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Asean urges Indonesia to sign pollution pact

Asean members are calling on Indonesia to ratify the grouping's Transboundary Haze Pollution agreement in a bid to control the impact of air pollution caused by forest fires.

"The Indonesian government has postponed the ratification of this agreement several times already. It should sign up because this collaboration will help Asean countries deal with the pollution cause by forest fires, especially in Indonesia," Supat Wangwongwattana, director general of the Pollution Control Department, said.

Supat was speaking at the Subregional Ministerial Steering Committee's 12th meeting on Transboundary Haze Pollution held in Bangkok yesterday. Also present at the meeting were several senior environment officials from other countries in the region.

"We have sent many official letters to the Indonesian government asking them to control the haze caused by forest fires, but there has been no formal response from the authorities. Hence, we do not have any answers for our people," Supat explained.

In 2006, more than 29,000 hotspots were detected in Indonesia, and though the number dropped to 8,000 in 2010, it rose again to 17,000 this year.

Every year, during the months of August and September, four provinces in the South of Thailand are covered in smoke from Indonesian forest fires, causing respiratory problems among the residents.

Arief Yuwono, from the Indonesian Environment Ministry's Degradation Control and Climate Change, told the meeting that his government had implemented a plan to deal with haze pollution, which included the prevention and control of forest and land fires. The government has also strengthened lawenforcement measures and will conduct a zeroburning campaign, he said, adding that new laws on plantation, environment and forestry would be enforced among relevant stakeholders.

Source : http://news.asiaone.com

Singapore puts heat on Indonesia to take on haze situation

The Singapore authorities have stepped up efforts to add peer and economic pressure on Indonesia, which is yet to sign the Asean Transboundary Haze Pollution agreement.
The nine other Asean nations have ratified the 2002 agreement to prevent and control haze pollution in the region.
To date, Singapore has collaborated with Indonesia in the province of Jambi to train officials and staff from non-governmental organisations in studying satellite photos.
This is so that they can identify plantations and companies responsible for forest fires.
Air- and weather-monitoring stations have also been set up to detect forest fires and smouldering peatland more efficiently.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday that Singapore has offered to extend the existing million-dollar project through several sub-projects in Jambi, as part of a second phase.
Jambi, located about 330km south of Singapore, is one of the provinces worst hit by forest fires this year.
Indonesia has yet to respond to Singapore's offer.
While Singapore offers support by providing resources, the Indonesians have to be the ones to decide and take the lead, because "it is their province, their plantations, their agricultural centre", said Dr Balakrishnan.
"There are lessons which have to be taught on the ground, as well as (having) to make sure that there is enough economic and social pressure on people taking a shortcut."
Fires in Jambi and other Sumatran provinces have been faulted for the haze that envelops Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia each year.

Dr Balakrishnan, who has just returned from the Transboundary Haze Pollution meeting in Thailand, believes that "the strongest...stimulus to pro-social behaviour is peer pressure".
He was speaking to the media at the launch of the Public Hygiene Council at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. Addressing hygiene issues here, he said that anti-social behaviour, such as littering, can also be curbed through exerting peer pressure.
The new council, which has 21 members, is headed by Khoo Teck Puat Hospital's chief executive, Mr Liak Teng Lit.
The council's main aim, said Mr Liak, is to stamp out unhygienic practices and raise standards here "up to the first-world standard".
A National Environment Agency (NEA) survey led by one of the council members, Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, found that nearly four in 10 here would litter if they thought nobody was looking.
Prof Straughan, vice-dean of the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, said that NEA could leverage on the survey findings to reach out to "younger new citizens".
The council also hopes to improve the cleanliness of public toilets, especially those in foodcourts and coffeeshops.
Discussion sessions, public forums and feedback channels will be set up, and a new educational campaign will be rolled out by the end of the year from the findings obtained.
Mr Liak said: "Every Singaporean needs to take ownership in building a clean Singapore. Only then can we say that we are First World and enjoy the place."

Source : http://news.asiaone.com

Norwegian Minister for Environment praises Indonesia’s fight against climate change

Norway’s Minister for the Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, has praised Indonesia’s commitment to the fight against climate change at today’s Forests Indonesia conference in Jakarta.

