Countries are gathering at the United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany, to discuss how to collectively put the Paris commitment into action.
Indonesia, which pledged to cut emissions by 29 percent by 2030 through its own efforts and by 41 percent with international cooperation, has chosen to focus its climate plans on forestry, planning to create a low-carbon, forest-based economy in which the government, local administrations, businesses and the people work together to benefit from forests while preserving them.
The plan sounds excellent on paper. The government has begun agrarian reform in which it grants ownership certificates to individuals and concessions for groups of locals, including the indigenous ones, to manage forests and degraded land. A set of legal framework has been established to recognize the rights of indigenous communities, dozens of which have received concessions to cultivate their ancestral lands through the social forestry program.
It has also worked together with farmers and the private sector to restore damaged peat forests that have been drained and turned into plantations through slash-and-burn practices. After the latest great fire in 2015, the government came together with businesses and local people to invent ways to restore the peat areas and cultivate the lands without burning them.
These achievements have put Indonesia among the progressive nations that have initiated serious efforts to create a path to zero emissions, as envisioned by the Paris Accord.
However, these efforts are not enough.
Although forest fires have decreased in the past two years, they still occur and companies continue to plant on peatland under their concessions, refusing to comply with restoration plans. This is despite the fact that the government issued regulations that restrict planting on the carbon-rich fields, which easily catch fire during the dry season.
From the target of 12.7 million hectares allocated for social forestry, only thousands of hectares have been distributed to local communities because of disputes with the concession holders and the slow pace of local administrations in registering indigenous communities in their areas.
What might worsen the scheme is the government’s latest initiative to allow indigenous peoples to cultivate the damaged peat areas under the social forestry program, a move that seems inconsistent with the government’s ban on companies planting on peatland.
Clear and consistent implementation of the policies is paramount in the process. All of the tussles and clamor at the international climate forum are futile if the authorities, along with the private sector and the people, fail to put the plan into action.
If Indonesia fails to show that it can be held accountable for its climate action plans, it might only wish to get support from the international community to meet the carbon cut target. This would be unfortunate since, as a developing country, it still needs assistance in technology and funding.
Indonesia is on the right track but it takes commitment from all stakeholders and consistency for the initiatives to produce the desired impact.