Infinite Earth, the developer behind Indonesia’s first approved REDD+ project, has refuted an NGO’s claims that the project has been only partially approved by the Indonesian government.
In a statement sent to Mongabay.com, Infinite Earth confirmed that its Rimba Raya project in Central Kalimantan has an ecosystem restoration permit for more than 36,000 hectares of peat forest. The Hong Kong-based firm’s statement was a response to a report published last month by Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental activist group, that alleged Infinite Earth was overstating the extent of its project.
“Rimba Raya’s total project management area, as approved by Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry, is comprised of approximately 64,000 hectares (160,000 acres), which includes three distinct land-use rights regimes: a Ministerial decree for more than 36,000 ha, an environmental management cooperation agreement with the adjoining Tanjung Puting National Park for more than 18,000 hectares and a commercial agreement with a palm oil company for more than 8,000 hectares,” said the statement. “We have never claimed to have received a Ministerial Decree for 64,000 hectares.”
Infinite Earth said that only 47,000 ha of the project area is generating carbon credits, rather than the 64,000 asserted by the report from Greenomics. Infinite Earth is selling those credits in the voluntary market, where companies and individuals typically buy offsets for corporate social responsibility programs and to mitigate their personal greenhouse gas emissions.
Peatlands drainage in Central Kalimtantan
The project, which won approval in May after more than five years of uncertainty, is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 131 million tons over its 30-year life-span. The emissions reductions will come from avoiding drainage of area’s carbon dense peatlands and conversion of its forests to oil palm plantations.
“The incontrovertible fact remains that in the absence of the Rimba Raya project, this area would have irrefutably been converted to palm oil by this date,” continued the statement from Infinite Earth. “Instead, today the communities that have traditionally depended on these forests still have a chance to continue their traditional way of life rather than becoming enslaved by palm oil and with Rimba Raya’s help will experience significant improvements to their standard of living.”
Peat forest in Central Kalimantan.
Infinite Earth added that “the Indonesian government was not asked to forgo the tax revenues generated from the land-use permits.”
“Rimba Raya paid exactly the same rates that palm oil or timber concessionaires would have paid and it promises to deliver community development programs unmatched by the broken promises of palm oil.”
Rimba Raya’s project protects a buffer zone around Tanjung Punting National Park, an area of peat forest renowned for its important population of critically endangered orangutans. Orangutan Foundation International, an NGO, is a direct beneficiary of the project.
“The National Park and the endangered orang-utan have been spared the relentless pressures of palm oil expansion under which they both have suffered for decades,” concluded the statement.
Rimba Raya’s approval may provide a green light to other REDD+ project developers in Indonesia. Dozens of projects are in various stages of development, but have suffered from long bureaucratic delays and a slow market for carbon offsets. Several projects have folded altogether, including an Australian government-backed effort to reflood an area of peat swamp drained for the ill-fated “Mega Rice Project” in the 1990s.
Indonesia has one of the highest rates of annual forest loss in the world. Deforestation, forest degradation, and damage to carbon-dense peatlands account for over three-quarters of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
(07/03/2013) Australia is ending its major forest restoration project in Indonesian Borneo, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
(04/11/2013) The basic premise of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) program seems simple: rich nations pay tropical countries for preserving their forests. Yet the program has made relatively limited progress on the ground since 2007, when the concept got tentative go-ahead during U.N. climate talks in Bali. The reasons for the stagnation are myriad, but despite the simplicity of the idea, implementing REDD+ is extraordinarily complex. Still the last few years have provided lessons for new pilot projects by testing what does and doesn’t work. Today a number of countries have REDD+ projects, some of which are even generating carbon credits in voluntary markets. By supporting credibly certified projects, companies and individuals can claim to “offset” their emissions by keeping forests standing. However one of the countries expected to benefit most from REDD+ has been largely on the sidelines. Indonesia’s REDD+ program has been held up by numerous factors, but perhaps the biggest challenge for REDD+ in Indonesia is corruption.