11 December 2007

Indonesia pledges to protect 4,300ha of forests

But green activists are unimpressed, saying gesture is too small

By Arti Mulchand - Dec 6, 2007

GREEN JIG: An anti-deforestation campaigner dancing next to sculptures of a globe and a thermometer in Bali yesterday. -- PHOTO: AFP

IN BALI - INDONESIA pledged to protect some 4,300ha of its rapidly disappearing forests at the world climate change meeting here yesterday, but environmental groups slammed it as too small a gesture.

The move was meant to show the thousands of delegates at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meetings that Indonesia took its mission to save the planet seriously.

Six tracts of plantation forests of meranti, acacia and pine in Bogor and Kalimantan will be classified as 'permanent and regulated'.

This would offset the amount of carbon emissions generated by participants' flights and during the 12 days of the conference itself, said Mr Sunaryo, the Minister of Forestry on Partnership.

But a spokesman for the Greenpeace environmental group, Mr Arief Wicaksono, said: 'It is a piecemeal move.'

Greenpeace estimates that Indonesia leads the world in deforestation. Between 2000 and 2005, an area of forest equivalent to 300 soccer pitches was destroyed every hour, it said.

In contrast, 4,300ha is roughly equal to the size of 4,000 soccer pitches, which is the size of the forested area destroyed in Indonesia in about half a day.

At that rate, the country's 133.57 million ha of forests will disappear within 47 years, according to some estimates.

About 85 per cent of Indonesia's emissions of greenhouse gases also comes from deforestation.

But Mr Sunaryo said the 4,300ha of protected forests will also be used for research.

The research will include the tricky task of figuring out how to calculate reduced emissions from 'avoided deforestation', which is also something delegates are trying to pin down during the climate meet.

But environmentalists at the conference had hoped for a more substantial show of Indonesia's commitment to curbing the destruction of its rainforests, which has an impact on the ecology of the entire Earth.

'If they are going to make any gestures, why not make it a grand one and opt to protect pristine forests instead of plantation forests, since their emissions reduction value is so much higher?' said Ms Ronnie Hall, international campaign coordinator of Global Forest Coalition.

Protecting pristine forests also means that the delicate eco-systems within them are afforded protection, she said.

Greenpeace called for a 10-year moratorium on further encroachment of plantations into peatlands.

Mr Wicaksono said: 'Protecting the peatlands would have reduced (Indonesia's) emissions by 50 per cent, because it is higher-value carbon...a real demonstration of its commitment to the environment.'

Nonetheless, UNFCCC spokesman John Hays said Indonesia's decision was 'significant, because it means they acknowledge how big a problem deforestation is'.

Mr Sunaryo said that were it not for the conference, those forests might not have been protected at all.

Up to 20,000 people in all are expected to attend the climate meetings, and estimates put emissions at between 4tonnes and 6.4 tonnes per person. That works out to more than 80,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide being pumped into the air, mainly from flights.

Indonesia's Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said that Indonesia's move - together with the 79 million trees planted ahead of the event - more than compensated for the emissions.


Read more... Sphere: Related Content

No comments: