Last week, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi’ Widodo disbanded the country's independent REDD+ Agency as part of his effort to better coordinate activities related to forestry and the environment. While some worried this could undermine the country's efforts to save its forests and slow climate change, Pungky Widiaryanto of the State Ministry of National Development Planning says the change makes sense, and will lead to a more efficient implementation of REDD.
5 February 2014 | For almost five years, a scheme to mitigate climate change called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) has gained great momentum in Indonesia, particularly after the government signed a letter of intent (LoI) with Norway in 2010.
According to the LoI, Norway commits to compensating Indonesia US$1 billion in total as long as Indonesia reduces emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Among its activities the establishment of the REDD+ Agency, or BP REDD+, was probably the most important achievement to pave the way for the success of REDD+ in Indonesia even though the process took a long time under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Basically, the notion of BP REDD+ was aimed at preparing a global REDD+ scheme. Importantly, this agency was also expected to address the underlying causes of Indonesia’s high deforestation rates — a lack of coordination, weak law enforcement, unclear spatial planning and a bad forest governing system. All these problems involve disputes among various institutions.
The idea of forming BP REDD+, moreover, was due to skepticism within existing institutions in managing promised REDD+ incentives as public funds.
A study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in 2010 found that the then forestry ministry misused a reforestation fund during Soeharto’s regime. This issue raised concerns about the capacity and accountability of the ministry to manage, use and distribute the REDD+ incentive.
Many stakeholders had supported the creation of BP REDD+ since it apparently both satisfied the LoI with Norway and succeeded in reducing deforestation in Indonesia.
However, BP REDD+’s authority was unclear; its appearance as an ad hoc organization provoked conflicts with other ministries.
Under Yudhoyono, the establishment of a new agency or temporary institution was a common strategy and made matters more complex. For instance, although the BP REDD+ was directly under the president’s authority, several ministries resented it because the agency took over the existing ministries’ authority. Poor capacity also led to problems related to legitimacy, convening power and the ability to act.
Its chairman, Heru Prasetyo, enjoyed credibility after serving in the then Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development, or UKP4.
However, both existing institutions and the legislature questioned his authority to coordinate other ministries and to implement policy reform.
BP REDD+ had only little recognition from other government agencies, causing REDD+ to progress slowly in Indonesia. For example, there was a debate with the forestry ministry in developing and submitting the Forest Reference Emissions Level. Uncertain funding mechanism as a result of less support from the Finance Ministry and Ministry of National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) was another problem faced by REDD+.
Compared to his predecessor, President Joko “Jokowi’ Widodo created a more effective and efficient government by diminishing unnecessary ad hoc institutions and combining some ministries. He combined the ministries of environment and forestry into the Environment and Forestry Ministry.
On Jan. 21 President Jokowi signed Presidential Regulation No. 16/2015 in which BP REDD+ along with the National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) are integrated into the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
The decree also mandates a new division under Minister Siti Nurbaya, called the Directorate General of Climate Change Oversight, replacing the function of BP REDD+ and DNPI. Arguably, this new directorate general is intended to improve coordination in climate change issues. It makes sense that Minister Siti wants BP REDD+ under her authority given the tremendous amount of resources spent by the ministry and commitments to realize REDD+ strategies.
The idea of REDD+ in Indonesia was initiated by the earlier forestry mnistry through forming a multiple stakeholders’ forum — the Indonesia Forest Climate Alliance in 2007.
The ministry was concerned with establishing REDD+ project procedures, demonstration activities, forest carbon measurement and a monitoring, reporting and verification system. The ministry had correspondingly invested in developing one substantial carbon accounting system, the National Carbon Accounting System of Indonesia.
In addressing the underlying causes of deforestation, Minister Siti made some commitments. First, to increase good forest governance the ministry is ready to establish up to 600 forest management units to manage about 137 million hectare of forestland.
Second, with regard to solving forest tenure issue, the ministry is also allocating around 12 million hectares of forest area to be managed by local communities and indigenous peoples for five years. This commitment complies with safeguard issues under the principles of REDD+.
Third, the Minister just established a de-bottlenecking policy by delegating all forestry related businesses’ permits to the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM). In addition to one-stop licensing services, this new policy principally aims to prevent corrupt practices. Furthermore, the Minister also promises to continue the one map policy initiative for avoiding overlap land allocation in administering the forest areas.
All forest policy reforms above are good signals that “change comes from within” for the success of REDD+ in Indonesia. The merging of BP REDD+ into the ministry, however, must be monitored and controlled by the public to ensure transparency and accountability.
Indigenous people have long been the most effective guardians of the rainforest, but confronted with growing global pressures to clear their lands, how will they find the resources needed to protect their forests and thrive? In this series, we will explore the new emerging mechanism known as "Indigenous REDD" and see how it draws on and contrasts with forest-carbon projects that exist to date.
This article was originally published on Ecosystem Marketplace.
15 January 2015 | On a daily basis, logging trucks rumble up an offshoot of Brazil's Highway 364, laden with muddy trunks illegally harvested from the Zoró Indigenous Territory, at the southern edge of the Amazon Rainforest, along the border between the Brazilian states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso.
The bounty includes old growth teak and mahogany, the crown jewels of the Amazon rainforest – destined for luxury furniture showrooms across Brazil and around the world. The finished wood from a single mahogany trunk can fetch tens of thousands of dollars, and a few pennies of that will go to members of the Zoró indigenous people who illegally escort loggers to the most productive parts of their forest. It's a practice in which many Zoró say they'd rather not engage, but they see no choice if they're to feed their families.
After leaving the Zoró territory, the trucks pass along the northern edge of the Sete de Setembro, where the Paiter-Surui community once logged just as aggressively as the Zoró do today.
"We had survived for centuries by nurturing the forest, but to survive in the modern market economy, we had to let outsiders come in and chop the mahogany and teak," says Almir Narayamoga Surui, chief of the Paiter-Surui people. "As the trees fell, the birds went silent, the animals and fish retreated, and our people lost their way."
But that changed dramatically over the past five years, as most of his people forswore logging and chose instead to earn money from carbon offsets by maintaining the forest and keeping the loggers at bay. Still, some logging continues here as well.
After leaving Sete de Setembro, the trucks briefly pass through the southern tip of the Igarapé Lourdes territory, home to members of the Gavião and Arara – people who never succumbed to the temptation to chop their trees, and who have a forest that's thicker and richer than that of their neighbors, but a population that's financially poorer.
The trucks then pass out into the dusty terrain beyond the indigenous territories, where cattle graze on depleted land and ranchers wonder why their indigenous neighbors refuse to chop their trees – for even the Zoró, the most aggressive loggers among the local indigenous communities, maintain their forest better than do their non-indigenous neighbors. Ultimately, the greatest threat to indigenous lands – here and around the world – isn't logging, but the illegal conversion of forest to agriculture. Yet that conversion begins with the construction of access roads like the one connecting the three territories.
Last October, about 80 members of the Gavião gathered in their territory, not far from the road traversed by loggers, to weigh their options. Tired of poverty but unwilling to chop their trees, they look with envy on the Paiter-Surui and their ability to earn money by maintaining the forest. Can the same option work for them?
That's a question that the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica, or "COICA") hopes to answer here. Based in Lima, COICA is a federation of indigenous organizations across Latin America. For the past three years, it's been exploring the creation of a financing mechanism called "Indigenous REDD+" (REDD+ Indígena Amazónico, or "RIA"), which aims to blend financing mechanisms like REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation, Degradation and other land uses) with existing indigenous practices.
Igarapé Lourdes is one place it aims to pilot the initiative, and if it works it can change the lives of indigenous people across the Amazon.
Sixty years ago, the Zoró, the Paiter-Surui, the Gavião and the Arara were isolated people of the Amazon, but today they're among scores of indigenous communities in the "Arc of Deforestation" – a boomerang-shaped band of destruction that sprawls across the southern and eastern edges of the Amazon Rainforest, representing the frontier of what was, just a century ago, a vast and unspoiled forest.
It's a region of vital importance to the global climate, because indigenous territories of the Amazon hold nearly 30 billion tons of carbon, which would become 110 billion tons of carbon dioxide if it made its way into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. That's a real possibility, because more than half of those trees are in danger of being destroyed, according to research by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), and COICA.
In a paper entitled "Forest Carbon in Amazonia: The Unrecognized Contributions of Indigenous Territories and Protected Natural Areas", they looked at current threats, like the expansion of access roads, and concluded that roughly one-third of indigenous and protected territories are under "immediate threat" from illegal logging, mining, dams, and agriculture, while an additional fifth are under "near-term" threat.
