Countries today operate in a highly globalized and networked world, sharing one fragile planet. This world is in the grip of formidable challenges ranging from political and economic instability, to energy and resource scarcity. Amid these, climate change is perhaps the most life-altering of them all, with many of its impacts beginning to be felt across Asia and globally.
This week, negotiators met in Bangkok, for the first of four rounds of UN-backed climate change negotiations in 2011 that are expected to begin the hard work of translating the achievements of last year’s Cancún Climate Conference into work plans to support action in developing and developed countries alike.
While the Cancún Agreements alone will not solve the climate challenge, they did lay down important foundations for strengthened global cooperation.
Cancún created a framework for combating deforestation as a substantial source of carbon pollution, and a mechanism for financial incentives with appropriate safeguards to reduce forest loss.
Progress within the negotiations on other important sources of emissions has been much slower. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (known as REDD+) is a refreshing case of common ground between developed and developing countries.
Although a strong system for REDD+ could ultimately attract billions in public and private funding to keep tropical forests healthy, there is a lot of hard work that needs to get done, both in individual countries and at the international level, before financial incentives begin to flow.
Fortunately, REDD+ is not our only tool. Other drivers like market demand for ecologically and socially responsible wood products, and tougher, more credible policies to combat illegal logging, are strengthening the business case for improving management of production forests.
This can have an enormous impact in a country like Indonesia, where more than 50 percent of the total forest area is classified as production forest.
This combination of political support and financial incentives adds up to what is perhaps the best moment in decades to encourage and support actions that continue to turn these opportunities into positive changes for Indonesia’s forests.
Continuing down this path will require leadership in the form of strong climate policy signals by key developing and developed countries.
It will also require substantial public investments to build the human capacity, tools and institutions that a new REDD+ system demands. This includes ensuring sufficient participation of all key stakeholders from local government, to companies, to communities.
Early signals of Indonesia’s leadership and the positive responses of developing country partners to date provide promising examples.
USAID’s Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade Program supported the independent third party certification of more than 1.2 million acres of natural production forest in Indonesia.
Furthermore, the Forestry Ministry adopted a mandatory national Timber Legality Assurance System for all exports, developed through a multi-stakeholder approach. These and related efforts are helping to address a major cause of forest loss in Indonesia.
At the G-20 Summit in 2009, Indonesia made a bold commitment to reduce emissions by 26 percent by 2020, and up to 41 percent with international support, while maintaining economic growth at 7 percent per year.
This pledge has catalyzed important partnerships with Norway, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and others.
In 2010 Indonesia and Norway signed a Letter of Intent to cooperate on achieving the ambitious goals stated by the President which led to the development of REDD+ institutions, selection of pilot province, and the outline of a national REDD+ strategy.
Finalizing that strategy is now the responsibility of the President’s REDD+ taskforce, indicating the high level support for REDD+ in Indonesia. The agreement has been an important catalyst for REDD+ implementation in Indonesia.
The Berau Forest Carbon Program (BFCP) is an Indonesian government-led partnership, being developed with the support of Germany, Norway, the United States and Australia. As a REDD+ program operating across an entire political jurisdiction, the BFCP will demonstrate how REDD+ can be applied across an area large and complex enough to provide important lessons for national and provincial implementation.
The BFCP Strategic Plan is now the official document guiding land use planning across the District. This is an example of how REDD+ can be used not only to combat climate change, but as an opportunity to improve the regulatory framework for natural resource management and increase community livelihoods.
Even as donor governments are facing fiscal constraints on the international conservation funding, it is important to sustain support for partnership-based efforts like these.
Additional actions, which include a national forest clearing moratorium, and measures to enable Indonesians to adapt to the impacts of climate change, are still in their formative stages. Continued work toward meaningful actions on these and other issues are essential for Indonesia to meet its ambitious climate goals.
Climate change is a common environmental challenge to all humanity. Because of this, answers will be found through the kind of cooperative partnerships that Indonesia and its partners are embarking on. Such cooperation will lead to stronger domestic action and reinforced international cooperation.
Ultimately, by highlighting lessons, demonstrating success and building confidence, it will leverage greater investment over time. In the end, it takes two to tango.
We have learned the steps, now it is time to dance to the tune of equitable global cooperation that is in all our interests.
Wahjudi Wardojo is senior advisor for International Forest Carbon Policy at The Nature Conservancy in Jakarta. Duncan Marsh is director of International Climate Policy at The Nature Conservancy in Washington DC.