Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Hosting the world's third largest forest area, Indonesia badly needs a legal basis to protect and preserve its remaining tropical forests that are often referred to the "world's lung."

Indonesia has a very high deforestation rate at 1.1 million hectares per year, and has been accused as the world's third-largest gas emitter.

To help preserve Indonesian forests and tackle the climate change impacts, Norway has pledged to provide Indonesia with $1 billion in funding for REDD+ (Reduction of Emission from Forest Deforestation and Degradation Plus) activities.

In line with a Letter of Intent (LOI) or the Oslo Accord signed by Norway and Indonesia last year, the government is expected to voluntarily impose a moratorium on deforestation.

For that purpose, the government earlier this year issued at least two important regulations.

The first one was Presidential Instruction No. 10/2011 on a two-year Moratorium on New Logging Concessions for Primary Forests and Peat lands, and the second a Presidential decree on the establishment of renewed REDD Task Force which was given a mandate to establish a REDD Agency or Institution to implement the deforestation moratorium.

Environmental NGOs had for a long time been urging the government to issue the moratorium, which finally came out despite some delays due to opposition and pressure from business stakeholders.

The long-awaited deforestation moratorium was signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in May 2011 to help curb the climate change impacts and preserve the tropical forests and biodiversity in it.

To accommodate the business interests, the government, however, has made several exceptions and exclusions in the implementation of the moratorium decree.

According to Agus Purnomo, the President`s Special Assistant on Climate Change, the exceptions include logging concessions covered by "in principle" permits from the forestry minister, on forest clearing to make room for vital national development projects , such as geothermal, oil and gas explorations and exploitation, electricity, paddy fields and sugarcane plantations.

Besides, the presidential decree was only applicable to primary forests and peat lands in conserved forests, protected forests, production forests and the Other Use Land (APL), while logging concessions still could be issued on secondary or degraded forests.

The exceptions and the narrow scope in the moratorium implementation, however, have disappointed NGOs.

In October 2011, six months after the issuance of the moratorium decree, a team of scientists linked to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR ) released an analysis of the government`s two-year ban on new forestry concessions.

CIFOR in its analysis acknowledged the importance of the deforestation moratorium as a step towards meeting its voluntary commitment to reduce emissions.

However, according to the key findings of the analysis, several issues were unresolved concerning the area and status of land covered by the moratorium, and hence the amount of carbon stored in the affected forests and peatlands.

Meanwhile, The renewed REDD Plus Task Force appointed by the president last September is responsible for setting up an institution to monitor schemes for the United Nations-backed REDD policy. The task force has been given until the end of 2012 to achieve the goal.

"The task force is meant to set up the REDD institution, to coordinate arrangement of the REDD+ national strategy, to set up a financial instrument and monitoring agency and monitor implementation of REDD and of a new permit moratorium on peat lands and primary forests," said Agus Purnomo, who is concurrently the task force`s secretary, while the chair is Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, a presidential adviser.

REDD is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

While, REDD Plus goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Helen Clark, when visiting Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, on April 27, 2011, said "the Indonesian Government is on the right path of progress, and has a chance to cut the carbon emission in accordance with the ambitious target of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono up to 26 percent by 2020."

Still having a vast area of virgin forests, Central Kalimantan Province, has been selected to host a REDD+ pilot project , a program designed to preserve forest ecosystems and tackling climate change.

Central Kalimantan hosted the fifth annual meeting of the Governors` Climate and Forest Task Force (GCF) in Palangkaraya, from September 20 to 22, 2011, to discuss sub-national and provincial efforts to tackle deforestation and develop REDD+ schemes.

Another highlight concerning the environmental issues in Indonesia earlier this year was forest fires that produce haze.

Most forest fires which actually affect the country, particularly on Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Java Islands, almost every year, were triggered by plantation companies applying the cheapest method to open new plantation areas.

This year, forest fires occurred in ten provinces but was relatively not too severe thanks to La Nina nature phenomena which brought a lot of rains.

The Indonesian government has been committed to cutting the number of forest fire hot spots by 20 percent annually through preventive efforts, in order to meet Indonesia`s pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

Indonesia has also joined the world in celebrating the International Year of Forest 2011 as declared by the United Nations General Assembly to celebrate people's action to sustainably manage the world`s forests. The International Forest Year 2011's theme is "Forests for People".

In line with the International Forest Year's theme, Indonesia has applied forestry policies which are pro-growth, pro-job, pro-people, and pro-environment, according to Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan.

The Forestry Ministry has allocated funds amounting to Rp3 trillion to support the program of planting more than 1.7 billion trees across the country this year.

"We are 100 percent pro-people," Zulkifli Hasan stated, adding that the second largest budget goes to the preservation of conservation area program.

He believed that the country has adequate regulations in the forestry sector, but the problem is the implementation which is very much related to culture. (*)

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
Copyright © ANTARA 2011