“The president has issued an overall policy about how Indonesia will combat climate change…what he has done today is a very positive step in making Indonesia a world leader in the fight against climate change.”

Solheim opened today’s conference Forests Indonesia: Alternative futures to meet demands for food, fibre, fuel and REDD+, hosted by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and in this video speaks of Norway’s involvement in the implementation of the bilateral agreement on REDD+, what Indonesia can learn from Brazil’s bilateral agreement and issues surrounding carbon offsets.

Source : http://blog.cifor.org

SBY Vows to Protect Forests

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono delivered the opening address at the Forests Indonesia Conference in Jakarta on Tuesday. Deforestation by palm oil, mining and paper interests has made Indonesia the world’s third-highest greenhouse gas emitter. (Rumgapres Photo/Abror Rizki)
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday stated his commitment to ensure sustainable development of the country’s environment and forests.

“I will continue my work and dedicate the last three years of my term as president to deliver enduring results that will sustain and enhance the environment and forests of Indonesia,” Yudhoyono said in a speech in his opening address at the Forests Indonesia Conference.

The president said the country’s people, economy, environment and way of life are tightly intertwined with its forests.

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

But he will need to work hard to convince the nation’s environmental groups, who have previously accused the government of making grand statements on conservation but failing to deliver results.

The conference was hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research and was attended by 900 participants from the government, the business community and civil society as well as foreign donors.

Its purpose was to discuss the future of forests in Indonesia, which has the third-largest amount of tropical forest in the world.

While many now recognize the importance of safeguarding the country’s many forests, however, they remain under “tremendous” pressure, Yudhoyono said.

“As a developing country, we are prioritizing economic growth and poverty eradication. But we will not reach those aims by sacrificing our forests,” Yudhoyono said.

Indonesia should be able to find a balance, he said.

“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.

Yudhoyono said he did not want to have to tell his granddaughter someday that the country failed to save its forests.

To alleviate the pressure on forests, Yudhoyono said the government had set up programs to enhance agricultural productivity as well as ensure an adequate stock of staple food, including rice.

The government has also launched a tree-planting campaign that will aim for at least one billion new trees annually, Yudhoyono said.

“It is said that ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ I would like to say: ‘A billion trees a year shields the world’s lungs from decay,’ ” he said.

Yudhoyono also said that Indonesia remained steadfast in its pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-41 percent by 2020.

Globally, deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In Indonesia, however, that figure is 85 percent, making the country one of the highest emitters in the world, the president said.

“A long journey still awaits us. We know we must do more to address the primary sources of our greenhouse emissions, such as illegal logging, forest encroachment, forest and land fires and peat land drainage,” Yudhoyono said. “And indeed we are working hard and comprehensively to overcome these challenges.”

Yudhoyono emphasized the long-term importance of caring for the country’s forests while continuing to pursue a path of development.

Cifor director general Frances Seymour said that leadership was needed not only from the government but also from business and civil society to chart the best way forward for Indonesia .

“While there are some win-win opportunities to reconcile forest management to meet both global and domestic objectives, there will also be some trade-offs that will require leadership,” Seymour said.

Source : http://www.thejakartaglobe.com

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

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.”

