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Indonesia and Norway give REDD+ deal another go after earlier breakup

Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae). Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

  • Indonesia and Norway have embarked on another REDD+ scheme that will see the latter pay the former to keep its forests standing, after a previous attempt failed because of lack of payment.
  • Indonesia is home to the third-largest expanse of tropical rainforest in the world, and the bulk of its greenhouse gas emissions comes from land-use change, forest degradation, and deforestation.
  • Officials from both countries say it’s of mutual benefit to both countries, and to the world, to preserve Indonesia’s forests boost their capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Under the new deal, payments still outstanding from the previous agreement, which was terminated in 2021, will be honored.

JAKARTA — Indonesia has signed a new climate deal with Norway that will see the Nordic country pay the Southeast Asian one to keep its forests standing. The deal comes a year after Indonesia terminated a nearly identical scheme between the two countries over the lack of payments.

Land-use change, forest degradation, and deforestation account for the bulk of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The idea behind the new deal (and the previous one) is that by slowing or outright preventing forest loss, Indonesia will be able to preserve what’s currently the third-biggest expanse of tropical rainforest on Earth (behind the Amazon and the Congo Basin). Measurable progress on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, a mechanism known as REDD+, will then be eligible for payment under the deal with Norway.

The new partnership is enshrined in a memorandum of understanding signed by Indonesia’s minister of environment and forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, and Norway’s minister of climate and environment, Espen Barth Eide, on Sept. 12.

Siti said the intention to form a new partnership was conveyed by Norway in a letter dated Aug. 5.

“Indonesia under the leadership of [President] Jokowi [Joko Widodo] has made great strides and I have to happily announce that we see Indonesia as a world leader on global issues that we’re discussing today,” Eide said. “It’s good for Indonesia, it’s good for Norway, it’s good for the planet because all of our efforts to reduce our emissions from energy, from the industry, from transport, would all be in vain if we don’t look after the carbon sink we already have.”

Sungai Utik rainforest in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

Rewarded for reducing emissions

The centerpiece of Indonesia’s forest policy is its “FOLU Net Sink 2030 Operational Plan,” an ambitious bid to transform its forests into a major carbon sink by 2030, absorbing 140 million metric tons more CO2 than they emit into the atmosphere.

Indonesia has long been among the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases from deforestation, forest fires and peatland destruction, but its deforestation rate has declined in recent years. According to official data, Indonesia’s deforestation rate in 2019/2020 was 115,500 hectares (285,400 acres), an almost 90% drop from 1.09 million hectares (2.69 million acres) in 2014/2015.

This progress came during the period when the previous agreement between Indonesia and Norway, signed in 2010, was still in place.

In 2019, Norway agreed to pay 530 million krone ($56 million) for Indonesia preventing the emission of 11.23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) through REDD+ in 2017. But by 2021, Norway still hadn’t paid, prompting Indonesia to terminate the REDD+ agreement.

“Indonesia and Norway had cooperation on environment, with REDD+ agreement in 2010, and it was very unfortunate [that] we cannot continue this cooperation,” Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, said during a joint press conference with Norwegian officials in Jakarta on Sept. 12. “But we learned a lot from the REDD+ cooperation and continue to be constructive in our engagement.”

Building on their long-standing partnership on environmental issues and past experiences, Norway and Indonesia have entered a new agreement, Eide said.

“[We are] learning from our shared experience in the past and moving towards something that I think is really and genuinely promising,” he said at the press conference.

Bustar Maitar, CEO of Indonesian environmental NGO EcoNusa Foundation, said he’s optimistic the new climate partnership will further strengthen efforts to achieve the FOLU Net Sink target by 2030 and other climate actions.

Logging concession in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo credit: Rhett A. Butler

What to expect

The details of the new deal will be ironed out in a new contribution agreement, set to be signed in the next three to four weeks, Eide said.

“And I would like to underline that this is just around the corner and that this is very promising work based on the MOU that we needed to sign in order to complete the contribution agreement,” he said.

What’s clear, though, is that Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) will channel the payments directly to Indonesia’s Environment Fund. And the $56 million outstanding that Norway had agreed to pay Indonesia back in 2019 will be paid under the new partnership.

Eide said Norwegian payments for Indonesia’s REDD+ achievements made from 2016/2017 to 2019/2020 will be based on the existing measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) protocol, a system set up by Indonesia to account for its progress in reducing emissions.

Payments for results generated from 2020/2021 onward will be based on a mutually agreed updated MRV protocol.

“The first results-based contribution will amount to USD 56 million for verified emission reductions in the forest year” 2016/2017, or August 2016 through July 2017, Norway’s Ministry for Climate and Environment said in a press statement. “Additional results-based contributions will be [made] annually as emission reductions are verified for subsequent years.”

The new partnership differs in scope from the previous Indonesia-Norway REDD+ agreement, according to Indonesia’s environment minister Siti.

“It is not just about the result-based contribution agreement, it encompasses a broader engagement on climate and forest issues in Indonesia,” she said at the press conference. “The MOU is also to emphasize the importance of deliverable, tangible and direct benefits for the community, and for the progress of Indonesia.”

To prevent this new deal from being abruptly terminated like the last one, it will be based on mutual respect and mutual understanding, complete with an MRV protocol that’s mutually agreed on by the two countries, said Dida Migfar Ridha, the head of foreign partnerships at Indonesia’s environment ministry.

“This [partnership] is built together in accordance to Indonesia’s characteristics. For instance, we’re based on local community and Indigenous peoples, [and] we have internal regulations [on those issues],” he said on the sidelines of the press conference. “What’s most important is mutual trust and respect by paying attention to existing regulations, especially since [the new partnership] is carried out in Indonesia.”

 

Banner image: Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae). Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay.

Related Indonesia news from Mongabay’s podcast: Guest Leif Cocks joins to discuss the continued destruction of habitat for the critically endangered Sumatran elephant, and prospects for survival of the recently described Tapanuli orangutan in the face of a hydroelectric dam project in North Sumatra that’s also been stained by the loss of 16 workers’ lives so far. Listen here:

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