More than 400 REDD projects around the world are currently protecting a forested area larger than the entire land mass of Malaysia, according to the latest Ecosystem Marketplace State of Forest Carbon Markets Report, and indigenous people across the Amazon have already laid the groundwork for successful REDD projects, although that wasn't their intent.
Beginning in the 1990s, indigenous people across the Amazon began developing "Life Plans" – which are long-term development plans designed to cultivate indigenous economies built on sustainable, traditional practices like the harvesting of Brazil nuts or acai and the creation of handicrafts. All have struggled to get their plans off the ground, but in 2007 the Paiter-Surui achieved liftoff by embracing REDD and becoming, in a sense, modern-day forest rangers.
The Zoró, however, continued to embrace logging – leaving their Life Plan undeveloped – while the Gavião and Arara began implementing their Life Plans in 2004, only to see them stall for lack of funding.
The quality of Life Plans varies, but most describe land-use and governance programs that are, at the very least, compatible with REDD initiatives.
The Paiter-Surui concluded the world's first indigenous-led REDD project in June 2013, becoming the first such project to generate offsets by saving endangered rainforest under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). Several months later, they sold 120,000 tonnes of carbon offsets to Natura Cosméticos, a Brazilian cosmetics giant.
But what worked for the Paiter Surui in Mato Grosso might not work for all indigenous territories facing dire threats from deforestation. The Gavião and Arara of Igarapé Lourdes have been much better stewards of their forests than either the Zoro or the Paiter-Surui, and while all four communities – including the Zoró – have preserved their forests better than the non-indigenous settlers have, the people of Igarapé Lourdes have done the best job of all. Yet, ironically, this fact may keep them from fully utilizing REDD finance. The situation is something of a Catch 22: to earn carbon offsets to protect forests and fund the implementation of their Life Plan, the trees of today must face measurable, imminent destruction.
The Paiter Surui REDD project became a reality because they were able to demonstrate this risk of imminent deforestation – and thus reduced carbon storage – under a business-as-usual scenario called a "baseline".
So while a REDD project can help some indigenous peoples improve their stewardship of the land, it may not be applicable to the peoples of Igarapé Lourdes and certainly not the "uncontacted" indigenous peoples inhabiting wild, remote areas of the Brazilian Amazon. It is believed that nearly 70 such indigenous groups continue to live in isolation in the Brazilian Amazon alone, according to a 2007 estimate from Brazil's National Indian Foundation (Funai), higher than past estimates of about 40 groups. What's clear is that conflicts with miners, ranchers, farmers and loggers will increasingly force such groups to confront the world at large, and in particular, incursions for resource extraction.
In the same year of the above estimate, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis, IBAMA) forced hundreds of illegal settlers from the Uru Eu Wau Wau indigenous territory in Rondônia – where uncontacted groups are believed to reside.
If it's not possible to emulate the Pater-Surui, how do people like the Gavião and Arara resist logging and other short-term resource extraction pressures that are sure to increase in time? And what of the indigenous peoples who remain uncontacted, living in remote areas?
The challenges ahead to protecting the forests of such unexplored indigenous areas are immense: across the Brazilian Amazon today, about 15 percent of indigenous territories have still not been even been defined with boundaries or officially demarcated.
"All across the Amazon, we have indigenous people crying out for help to defend the forest," said COICA head Juan-Carlos Jintiac at recent year-end climate talks in Lima, Peru. "But because they had no deforestation, they had no access to REDD finance."
In light of the importance of indigenous territories to the planet's carbon stocks and the current threats to such a resource, how can these many good stewards of the forest be rewarded for what they are doing? More precisely, how to fund the life plans that are so central to developing an enduring sustainable economy?
One alternative path forward is for states to seek REDD finance for reducing deforestation across their entire jurisdiction, and then distributing the funding in-state as they see fit. The tiny state of Acre, to the west, of Rondônia, has pioneered this "jurisdictional" approach to REDD and is rewarding indigenous peoples with funds for good forest stewardship. The money comes into the state as REDD finance, but is distributed internally for activities that conserve water and protect endangered species.
The premise is this: good forest management and carbon sequestration go hand-in-hand, but payments for one ecosystem service will result in benefits to another – and for indigenous people, there is a chance to resurrect their traditional practices built on sustainable resource extraction, eco-tourism, and handicrafts.