Source : http://blog.cifor.org

Forest Service letting wildfires burn

Thousands of acres in the Tonto National Forest continued to burn over the weekend.
Ironically enough, Forest Service rangers couldn’t be happier.
Instead of rushing to douse the flames, forest managers are mostly taking advantage of the cool conditions to let the fires burn — mindful of the growing body of research demonstrating the value of low-intensity fires at the right time of the year.
Recent studies have demonstrated that such low-intensity, controlled burns actually increase the diversity of plants and wildlife in the forest. Another recent study of tree-ring data going back hundreds of years has underscored that Southwestern forests have adapted to fire frequencies as often as once every two years.
So the early fall flush of fires burning now may do far more good than harm, say forest managers.
Over near Young, the Tanner Fire continues to burn nearly a month after a bolt of lightning started the blaze at the peak of Armer Mountain in the Sierra Anchas.
Crews this week will close Highway 288 in places to build a fire line around the blaze, according to John Thornburg, fire management officer.
“The fire remains within our management area and continues to burn heavy pockets of fuel which prevents catastrophic wildfires in the future.”
The fire put up a plume of smoke from the Tonto Basin, Globe and Young. Downdraft winds from a thunderstorm off Armer Mountain pushed the fire across Highway 288 Saturday evening around 7 p.m. and the fire burned through a dispersed camping area. No campers were present and no structures were lost.
On Monday, crews closed Highway 288 from Reynolds Creek south to the A-Cross Road.
Meanwhile, the lightning-caused Frio Fire continued to burn in the Pinal Mountain range. The fire has burned 3,600 acres since Aug. 17 and is 90 percent contained. Crews will be setting backfires this week to control the spread of the fire, especially on its eastern flank.
“Resources are assigned again today to ensure that we keep the fire where we want it to be, doing what we want it to do,” said Brad Johnson, Globe Ranger District spokesperson.
“We predict that smoke will continue to be visible for the next several days. As fire activity and spread are reduced, smoke impacts will be lessened considerably. We thank the public for their patience and support as we finish this project which will considerably lessen the danger of catastrophic wildfire in the future.”
Low intensity fires after the monsoon season actually benefit Southwestern forests, removing tree thickets, returning nutrients and preventing destructive crown fires — mostly during May and June. Such high intensity fires leaping from treetop to treetop sterilize the soil, creating a water-resistant crust and consume every tree and shrub over large areas.
Although low-intensity controlled burns reduce the chance of such catastrophic fires, many residents still suffer health problems from the smoke. For health information concerning smoke effects, please contact the Gila County Division of Health and Emergency Services, 5515 South Apache Ave., Suite 100, Globe, AZ 85501, (928) 425-3231 ext. 8888.
Residents can also stay updated on fires at www.fs.usda.gov/Tonto. To report a wildland fire, the fire emergency number is 866-746-6516, or dial 9-1-1.
A recent tree-ring study demonstrated how adapted most forested systems have become to regular, low-intensity fires, according to findings published in Applied Vegetation Science and Physical Geography.
Mature pines more than 500 years old often show 14 or more fire scars dating back to the mid 1600s, which means they generally survived a fire every 2-10 years, according to the researchers from Texas A & M University.
The researchers noted that for centuries Native Americans regularly set grassfires, knowing such frequent fires actually helped the forest.
However, fire frequency began to drop dramatically after the 1930s, when the U.S. Forest Service introduced its “Smokey Bear” campaign to prevent forest fires.
Source : http://www.paysonroundup.com

Discourse: Indonesia may use Norwegian funds for oil palm plantation

Indonesia has signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) to seal US$1 billion fund assistance from Norway to conserve its rain forests under REDD+ projects. In spite of many delays, the government has completed some preconditions for the fund disbursement. The Jakarta Post’s Adisti Sukma Sawitri talked to Norway’s Minister of the Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, on the progress over the past year. Here are the excerpts:

Question: How does Norway see the progress of REDD+ projects in Indonesia?

Answer: Overall, we are pleased and impressed. It is normal that not everything is done according to plan. We are completely satisfied, however, that all the groundwork has been done. The moratorium is in place, the task force has been given a proper role. Direction is the most important thing and it has been positive.

We will not aim to be involved on how exactly it will be done. Indonesia will design the path and we will supply assistance on the basis of the produced results.

We will not be sitting back in Europe and finger-pointing how Indonesia should use the money. It is not a traditional overseas development assistance (ODA); it is based on the principle of equal partnership.

If the deforestation decreases, Norway will provide money; if it does not go down, however, we will not provide assistance. That is exactly what we did in Brazil and Ghana.

Up to now, only a small amount of money has been allocated to the Indonesian government: approximately US$30 million, a tiny fraction of what has been promised. The bulk of the money will form result-based compensation on the reduced deforestation. It is expected to be paid in 2014.

What should Indonesia do in the near future?

The most important thing for Indonesia is to find a path for the nation, which will ensure rapid economic growth while, at the same time, conserving the forests. That can be done; in Brazil, for instance, over the last seven years, they’ve reduced 70 percent of emissions without any negative impacts on economic growth.

It is important to have a national REDD+ strategy ready before we can have a system to ensure reduced deforestation in all regions, not just localized projects.

The strategy has been discussed by multi stakeholders around the country.

The strategy has been out for public hearings for 30 days and is in its final stage. The strategy will help to see how Indonesia wants to spend the money.

