On September 12th, Indonesia and Norway agreed to start a new partnership in an effort to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation. Indonesia’s environment minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar and her Norwegian counterpart Espen Barth Eide signed a memorandum of understanding in Jakarta on the new agreement. According to Eide, Norway would provide fiscal contributions based on verified emission reductions from deforestation and forest degradation in 2016 to 2020 under the existing Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) protocol.
Indonesia’s Siti stated, “The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is also to emphasize the importance of delivering tangible and direct benefits for the community and for the progress of Indonesia in pursuant to the prevailing governance.”
This new partnership comes a year after Jakarta terminated a nearly identical plan due to scarcity of funds and a lack of Payment from Norway. It was a 1 billion dollar REDD+ deal (a framework created by the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) to guide activities in the forest sector in order to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).
The new forest and climate partnership includes a results-based model, where Indonesia sets the strategy and manages the funds, while Norway contributes annual results-based financial contributions for Indonesia’s project. The money, totalling about $1 billion, will go into an Indonesian environment fund.
While speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Aditya Bayunanda, the acting chief executive of green group WWF Indonesia, stated, “Strong communication, data-sharing and transparency will be key elements to making the partnership a success. This also helps pave the way for donor funding from other countries to help support the restoration and conservation of Indonesia’s forests.”
Indonesia is home to the world’s third-largest tropical forest but has lost large swathes of forest due to palm oil and timber harvesting. The country has long been among the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gasses from deforestation, forest fires, and peatland destruction and it was ranked as the fourth highest country for deforestation in 2021 by the Global Forest Watch (GFW). However, its deforestation rates have declined in recent years after Jakarta introduced a series of policies to protect and restore forests, peatlands and mangroves. In 2019/2020, Indonesia’s deforestation rate was 115,500 hectares (285,400 acres). This amounts to an almost 90% drop from its 2014/2015 rate of 1.09 million hectares (2.69 million acres).
In 2021, tropical forest losses amounted to 3.75 million hectares (9.3 million acres) worldwide. Land-use change, forest degradation, and deforestation account for the majority of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The intent behind the new partnership between Norway and Indonesia is that by slowing or preventing forest loss, Indonesia will be able to preserve the third largest tropical rainforest on Earth.
Toerris Jaeger, secretary general of the Oslo-based Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN), stated that Indonesia’s environment fund would finance innovative programs to empower indigenous people and communities to lead efforts to protect and manage forests. However, he argued that the money coming from Norway’s development aid budget should be viewed as “seed funding,” that is to say, the “initial funds intended to leverage larger bilateral and multilateral funds.” He added that private-sector funds are also becoming more relevant in reversing deforestation.
Concerns have been voiced with regards to the language used in the new agreement between the two countries. Some say it prevents this deal from being as effective as it needs to be in order to address the severity of our current climate crisis. The vagueness of the wording in the new deal is a primary concern, as it calls on Indonesia “to reduce” rather than “to eliminate” deforestation.
During the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact, Indonesia declined to support a plan to end deforestation by 2030 but instead pledged a “carbon net sink” in its forestry sector by 2030, meaning that the sector would absorb more greenhouse gas emissions than it emitted. Indonesian ministers argued that the pledge to stop deforestation at the COP26 was “inappropriate and unfair”. This is because a zero-deforestation target would be against its development plans to build more infrastructure and to increase industry development.
Furthermore, the language in the new deal between Norway and Indonesia is unclear with regards to indigenous peoples’ rights. There is a severe risk that Indonesia’s government will reduce deforestation to an extent but continue to allow some commodity-driven felling, labelling it as “progress” while not initiating the necessary reforms to secure indigenous peoples’ rights. The Indonesian government has continuously failed to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples who have lost their ancestral forests and livelihoods to palm oil plantations in West Kalimantan and Jambi provinces. This loss of forest on such a massive scale not only harms local peoples, but is obviously also associated with global climate change.
While the agreement between Indonesia and Norway may appear as a promising first step to combat global climate change, it is vital to address the vagueness of the language (which may indicate unspoken agendas) in a time where the climate crisis is becoming ever more severe. It is simply not enough to “reduce” emissions from deforestation, but rather work towards partially or entirely eliminating them. Furthermore, it is vital that governments across the world start involving indigenous peoples in their conversations and agreements on climate change as they are most often the communities who endure its harshest impacts. Indonesia and Norway’s pact on climate change lacks substance at its core and more nuanced, aggressive, and urgent multilateral pacts are needed in order to combat the everlasting climate change crisis.
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