is evaporated from leaves. The water cycle is the earth’s thermostat, not the carbon cycle.

  2. More hypocrisy from the first world. Oil rich Norway can peddle its poison but other countries are “encouraged” not to develop their resources.

  3. Indonesia is a developing country so this begs the question WHY. Any reduction of CO2 output will reduce already poor people to total poverty and death. Development needs CO2 output in extra energy production.
    Why do the alarmists keep going on about deforestation? NASA research has shown that within ten years rainforest regrows to such an extent as to be unrecognizable from space compared to untouched forest. When rainforests are looked at, compared with forest total age and tree lifetime then many tens of tree generations have passed compared to total forest age. Trees die and their seeds grow. It is important that the local people get some income from the forest to pull them out of poverty.
    Get Real.

  4. Another example of western carbon guilt and the ripoff artists in developing nations who abuse the indulgence payments.

    It has only the veneer of feelgood, which is fine for most western governments.

  5. Fred H. Haynie says:
    March 1, 2011 at 5:57 am

    Natural tropical forests are carbon neutral in that they produce as much CO2 as they consume.

    Why are today’s rain forests different from those of the past which became coal, and therefore sequestered a large amount of carbon? You’ve got me puzzled.

  6. SandyInDerby – the issue with mature forests is that they don’t fix any MORE CO2 – they are just a store of what is already there. I am not sure what conditions were to convert them into coal and oil in the past, but nearly all trees that die in forests currently are broken down by microorganisms and produce large amounts of CO2 and methane (considered to have a larger “greenhouse” effect – if you think that matters) and this balances what the growing trees absorb.

  7. The rain forests didn’t become coal. At best they became bauxite. The soils are depleted of everything except the aluminum oxides and the very recent organic matter.

    The peat bogs became coal. They accumulate massive amounts of carbon. If you see some leaf fossils in coal, it is because you see some trees in those peat areas. Swamps, not rainforests, are “lungs of the planet” (kind of a stupid term isn’t it, seeing that lungs release CO2)

  8. “Indonesia has promised to become a world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2009, the president committed to a 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 to below ‘business-as-usual’ levels.”

    I just wonder what those “business-as-usual” levels are because Indonesia will more than double their coal use by 2014:

    “State electricity company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara will more than double the amount of coal it uses over the next five years, despite a push for cleaner fuel in Indonesia and across the globe.

    PLN’s director of primary energy, Nur Pamudji, said on Monday that the utility expected coal consumption to rise 133 percent during that period, from 40.8 million metric tons this year to 95 million tons by 2014, as it scrambled to add generating capacity to meet surging demand.”

    http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/pln-to-devour-133-percent-more-coal-in-next-five-years/378056

  9. Are there any daily-updated satellite data available now for measured atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases? When will the JAXA GOSAT data become publically available? Unfortunately CarbonTracker includes modelling; it’s not purely data. If and when they are made available, could the satellite greenhouse gas measurements be added to the WUWT Atmosphere Reference Page.

  10. Rob Potter says:
    March 1, 2011 at 7:15 am
    Doug says:
    March 1, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Thanks for that information.

    It was a long time since I learnt about coal in school, and I suppose that the trees then were growing in swamps and were in fact lycophytes. It’s interesting what 300 million years of evolution can change.
    I guess we’ll have to rely on Peat as a biomass carbon store for whoever needs it 300 million years hence.

  11. Doug said March 1, 2011 at 7:29 am:

    “The rain forests didn’t become coal. At best they became bauxite. The soils are depleted of everything except the aluminum oxides and the very recent organic matter.

    The peat bogs became coal. They accumulate massive amounts of carbon. If you see some leaf fossils in coal, it is because you see some trees in those peat areas. Swamps, not rainforests, are “lungs of the planet” (kind of a stupid term isn’t it, seeing that lungs release CO2)”

    The vegetation that became coal was fern-like plants; trees as we know them were yet to evolve in the Carboniferous. The dead vegetation accumulated in shallow, anoxic bodies of water.

    “Some geologists hypothesize that large quantities of wood were buried during this period because animals and decomposing bacteria had not yet evolved that could effectively digest the new lignin. Those early plants made extensive use of lignin. They had bark to wood ratios of 8 to 1, and even as high as 20 to 1. This compares to modern values less than 1 to 4. This bark, which must have been used as support as well as protection, probably had 38% to 58% lignin. Lignin is insoluble, too large to pass through cell walls, too heterogeneous for specific enzymes, and toxic, so that few organisms other than Basidiomycetes fungi can degrade it. It can not be oxidized in an atmosphere of less than 5% oxygen. It can linger in soil for thousands of years and inhibits decay of other substances.”

    Lignin is the precursor of humus much beloved by vegetable growers.

  12. Burning of jungles to supply nutrients for crops in poor rainforest soils has been used for many generations. Making it illegal hasn’t worked and won’t work because of the economics. We farm our land, why should Indonesia be any different?

    Indonesia will take Norway’s money, but it won’t stop the process. In 1997 “The Haze” from burning in Borneo covered SE Asia for months on end and certainly affected weather. Visibility was reduced to less than 1 city block over a huge area. It only ended after Malaysia (which owns much of the oil palm in Indonesia) stopped burning in preparation for the Commonwealth games. It still happens, just before the beginning of the rainy season, to prepare the land for planting.

  13. A total waste of money. First, most of the clearing is done without permits today. This will not change. Secondly, the corruption and dishonesty will negate every aspect of the program.