How will the partnership conduct verification and assure transparency?

There must be an independent verification body; it cannot be verified by Norway or by Indonesia, and it must be absolutely transparent. There must also be the highest standards for anticorruption measures and a consultation process with indigenous people. All the final details have not yet been decided.

Apart from that, however, whether Indonesia wants to use the money from the project for agriculture or for industrial projects or road buildings or schools, that’s up to Indonesia.

Would the Norwegian government object if Indonesia used the project money to expand its oil palm plantations, even in the degraded natural forest areas?

That is a feasible policy if it is already degraded land. We have seen some positive developments with some of the big palm oil producers wanting to adopt an environmentally friendly outlook. Some of them have accepted international verification for selling their products without destroying the forests.

But that cannot replace conservation of the rain forests because rain forest cannot be cut down and then reforested. The government has revoked a regulation that would have recognized oil palm plantations as forests. From our perspective, this is positive news.

Norway has a huge petroleum fund from our oil production and that fund is basically making a one percent investment in many companies globally and some of them have palm oil production. But this is a small financial transaction and there is an ethics committee for the oil fund to monitor whether these companies are operating in an acceptable manner; and they will act against the companies that carry out ecological destruction. If it finds any, it will propose to our government to withdraw its investment. So far, we have withdrawn investment from companies producing tobacco, and those employing child labor.

What if there’s a dispute between Indonesia and Norway’s governments, such as regarding the classification of forest plantations; how would this affect the partnership?

It’s completely normal. Indonesia is a country with so many different interests, and palm oil is one of its core political issues.

You can never expect this process to be easy. There will be a lot of discussions on this issue. The most important thing is we treat openess and transparency very seriously.

Source : http://www.thejakartapost.com

President calls on businesses to unite to protect Indonesia’s forests

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on leading industries to support international and national efforts to reduce deforestation through the sustainable management of its forest.

“We must change the way we treat our forests so that they are conserved as we drive hard to accelerate our economic growth. I call upon our business leaders, particularly those in the palm oil, pulp wood and mining sectors, to partner with us by enhancing the environmental sustainability of their operations,” said the President.

At the Forests Indonesia conference held by the Center For International Forestry Research (CIFOR) today, the President laid out his vision for the sustainable management of Indonesia’s’ resources which would meet the rising demand for food, fibre and fuel, whilst guaranteeing the long term protection of its forest.

In his speech, which addressed 1,000 representatives from leading business groups, NGOs, development agencies and government ministries, he discussed the challenges and opportunities faced by the country in the sustainable use of its forests.

“As a developing nation, we regard as fundamental the challenge of promoting real growth and poverty eradication.”

“I am especially pleased to see many business leaders here today because they bring decades of experience to the table and help to shape the future of our nation’s forests”.

A sustainable development strategy, he said, would not be possible without “bold initiatives” from leading business and forestry experts, especially in the development of low carbon energy such as micro-hydroelectric power, geothermal, and bio-energy.

He also called for support for existing policies, including the intensification of agricultural production through the use of degraded and disused lands, as well as for international initiatives such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation schemes (REDD+).

“We need to go into partnership with all stakeholders to sustainably manage our forest resources…I encourage all of you to forge greater cooperation with international partners”.

Indonesia is home to the third largest tract of rainforest in the world, yet it is one of the world’s largest green house gas emitters. Forest-clearing for paper, pulp and palm oil industries, as well as illegal timber extraction, accounts for nearly 90% of the deforestation in the country.

In 2010, the president issued a two-year moratorium on the issuance of new forest concessions and has been a global leader in the development of REDD+ schemes.

Yesterday the announcement of a National Action Plan to reduce green house gases cemented the government’s commitment to reducing its carbon emissions by 26% by 2020.

However, with economic growth expected to increase by 7% annually and plans to expand to the pulp and paper industries to meet the rising demand from foreign markets, environmentalists and climate experts fear there is little incentive for businesses to invest in sustainable alternatives.

The President declared that despite the progress, he would continue to address issues such as land tenure, illegal logging and the clearing of peat land, which threatened to undermine a sustainable forests strategy.

“On my part, I will continue my work and dedicate the last three years of my term as President, to deliver enduring results that will sustain and enhance the environment and forests of Indonesia”.

Source : http://blog.cifor.org