Aug 24
Saving Forests with Carrots as well as Sticks – Part 1

Author: Tensie Whelan, President of Rainforest Alliance

August 19, 2010

Forests cover about a third of Earth’s land area and contain about 70% of the carbon found in living things. They are one of the keys to climate change, especially tropical forests, which also harbor 95% of the planet’s terrestrial biodiversity and 40% of terrestrial carbon, and are responsible for at least one-third of the annual exchange of carbon dioxide between the biosphere and the atmosphere. Today deforestation and forest degradation accounts for 20% of global atmospheric carbon emissions, and the bulk of that comes from tropical countries.

Protecting forests, especially tropical forests, is one of the most cost-effective ways there is to reduce emissions as well as preserve biodiversity. Yet globalization has accelerated the alarming rate at which we have been losing forests worldwide, including sensitive tropical forests in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Agriculture (especially soy, oil palm, cattle, bio-fuels, and fast growing, short rotation plantation timber for pulp/paper) is the leading cause of deforestation. But illegal logging is probably the most pernicious and visible cause of forest degradation, which is defined as the reduction of tree biomass over time through over-extraction, poor management and/or illegal harvesting of valuable timber. Degradation accounts for roughly 20% of carbon emissions from tropical forests, so illegal logging is a significant contributor to global warming, in addition to the other forms environmental damage it causes, from habitat loss to erosion and flooding. It has been implicated, for example, in the severity of the floods in Pakistan.

It’s also big business. Illegally harvested timber represents 20 to 40 percent of global production of industrial wood (460 million to 850 million cubic yards) according to the UN. Most illegal logging occurs in particularly vulnerable regions such as the Amazon Basin, central Africa, southeast Asia and Russia, according to the EU. From producer countries, it may pass through downstream manufacturers before eventually making its way to consumer countries — that is, into the hands unwitting shoppers like you and me. Cheap wood products whose wood comes from inscrutable, unverified sources may seem like a bargain to us individually, yet they come with hidden costs to all of us, including accelerated climate change, loss of habitat and biodiversity and the loss of sustainable livelihoods which depend on intact forests.

Organizations like mine have been fighting forest loss since the awareness broke in the 1980s of the crisis in the Amazon rainforests. But now there is evidence that the fight is starting to go our way, and the tide is turning. A new study by the UK think tank Chatham House shows that over the past decade, the efforts of governments, NGOs and the private sector around the world have actually cut global illegal logging by 25%, including whopping 50-75% drops in the Brazilian Amazon, Cameroon and Indonesia. Imports of illegally sourced wood to the seven wood consumer and wood processing countries studied are now down 30 percent from their peak in 2004. As a result 42 million acres of forest over the past few years — roughly the same land area as the state of Illinois – and at least 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions have been saved.

These dramatic gains, and the even bigger ones we must achieve in the near future, are due to a couple of factors. One important one, though by no means the only one, is government interdiction – tougher laws and tougher enforcement.

In 2008, the United States passed the Lacey Act, making it the first country to adopt a criminally enforceable ban on all trade in illegally sourced plants and plant products including furniture, paper and lumber. The law requires importers to indicate origin of wood products, and to pay stiff penalties if they can’t or won’t, and even risk jail time if they knowingly import illegal wood.

This summer, the European Parliament followed suit and voted for a similar ban on the import and sale of illegally harvested timber. It may seem surprising, but it is not currently illegal to sell wood or wood products in the EU that was cut down illegally in the country of origin. The new ban will change that. The European Council still has to formally approve it, individual EU states will set the penalties, and the ban won’t actually go into effect until 2012. But together with the US Lacey Act the EU ban will soon close big loopholes that have been allowing illegal timber into consumer markets. They have the potential to significantly reduce the volume of illegal wood traded and imported into consumer countries, and to reduce the negative impacts of illegal logging on producer countries, which include corruption, poverty, unsustainable use of resources, loss of sustainable livelihoods, and lasting damage to their economies as well as to their environments. 

