Forestry Conversion and Emission Issues in Indonesia Raise Questions

Posted on 14 December 2009 by editor

By Rajiv Fernando

COPENHAGUE (IPS/TerraViva) A new report has accused developed nations and some environmental non-governmental organisations of distorting understanding of the role of forestry and land conversion in reducing poverty and not failing to acknowledge the developing world’s economic needs.

The report, “Conversion: The Immutable Link between Forestry and Development,” was authored by Alan Oxley, chairman of World Growth, a US-based non-profit NGO established, according to its website, to bring balance to the debate over trade, globalization, and sustainable development.

Oxley says arguing for the cessation of conversion of tropical forest to other land uses is an anti-development strategy.

The report claims that the distorted view and rationale for redirecting aid money away from policies focusing on economic growth and towards conservation programs is that this supports ‘forest dependent peoples’.

But, he says, it is a “green hypocrisy” to ask developing countries to give up the economic opportunities which industrialised economies previously enjoyed.

“Conversion of forest land has been regarded by the FAO for a long time as a standard development path for developing countries with forest resources. It was the development path followed in Europe. But EU countries now want to deny that opportunity to forested developing countries,” Oxley told TerraViva.

“The EU (as well as the U.S.) have decided that their agricultural sectors should be exempted from their national cap and trade emission reduction programs. Yet they insist that a primary means by which developing countries reduce emissions, land conversion, cease as a contribution by those countries to reduce emissions.”

According to Oxley, Indonesia has been a particular target because it has the largest forest industry in Southeast Asia. He says there has been a sustained campaign by WWF and Greenpeace,  European governments led by the UK and the Netherlands, and by the World Bank to overstate the rate of deforestation and understate the amount of land set aside for conservation in Indonesia.

He also charges that campaigners overstate the incidence of illegal logging and misrepresent the economic benefits to Indonesia of its forest plantation and palm oil industries.

The report provides a case study in which Indonesia and Western Europe are compared in regards to forests and development. Agricultural areas dominate in Western Europe, the study says, whereas forests are the dominant landscape in Indonesia. In terms of numbers, agricultural areas cover 40 percent of land area in Western Europe, compared to just 27 percent in Indonesia. Forest areas cover around 50 percent of Indonesia’s land, compared to just over 35 percent of Western Europe.

By this he means to show a fundamental double standard being applied to developing countries in the context of the climate debate.

Oxley concludes, “The fixation of the green NGOs on halting forestry blinds them to the only solution to halt excessive and avoidable land clearing – end poverty. One of the most effective ways to do that is foster economically-beneficial plantation industries.”

Dr. Doddy Sukadri, Chair of the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry Task Force (LULUCF) for the Indonesia National Council on Climate Change said conversion of forested land to other uses in Indonesia is a planned and managed activity.

“Since 1980, long before the issue of conversion came to the floor as it is now,” Sukadri told TerraViva. “Indonesia had already set aside about fifty percent of the forest area to be converted into other purposes of development, such as agriculture, settlement and estate crops amongst other things.”

Greenpeace states that Indonesia leads the world in greenhouse gas emissions through deforestation, and is third – behind the U.S. and China – in terms of total emissions. During the last 50 years, over 74 million hectares of Indonesia’s forests have been destroyed – logged, burned, degraded, pulped – and the products shipped round the planet.

Stephen Campbell, head of campaigns for Greenpeace Australia-Pacific, was shown the Oxley report and responded to the criticisms.

“Mr. Oxley and his corporate entities are known climate change deniers and are focused on slowing and undermining effective action on climate change. He has been known to provide consultancy services for multinational logging companies and is linked to fossil fuel funded think tanks,” Campbell told TerraViva.

According to Campbell, Greenpeace argues against the logging of old growth forests around the world. In his view, this is a necessary step to prevent climate chaos, preserve biodiversity and to protect the lands, rights and cultures of forest-dwelling peoples.

On the question of ending poverty, Greenpeace argues that financial resources for development should be made available through a deal on climate change, and has proposed the Forest for Climate mechanism, now being seriously considered by parties at the climate negotiations.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. greg gerritt Says:

    Forests precede civilization, deserts follow. The more Indonesia destroys its forests in the name of development, the worse its problems will get.





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