JAKARTA, Indonesia—Less than a year after 250 companies signed a commitment to zero deforestation, it may be easy to think that progress in the area of curbing deforestation is being made.
But a session at the Tropical Landscapes Summit 2015 has heard that we are only beginning to see the impact of policies, and that more infrastructure is needed to keep processes transparent and accountable.
A panel from government, industry, and NGO sectors headed the session called “Sustaining Tropical Landscapes: A Long-Term View”.
Daniel Nepstad, Executive Director of the Earth Innovation Institute, said that he had lived in Brazil for 30 years while it was torn apart by land disputes. It wasn’t until 2004, he said, that the country reached a turning point.
“There was a major cross-ministerial effort to enforce the law, existing laws,” he told the audience. “Since then, deforestation across Brazil has fallen by 76 percent – the biggest decline of deforestation in the world. And that was because of law enforcement.”
The One Map solution can be valuable, not just for sanctions of violators of law, but also for spatial planning and legislation
But laws alone are not enough, according to Nepstad. Part of the failure to enforce the laws of Brazil was because they were so unwieldy, he said, and part of a “crippling, stifling bureaucracy”.
“The laws were made without enough attention to how they would be implemented, or how they would throttle innovation,” he said. “And that means that people often thought that the rules are stacked against them. They felt that the laws are made at a national level and had nothing to do with their reality.”
Nepstad said that people in villages are often the best judges of what works. And what they want most of all is transparency and accountability from the people who make policies and laws.
But Indonesia is different from Brazil, warned Heru Prasetyo, founder of Indonesia Business Link. Not only does Brazil have federal laws that apply across the country (where Indonesia has state-based laws), but, he added, “Brazil is transparent and Indonesia is not transparent, and that is not excusable.”
Poor data management often hinders transparency, he said. Conflicting maps, incomplete data and outdated systems often mean that vital information is lost or left out. Policy decisions and law enforcement can be a challenge when different agencies are working off different maps, with varying data.
The Indonesian Minister of Agrarian and Spatial Planning, Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, said that the country is working on implementing the One Map policy that will make significant steps toward solving conflicts over land tenure, land degradation, land use conversion, and even poverty and unemployment. It will also assist law enforcement officials tasked with monitoring land use.
Our tropical landscapes are very precious - the better we plan, the better we live
“The One Map solution can be valuable, not just for sanctions of violators of law, but also for spatial planning and legislation,” he said.
The Indonesian government’s commitment to forest reform has been internationally applauded, and rightly so, said Nigel Sizer from the World Resources Institute.
He did warn, however, that Indonesia is not hitting its growth targets – partly due to global economic instability. But, he said, new plans to impose a $50 a ton export levy on palm oil, incentives at the village level such as rewards for increasing tree cover, and the implementation of the One Map system are part of the impressive road forward that Indonesia has started on.
There have been “truly amazing” advances in making information available, according to Peter Holmgren, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), but there must be care not to “establish one big monolith of what we want the world to look like”.
Diversity, demography and dynamics must be the defining words of future policies, according to Holmgren, in order to avoid painting “rural life in a certain way. We can’t have a postcard image of how things should be. It’s changing all the time”.
The correct policy design, transparency, stewardship and long-term planning are essential for forest protection, and there are enough resources to tackle the issue head on, agreed the panel.
“Our tropical landscapes are very precious,” said Ferry Mursyidan Baldan. “The better we plan, the better we live.”
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