The producer countries are precisely those developing countries whose economies and ecologies are most vulnerable and most damaged by illegal logging. That’s why it’s so important that the changes in the EU and the US are coinciding with a new trend towards further tightening of laws and enforcement in producer countries. For example, Brazil recently announced current Amazon deforestation has fallen 20% over last year’s rate, and is only about a fifth of the 2004 rate. The Brazilian government attributes this partly to declining commodity prices, but also to much tougher enforcement, including new satellite photography technology that allows them to spot illegal logging even in cloudy weather. In the wake of the EU illegal logging ban, Liberia just agreed to interdict exports of illegal lumber to any EU member country, setting up a new system to monitor logging and downstream milling and manufacturing of its timber.

So the recent upturn in government interdiction and enforcement is an important factor in gains against illegal logging over the past decade. But there are also other important factors to consider. Interdiction has not done it alone and will not be enough in the future. We have learned by experience in the Amazon and elsewhere that simply outlawing logging by government fiat ultimately won’t be enough to protect the world’s forests – too many people (a billion) rely on extracting forest resources for their livelihoods, and too little of the world’s forests can be effectively policed by governments anyway. Protecting them reliably will require not only big sticks, but big carrots as well – ramped up positive incentives for managing forests properly that are at least as powerful as ramped up laws and enforcement to deter abuse. The carrots are explained in Part 2 of this blog.

Aug 24
Indonesian govt says no to converting peatland into plantations

Govt says no to converting peatland into plantations

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 08/23/2010 9:45 AM | Headlines

Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has turned down a request by the Central Kalimantan provincial administration to develop 127,000 hectares of peatland production forest for oil palm and mining sites.

The request was made by Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang and Katingan Regent Duel Rawing.

“Zulkifli rejected the request because peatland forests in Katingan are to be allocated for conservation projects,” Hadi Daryanto, the ministry’s director general of production forest development told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Central Kalimantan has the largest area of peatland of all the provinces. The peatland stores huge amounts of carbon.

Last month, UN climate adviser and philanthropist George Soros visited Katingan to inspect peatlands in the area, but Hadi was quick to point out that Soros’s visit had nothing to do with the government’s rejection.

The governments of Indonesia and Norway signed a letter of intent (LoI) on a climate deal in May requiring Indonesia, the world’s third-largest forest nation, to slow down forest loss. In return, Indonesia would receive US$1 billion from Norway under a climate change scheme.

The government would stop issuing new permits to convert natural forest and peatland for two years starting in 2011 with the pilot project for the moratorium to be announced in October at the latest.

A source told the Post that Central Kalimantan would likely host the pilot project.

Indonesia has 120 million hectares of forest, but the country’s deforestation rate hovers at 1 million hectares per year.

Zulkifli has repeatedly claimed he had not issued any permit to convert peatland for commercial purposes since he took office last year.

The 2007 Spatial Law prohibits the conversion of peatland with a depth of more than 3 meters.

Hadi said the ministry would implement new forestry mechanisms to shift income from selling timbers to ecosystem restoration projects. “Indonesia is the first country to implement the so-called innovative forestry mechanism,” he said.

The conservation projects would be held in former logging areas to restore damaged ecosystems and biodiversity.

Concession holders can reap money from trading in carbon in the forests, environmental services or opening ecotourism sites in the area.

“They could still be allowed to harvest timber, but it would not be their core business,” he said.

The permit for ecosystem restoration projects would be valid for 60 years and could be extended for another 35 years.

The ministry is looking to allocate 500,000 hectares per year for ecosystem restoration activities.

A map issued by the ministry indicates that conservationists could run ecosystem restoration projects in 40 million hectares in the country.

So far this year, the ministry has issued permits to PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) in Jambi and South Sumatra with 98,000 hectares and another 86,450 hectares to PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration Indonesia in the East Kutai district of East Kalimantan.

Aug 24

Orangutans in rehabilitation to get new homes in Kalimantan

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 08/24/2010 9:19 AM | National
With a permit already in hand, PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration Indonesia (ROI) is preparing to release orangutans into Borneo jungles after years of being held in rehabilitation centers.

The Forestry Ministry awarded a ROI license to restore 86,450 hectares of former timber concession area in East Kutai district, East Kalimantan, to be the new home for rehabilitated orangutans. 

“We target the gradual release to start in April 2011 at the latest,” chairman of Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) Togu Manurung told The Jakarta Post.

There are currently 226 orangutans held in captivity in the BOSF rehabilitation center in East Kalimantan. The BOSF set up ROI when the government allowed only the company to propose permits for ecosystem restoration projects.

He said that the new area was located 750 meters above sea level and well-stocked with tree species to provide shelter and food for wild orangutans.

The BOSF also rehabilitated some 612 orangutans in its Central Kalimantan center.

Togu said the release of orangutans in Central Kalimantan was expected to start from November in cooperation with timber company of PT Akhates Plywood.

“The plan is to return some 40 orangutans back to their habitat in the jungle by November, the forest fruit season,” he said.

The company currently proposed an additional area of some 23,000 hectares in East Kalimantan and 200,000 hectares in Central Kalimantan.

BOSF chairman of board of trustee, Bungaran Saragih asserted that ROI would not harvest trees in its concession areas.

“We are committed to protecting the orangutans. They need forests. They have been living in the rehabilitation centers for too long,” he told the Post on Saturday.

Bungaran, who was former forestry and agriculture minister, admitted the high costs to conserve orangutans, whose population sharply declined due to the expansion of oil palm plantations and mining sites, among others.

He said ROI would spend at least two years monitoring the daily activities of released orangutans in its new habitat to ensure that they could survive in the area. 

“We should teach [orangutans] survival skills for the wild. Some have been in the rehabilitation center for about nine years,” he said.

The government pledged to release every orangutan into forests. In the last 35 years, about 50,000 orangutans have died due to deforestation and habitat loss, government data shows. 

About 90 percent of orangutans live in Borneo and Sumatra. It is estimated there are 6,667 orangutans in Sumatra, mostly in the Leuser ecosystem, and 54,567 in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo.

The remaining 10 percent are in Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature said the orangutan species native to Kalimantan was endangered. Orangutans in Sumatra are also critically endangered.

JP/Adianto P. Simamora
Aug 24
24 Aug 2010 11:50:58 GMT
Source: Reuters

* Likely to be first fully validated REDD project under VCS

* Approval of methodology boost for REDD projects

By David Fogarty and Sunanda Creagh

SINGAPORE/JAKARTA, Aug 24 (Reuters) – An Indonesian project aimed at saving a vast tract of rainforest has past a milestone seen as a boost in the development of a global market in forest carbon credits.

That market under the U.N.-backed scheme reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) could eventually be worth billions of dollars annually and is central to the goal of driving private sector involvement in forest protection.

The Rimba Raya conservation project covers nearly 100,000 ha (250,000 acres) of carbon-rich peat swamp forest in the province of Central Kalimantan on Borneo island. Forests soak up large amounts of carbon dioxide and scientists say curbing deforestation is a key way to fight climate change.

The project has earned the first-ever approval of an accounting method for measuring the reduction in carbon emissions under REDD and is being developed by InfiniteEARTH, with funding from Shell <RDSa.L>, Gazprom Market and Trading <GAZP.MM> and the Clinton Foundation.

The Voluntary Carbon Standard programme, the most respected standard for voluntary carbon offsets, approved the methodology after it passed a mandated double auditing process.

The project itself is now undergoing third-party validation and is likely to become the world’s first VCS-approved REDD project later this year, Gazprom and InfiniteEARTH say.

The step is a boost for other REDD projects and investors wanting certainty on the quality of REDD carbon credits. There are several dozen REDD projects globally, including more than a dozen in Indonesia at various stages of development.

“This is seen as a landmark moment for the carbon market,” Gazprom said in a statement. “Historically REDD projects have suffered due to their exclusion from the Kyoto Protocol,” it said, as well as the absence of a recognised global standard.

The project is expected to reduce 18.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted in the first 10 years and up to 75 million tonnes in the 30-year life of the project.

At about $10 a credit, that means about $750 million over 30 years.

LIVELIHOODS

The future sale of carbon offsets from the project will help boost the livelihoods of more than 11,000 people in the area and save rare species including orang-utans and other primates, the statement says.

REDD aims to reward developing countries that save, protect and rehabilitate forests through large-scale projects. Poorer nations and local forest communities are meant to take a major share of the sale of the carbon credits to rich nations, which can use them to meet mandated emission reduction targets.

REDD is not yet formally part of a broader U.N. climate pact and potential buyers of the credits have been waiting for an approved global standard for forest CO2 credits to ensure the reductions are real and verifiable.

“The methodology was designed for conservation projects that avoid planned land-use conversion in tropical peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia,” the statement said.

The project itself borders Tanjung Puting national park and the area has been under growing threat from encroaching palm oil plantations.

“It shows small-scale REDD can be done. This is also demonstrating the ability of project-based activities, that they can do that,” Daniel Murdiyarso, senior scientist at Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), told Reuters on Tuesday. (Editing by Sue Thomas)

Aug 24
Free At Last: First rehabilitated orangutans in 9 years to be released into the wilds of Borneo

Indonesia Forestry Ministry issues decree allowing orangutan release in restored timber concession forest

Bogor, Indonesia, 20 Aug 2010: The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) announced today that it would, for the first time in 9 years, release  rehabilitated captive orangutans  back into the wild.  The long-awaited release was finally facilitated by the issuance of a special Ministerial Decree by the Indonesian Forestry Minister dated August 18, 2010, which will allow the release of the orangutan into a former timber concession restored into natural forest by PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration Indonesia. The restored forest is located in the East Kutai district of East Kalimantan, Indonesia.

PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration is a forest rehabilitation company established by BOSF for the purpose of creating a suitable area to release rehabilitated orangutans currently living in BOSF rehabilitation centers in Kalimantan.

The release is the first step toward the release of all captive orangutans in Indonesia by 2015 as directed in December 2007 by the Indonesian government at Nusa Dua Bali. For the past 8 years BOSF has been unable to release rehabilitated orangutans back to the wild due to a lack of suitable habitat for the releases.  The Forestry Ministry Decree has now, for the first time, opened the door for BOSF to begin releasing the formerly captive orangutans it has rehabilitated for survival in the wild.

The release area was selected because its conditions are near perfect for the survival process for newly released orangutans. It is an 86,450 hectare site in which there is a low density of wild orangutans.  Generally, around 30,000 hectares are required to support 250 orangutans. The topographical conditions in the restored forest area are ideal, with an altitude of 750 meters above sea level and well-stocked with tree species which provide shelter and food for wild orangutans.  It is also safe from human threats as the local inhabitants are highly supportive of the release program.

At the present time, BOSF has some 838 orangutans in its rehabilitation centers, with 612 in the Central Kalimantan Reintroduction Center in Nyaru Menteng and another 226 in the East Kalimantan Reintroduction Center in Samboja Lestari.

The historical release process began during a courtesy call by the Board of Trustees and Board of Directors in April of this year to then forestry minister Zulkifli Hasan, who voiced his full support for the BOSF release program.  The August 18 Ministerial Decree is a direct outcome of that visit.

“Now we can begin to concentrate on the next step, the preparation of new habitats,” said BOSF CEO Togu Manurung.  “There is still much that we have to do,” he added, “but at least this is a good start for all of us.”

Manurung further said that the issuance of the decree did a great service to the BOSF as it will allow the organization to begin to realize its goals.  The first priority, he said, was the release of Bornean Orangutans into their natural habitat with the help of local populations.

“The government has now started the process of issuing permits for us to take control of suitable land for orangutan release,” said the BOSF Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Professor Bungaran Saragih, a former Minister of Forestry.  “We must release all captive orangutans back into the wild.  They have for too long been living in cages,” said Professor Saragih.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation is an organization committed to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of orangutans in Central and East Kalimantan.  The BOSF has a number of sister organizations around the world supporting its efforts with fund-raising and public awareness. BOSF currently operates two orangutan reintroduction centers—Samboja Lestari in East Kalimantan and Nyaru Menteng in Central Kalimantan. BOSF also operates land rehabilitation program at Samboja Lestari, and program for the rehabilitation of orangutan natural habitat as well as the 369,000 hectare Mawas conservation area in Central Kalimantan, which has an estimated orangutan population of 3,000.  The Bogor, West Java-based foundation also operates an eco-tourism lodge at its Samboja, East Kalimantan rehabilitation center.

Sep 13

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