  14. The more CO2 they dump into the atmosphere, the faster the rainforests (and everything else) will grow. What’s not to like?
    :D

  15. tarpon says:
    March 1, 2011 at 6:18 am

    This is a handy map to show what is going on … It’s from the MODIS image library of daily compilations of burning fires, worldwide.

    http://firefly.geog.umd.edu/firemap/

    Explains a lot, doesn’t it

    Very disappointing that apparently there aren’t any nice lodgepole fires getting rid of that weed tree and its associated pest species in western N.A. Where are the firebugs when you need them?

  16. How inconvenient for the Eco-imperialists.

    1 billion foreign dollars only buys 2 years of agreement with the Islamic government’s moratorium. And even then they can’t be sure the poor won’t be exploiting any natural resources.

  17. Doug said March 1, 2011 at 7:29 am: “The peat bogs became coal. They accumulate massive amounts of carbon. If you see some leaf fossils in coal, it is because you see some trees in those peat areas.”
    Doug, you must never have seen a lowland rainforest. Not all peat comes from peat-moss like in the Irish bogs. Where I come from in coastal NSW, Australia, peat is created from forests growing in swamps behind the dunes, mostly tea-trees, mixed with swamp mahogany & she-oak. When converted to farmland, these swamps throw up well preserved logs, as the peat dries & is shaken by farm machinery. Some of these logs could be thousands of years old, & possibly of interest to the paleoclimate community, but sitting in their offices, they haven’t a clue such a resource exists.

  18. I disagree that this endeavour will be a waste of money. The Mercedes and BMW dealerships must be rubbing their hands at the thought of USD1 bil being made available – on top of the profits from the unabated plunder of Kalimantan, which will continue regardless. Hand rubbing too in Singapore, of course, whose economy relies heavily on looted funds from Indonesia.

  19. The idiocy of complying with the tenets of the church of global warming by the leadership of other countries doesn’t bother me. It is when it happens in the supposedly intelligent USA that I get concerned. The charlatans perpetrating this fraud should be fined and imprisoned.

  20. The Indonesian authorities openly admit that they can’t control the illegal loggers and burners, and often times covertly work with them, so this is simply another case of foolish do-gooding Westerners handing out free cash to people who really don’t care about the environment.

  21. “Investments by foreign governments and other bodies … the Indonesian and Norwegian governments signed a letter of intent under which up to US$ 1 billion is available to assist … ”

    Anyone who knows Indonesia also knows that it is a brazen and notorious kleptocracy, and that it has been for the last 50 years. There is a well-understood mechanism for doing business in Indonesia, and nothing makes it hum like “investments by foreign governments,” which are of course laundered through the framework of NGOs, global “development” firms, and entities such as the U.N.

    http://www.transparency.org

  22. JakartaJaap at 12:20 pm:

    “The Mercedes and BMW dealerships must be rubbing their hands at the thought of USD1 bil being made available…”

    You are a man who obviously knows Indonesia!

    I would add that a large portion of the $1 billion of “government investment” will also be recycled (aka “laundered”) right back to the donor nations through NGOs, commercial support contracts, and other consulting fees and services.

  23. Here’s a pro-CAGW documentary focused on Indonesia, which – if you can dismiss the messaging about rainforests and sustenance burning and CAGW – has some unintended revelations about the greedsters and rogues who had been involved in the green greed ecosystem, to borrow a phrase.

    Fortunately the global carbon credits scam – which is a subplot of this film – finally seems dead or imploding due to its inherently criminal underpinnings.

    I can only imagine the Indonesian governor in the film as he thinks “Wow. They want me to sell my air. Hmmmm.”

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/wideangle/episodes/burning-season/introduction/1627/

  24. This is the most accurate posting here so far.

    pat says: at 8:48 am
    A total waste of money. First, most of the clearing is done without permits today. This will not change. Secondly, the corruption and dishonesty will negate every aspect of the program.

    I lived and worked in Indonesia for 15 years. When I first went to Indonesia The whole of Kalimantan was covered in virgin forest. There were only a few towns and small cities scattered around the coast. – No roads to interconnect them.

    Here’s to some misconceptions.

    (a) In the majority of Kalimantan the soils are very poor. The rain forests were anchored in peat that had developed over thousands of years from continuous flora dropping and regrowth. Once the forest is cut down it will never grow again – at least it will take another thousand years to re-establish. (without human interference.)

    (b) When flying in a small aircraft over Kalimantan you could look down and see that the trees were sitting in swampy peat – in other words a swamp.

    (c) If the forest trees are cut down the peat quickly dries out and then burns off in the dry seasons.

    (d) When oil palms plantations are replanted they require enormous amounts of fertilizer applied. The palm oil trees leach whatever minerals are left in the ground after the peat has gone. I have a friend who supplies huge amounts of “Bio organic fertilizer” from China to the Kalimantan palm oil industry.

    (e) The rain forest created it’s own climate. You could always see the clouds hugging the treetop canopy of the forest. Where the forest has been annihilated you can measure the increase in ambient temperatures over the years.

    (f) If you walk around some north eastern areas of Kalimantan with bare feet your feet go black – from the coal (ex peat)

    Garry says: at 6:24 pm

    I can only imagine the Indonesian governor in the film as he thinks “Wow. They want me to sell my air. Hmmmm.”

    The air in Indonesia belongs to the government. If you want to set up your own radio comms system between offices or bases in Indonesia you must pay “air” rent to the communications authority.

  25. Anyone else getting the impression that we need to rename this planet “Easter Island”? Seems some pretty strange things happen when people overpopulate and decimate the resources of a place. Well, I guess from history, we all know what’s going to happen next. Really!

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