In 2013, the German development bank KfW committed to financing the reduction of 8 million tons of emission reductions from Acre in a four-year, $40-million agreement – the first ever payment for emissions reductions at the jurisdictional level. Such payments are to flow from the state government to indigenous groups and communities based on a variety of activities under Acre's State System of Incentives for Environmental Services (known as "SISA").
Beyond REDD, there are other potential sources of funding. One could come from municipal and state levels via the federal ICMS Ecológico (Ecological Tax on Goods and Services / Imposto sobre Circulação de Mercadorias e Serviços Ecológico) program, which allows local governments to access a refunded portion of the value added tax collected in their states, based on the amount of forest cover and water resources in their jurisdiction. To date at least 24 Brazilian states have passed laws or are debating legislation related to creating a green value-added tax.
Acre is both an innovator and outlier — the jurisdictional REDD solution pioneered there is not a fit for many other states in the Brazilian Amazon, where much larger populations and vastly more diverse deforestation pressures continue to converge. That said, some form of jurisdictional REDD administered from the state level is moving forward across much of the Brazilian Amazon.
At least four other Brazilian states have embarked on statewide REDD programs, and each is unique: Mato Grosso, which destroyed its forests at a devastating rate to make way for soybean production, has slashed its rates 90% and created the country’s most advanced regime for keeping track of REDD payments. Meanwhile deforestation is picking up in states that have historically had little deforestation, like Amapa.
Consider Rondônia itself, home to the Zoro, the Surui, and the indigenous peoples of the Igarapé Lourdes territory, where discussions to create a state-wide jurisdictional REDD system, with state and municipal government support, have already started.
As COICA and the people of Igarapé Lourdes further explore the potential for Indigenous REDD+ (RIA), jurisdictional efforts operating outside carbon markets may prove to be the most viable funding source.
How to measure a year? You’ll have to wait for our data collection to conclude in the New Year to find out how many tonnes of forest-based emissions reductions were financed in 2014, but for now we’ll take stock of the year’s major developments, which ranged from the triumphant to the tragic.
Please rank the top forest carbon stories of 2014 and give us your 2015 predictions here.
26 December 2014 | If you had told the Earthlings of 10 years ago that we would soon be watching deforestation occur in almost real-time on our smartphone screens, most would not have believed you. But here we are in 2014 with Global Forest Watch at our fingertips – an exciting tool that also highlights the complex, global nature of the fight to keep forests intact in a climate-changing world.
This past year was also one of new pledges to end deforestation, many of them by unusual suspects and many of them including encouraging financial commitments.
But the murder of four Ashaninka leaders – Edwin Chota Valera, Leoncio Quincima Meléndez, Jorge Rios Perez and Francisco Pinedo – in Peru in September followed by the killing of Shuar leader José Isidro Tendetza Antún in Ecuador weeks before the United Nations climate negotiations in Lima puts a tragic spotlight on the fact that protecting the world’s tropical forests is often life-threatening work. And indigenous peoples are the ones on the front lines.
After 400,000 demonstrators took to the streets during the People’s Climate March in New York City in September, governments, multinational corporations, civil society and indigenous peoples issued the New York Declaration on Forests, committing to cut forest loss in half by 2020 and completely end it by 2030. The pledge, if successfully implemented, would reduce global emissions by between 4.5 billion and 8.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, and it came with a promise of $1 billion in funding.
Many of the corporate signatories of the New York Declaration are members of the Consumer Goods Forum – companies such as Unilever, Nestlé, and Walmart that source much of the palm oil, soy, and other agricultural commodities that drive a $1.4-trillion annual business… and deforestation. In fact, a report released by Forest Trends this year found that almost three-quarters of deforestation between 2000 and 2012 was caused by commercial agriculture, a significant shift from the timber industry that drove the majority of deforestation in the 20th century.
Facing global pressure, these consumer goods companies made a flurry of “zero deforestation” commitments in 2014, to the point that 60% of the global palm oil trade is now controlled by companies that have committed to eliminating deforestation and human rights violations from their supply chains.
REDD scaling up
Buyer interest in avoided deforestation (REDD) offsets tripled to total 24.7 million tonnes in 2013, according to Ecosystem Marketplace’s State of the Forest Carbon Markets 2014 report. About a third of that volume came from a $40 million agreement between the state of Acre in the Brazilian Amazon and German development bank KfW as part of the REDD+ Early Movers Program.
