Change is in the air today. We’re picking up several new crew members who are joining us for the journey to Sumatra and the peatlands of Riau province. As I’ve been escorting one or two of them around the Esperanza, I can’t help thinking back to when I first came on board barely more than three weeks ago. It’s odd to think that this ship which is now so familiar was once just as new to me as well.
You’ll get to meet some of them over the next couple of weeks but the big event today was perhaps the lynchpin of the entire expedition. In the VIP room of the bustling passenger terminal at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta, we presented our Forests For Climate plan to get money flowing from developed countries to fund forest protection in Indonesia, Brazil and elsewhere, with the eventual aim of zero deforestation across the globe. I covered the nuts and bolts of it a couple of weeks ago, but it’s a complex piece of work so it’s worth going over some of the details again.
The event was jointly hosted with the Indonesian environment minister, Rachmat Witoelar who opened the meeting. “Climate change cannot be held back if we continue with business as usual,” he said, adding that he wanted Indonesia to move to a low carbon economy while at the same time solving the economic problems which forces large numbers of the population to live in poverty.
Christoph Thies, a Greenpeace campaigner from Germany, explained the essence of the plan with a very snazzy slideshow followed by Arief Wicaksono, political advisor in Jakarta, who covered some of the technicalities. Christoph is one of the brains behind the proposal so he knows it inside out, and he kept stressing how important it is that funding forest protection – or carbon funding as it’s sometime referred to – doesn’t turn into a big emissions offsetting scheme. Developed countries need to slash their own emissions as well as pumping in money to protect forests, otherwise there’s going to be no real benefit to the climate which is a flaw in many other carbon funding proposals being put forward.
The impact of deforestation on climate change will be high on the agenda at the UN meeting on climate change in Copenhagen next December, when the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol will be agreed. That’s why representatives from several countries which might donate carbon funding money were invited, including Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Australia, the UK and Japan. These potential donors need to realise that certain conditions need to be met before forest protection funds start flowing if this plan is going to be effective.
One of the conditions is that there’s a moratorium on deforestation in Indonesia, which is what we’re asking the president to put in place (you can too by writing to him) – this would allow some breathing space to develop ways of protecting the forest permanently. Another condition is that sustainable economic development for local communities is of prime importance, so that the money goes where it’s needed and not into someone’s Swiss bank account.
Another pre-requisite is tying the incoming funds to existing forests, rather than just replanting forests which have already been destroyed as that would spring the offsetting trap we’re so keen to avoid. We also want to make sure that companies which have been landbanking aren’t making a fat profit from selling their permits for logging and palm oil plantations back to the government, which would divert money away from the local communities and into their own pockets.
It wasn’t all Greenpeace speakers, though, and representatives from the provinces of Riau, Banda Aceh and Kalimantan Tengah also took the floor. Representing Riau’s regional government was Susanto Kurniawan who presented some shocking figures: since 1982, Riau has lost 61.5 per cent of its forests and peatlands, dropping from 6.5 million hectares to just 2.5 million. Meanwhile, a representative from Banda Aceh’s regional government explained how the governor there is forging ahead with a green plan which values intact forests and a healthy environment in general, and was keen to get international funding for their protection.
We don’t have long to get this plan working, and as Christoph pointed out, it’s only fair that the richer nations pay for the upkeep of the forests in Indonesia and elsewhere. Historically, they’re responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions and most of the deforestation that’s taken place, so it’s a case of making the polluter pay.
Don’t forget, you can help by writing to the Indonesian president asking him to put a moratorium in place which is essential if the Forests For Climate plan is going to work. And tomorrow we leave Jakarta to head for Sumatra to see how much damage the palm oil plantations have really done to the environment there.
posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza