The Indonesian government has approved its first REDD+ project to reduce emissions from deforestation and peatlands degradation, reports President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s office.
The Rimba Raya project is located in Central Kalimantan — Indonesian Borneo — near Tanjung Puting National Park, an area of rainforest and peatlands that is home to a large population of orangutans. It will protect nearly 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) as a buffer zone for the park. The land would otherwise be turned into oil palm plantations.
“I am proud that Central Kalimantan is able to deliver the world’s flagship REDD+ project,” said Central Kalimantan Governor Teras Narang in a statement. “We look forward to working with the project developers in a cooperative ‘learning by doing’ environment.”
The project’s approval comes after three years of delays. Rimba Raya had already met criteria set by two leading standards for REDD projects — the Voluntary Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance but needed final government approval to officially move forward. Now approved, Rimba Raya’s backers, including Russian energy giant Gazprom and the insurance firm Allianz, can sell tradable carbon credits in the voluntary carbon market. Credits in the voluntary carbon market are typically used by companies to “offset” their greenhouse gas emissions for corporate social responsibility programs, rather than complying with climate regulations. However REDD+ advocates hope that forest carbon credits will someday be included in compliance frameworks. Critics of REDD+ don’t believe forest-based carbon offsets should be allowed.
REDD+ has been progressing slowly at the international level. After talks broke down over the weekend in Doha, discussion on REDD+ has been pushed out another year. Many potential REDD+ investors are waiting on the sidelines until details of the program are finalized. Chief concerns include processes for verifying emissions reductions and safeguards for project development and implementation. Finance at all stages remains a big question mark. Governments are expected to pick up the early costs of the program, but limited funds have materialized so far, a point of contention for Indonesia.
“REDD + plays an important role in reducing emissions from the forestry sector, but the cost for REDD+ forests and community-based activities is high, so Indonesia urges developed countries to immediately realize the financing for REDD+,” said Rachmat Witoelar, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Special Envoy for Climate Change and Executive Chair of National Council on Climate Change, in a statement.
Indonesia has been watching REDD+ closely. With the world’s highest emissions from deforestation and peatlands degradation, Indonesia could emerge as a chief beneficiary of REDD+. But the program still faces many hurdles in the country, including governance challenges, corruption, and strong opposition from the plantation, mining, and logging sectors.