Large Indonesian Forest Protection Project Gets Underway
Indonesia recently approved a rainforest conservation project that has been years in the making. The Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve, under the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) programme, is set to preserve both carbon, biodiversity and support the livelihoods of local communities.
The Rimba Raya project will protect an area of forest about the size of Singapore, in Indonesian Borneo. Normally, this carbon-rich peat swamp forest would be a prime target for clearing to make way for palm oil plantations. In order to prevent this, investors such as Russian gas giant Gazprom and the German insurance firm Allianz will back its preservation. In return, they are set to receive carbon credits that they can use or sell for profit. Each of the 104 million credits that are expected over the 30-year project represents about a tonne of carbon-dioxide that is not emitted. At the current market rates, the credits could be worth somewhere between US$390 million to US$650 million. This money is expected to go back into the local community, the government and to investors.
Critics of REDD however, believe that forest-based carbon offsets are the wrong way forward. Some potential investors are still waiting for more details before they decide whether or not to support these projects. They are concerned with how emission reductions are to be verified and with safeguards for project development and implementation.
Over the course of its development, the project faced a number of obstacles, including objections by the palm oil industry, and took three years longer to develop than planned. The competition for land and resources in the area is intense. It is rich in terms of biodiversity and adjoins an established national park, Tanjung Putting, as a buffer zone.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan signed a letter declaring that all the key steps were passed by the project. “We hope projects like Rimba Raya will lead the way in proving that conservation can address the rural development needs of the communities and also preserve our forests for generations to come,” Hasan said in a statement. In a separate statement, Central Kalimantan Governor Teras Narang said “I am proud that Central Kalimantan is able to deliver the world’s flagship REDD+ project. We look forward to working with the project developers in a cooperative ‘learning by doing’ environment.”
ICTSD Reporting: “Indonesia approves landmark forest protection project,” PLANETARK, 6 December 2012; “Special Report: How Indonesia hurt its climate change project,” REUTERS, 16 August 2011; “Palming off,” THE ECONOMIST, 6 December 2012; “Indonesia approves first REDD+ project in Borneo,” MONGABAY, 5 December 2012.
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