‘Green treasures’ could fuel a new economic sector, says Indonesian President

JAKARTA, Indonesia (27 September 2011)_Opening the inaugral Forests Indonesia conference in Jakarta today, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called sustainable forests part of his plan for putting Indonesia’s economy in the global top 12 by 2025.

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Forest scenery in Indonesia. Photo by Dede Rohadi/CIFOR

JAKARTA, Indonesia (27 September 2011)_Opening the inaugural Forests Indonesia conference in Jakarta today, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called sustainable forests part of his plan for putting Indonesia’s economy in the global top 12 by 2025.

“Indonesia, home to the third largest tropical forest in the world, views itself as the custodian of these great green treasures; and I want to keep it that way,” he said. “I ask you to join me in pledging to safeguard this national treasure, for the sake of our children.”

The wealth of Indonesia’s forests can be counted in their rich biodiversity and the many valuable products they provide Indonesian people. Thanks to a funding mechanism known as REDD+, that wealth can also be counted in carbon.

In an effort to combat climate change, REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) pays countries to preserve carbon in their forests.

President Yudhoyono has pledged to cut Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2020, and by 41 percent with international assistance. Norway has since committed US$1 billion to help Indonesia meet its target. Among other initiatives, the deal with Norway includes a two-year moratorium on new forest concessions effective May this year.

President Yudhoyono explained: “These measures give us time and resources to review and revise land use policy and practice. They also provide opportunity to develop a new sector in our economy—through ecosystem restoration concessions for carbon sequestration and emission reduction.”

Some in the business sector are unconvinced. They say the moratorium, conflicting regulations, legal uncertainties, and overlapping concessions make operating in Indonesia more trouble than it’s worth.

But a growing number of businesses will support a low-carbon economy and sustainable resource use, given incentives or proof of REDD’s business opportunities.

Debate about REDD+ and Indonesia’s forests prompted the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) to convene today’s Forests Indonesia conference, where leaders from business, development and government sectors will discuss future challenges and opportunities for Indonesia’s forests.

President Yudhoyono reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring Indonesia plays a leading role in harnessing forestry to address climate change, dedicating the rest of his term to delivering enduring results for Indonesia’s forests.

Efforts to protect the environment have already been included in the 15-year Master Plan for accelerating and expanding Indonesia’s economic growth.

The president also urged business leaders to contribute their experience, and to work with government and international partners to shape the future of Indonesia’s forests.

“We need to take bold initiatives through close collaboration and partnership with all stakeholders. We must change the way we treat our forests, so that they are conserved even as we drive hard to accelerate our economic growth,” he said.

“Our success in managing our forests will determine our future and the opportunities that will be available to our children.”

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