After spending three years developing its payments for ecosystem services framework, Acre is beginning to see the first payments – about $2.9 million – flow to the local agroforestry association in the region that is managing its REDD activities. The money comes from KfW as payments for emissions reductions, and 70% of it is earmarked specifically for the providers of ecosystem services, including rubber-tappers and indigenous peoples.
Though the remaining two-thirds of REDD offset demand came mainly from companies pursuing corporate social responsibility targets, the government-to-government deal marked the type of “jurisdictional” or state-scale initiative that is likely to become more common in the future. Indeed, during the UN Conference of Parties (COP) in Lima in December, the REDD Early Movers expanded to Colombia and Ecuador, with Norway joining in on the funding side. Colombia and Ecuador each has the opportunity to earn about $65 million if they successfully reduce emissions from deforestation over the next three years.
Though Indonesia surpassed Brazil to earn the infamous spot as the world’s top deforester, the country also achieved some important capacity-building last year, creating the world’s first REDD+ agency and naming Heru Pratseyo as its head in January. Pratseyo is now attempting to save the country’s peat forests – which contain eight times the carbon content of other rainforests – by engineering a massive land-swap, essentially by convincing palm oil producers to move their operations to degraded land.
Show them the money
Rainforest nations say they are poised to do much more – if financing materializes. Governors from 13 states that are members of the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force, a group committed to scale up jurisdictional REDD, signed the Rio Branco Declaration in August, committing to cut deforestation 80% in their territories by 2020 if they are compensated for the emissions reductions.
With the Green Climate Fund surpassing the critical $10 billion threshold this month, REDD proponents are jostling to see if they might be able to carve out a space for avoided deforestation. The Fund’s Director indicated that forestry projects are attractive, but given the pressure to get some projects off the ground before the Paris COP negotiations next December, REDD proposals must be simple enough to be fast-tracked.
The World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership (FCPF) also had a busy 2014, selecting 11 new countries – Belize, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Togo and Uruguay – and allocating $191 million in REDD+ readiness grants. FCPF’s Carbon Fund, which will offer payments for achieved emissions reductions, now amounts to $470 million. Eleven countries have submitted ideas for Emissions Reductions Programs, and three – Costa Rica, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of Congo – have so far signed letters of intent.
On the private sector side, the Althelia Climate Fund made its first direct investment in 2014, pledging $10 million to the Taita Hills REDD project in Kenya developed by Wildlife Works. In May, The United States Agency for International Development guaranteed Althelia for up to $133.8 million in commercial finance for forest conservation and sustainable land use though a new mechanism that seeks to de-risk these types of investments.
The Yurok tribe in northern California became the first organization to get compliance forestry offsets –more than 800,000 of them – approved by California’s cap-and-trade program in April. The same month, the state’s Air Resources Board (ARB) decided to shift the risk of invalidated offsets to buyers (rather than sellers) of compliance forestry offsets, putting it in line with other offset protocols.
And, with support from the Walt Disney Company, the community of San Juan Lachao in Oaxaca, Mexico developed the first pilot carbon offset project under the Climate Action Reserve’s Mexico Forest Protocol. The protocol was developed to be adaptable into a national Mexican REDD+ program in the future, with the potential of linking with California.
Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil signed a memorandum of understanding with California to coordinate around REDD back in 2012 and ARB officials have said they would consider accepting international offsets into the program, although they have not yet set a date for doing so. If California moves forward, it could become the first compliance market for REDD offsets.
The people’s forest
A study released this year by the World Resources Institute and the Rights and Resources Initiative found that rates of deforestation are, on average, 11 times lower in community forests with strong legal recognition, and indigenous people have official rights to about an eighth of the world’s forest area.
Buyers of forest carbon offsets have sent a strong signal that, in addition to verified emissions reductions, they are interested in the community and biodiversity benefits of forest protection – indeed, these “beyond carbon” benefits are sometimes what interests them about offsetting in the first place. Starting in November, the Verified Carbon Standard assumed the day-to-day management of the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Standards to ease the pathway for the many projects that are already using both carbon and co-benefits certifications.
These verification standards, alongside remote sensing tools like Global Forest Watch, are evidence that we are now living in the Anthropocene – a new geological epoch in which humans have so fundamentally changed Earth’s systems that their management rests in our hands.