Climate change developments in Indonesia

Down to Earth No.80-81, June 2009

While this year's parliamentary and presidential elections have been dominating political life in Indonesia in recent months, the issue of climate change took a low priority on the competing parties' manifestos. Meanwhile, the government's much-criticised regulation on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) has been issued. Twenty projects are now underway in the country.

The National Council for Climate Change (DNPI), created in August last year, has only rarely made it into the headlines during the current election season. Following April's parliamentary elections, this continues with the first round of presidential elections in July. DNPI's profile remains surprisingly low given the prominence of COP 13 in Bali and Indonesia's importance as a key carbon store, as well as a big emitter.1

Indonesia's main CSO grouping working on climate change, the Civil Society Forum for Climate Justice, has been critical of the government's inaction on crucial issues such as planning for adaptation to climate change as well as its approach to offsetting and REDD. The group is also dismayed that Indonesia is accepting loans for climate change funding. They argue that Indonesians should not have to become more indebted to tackle a problem that historically it is not responsible for.2

REDD in Indonesia

REDD has become a highly contentious issue in Indonesia, centring on the issue of offsetting (see previous article), indigenous rights, and potential costs and benefits of REDD schemes. There has also been criticism from inside as well outside Indonesia of the government's new regulation on REDD, which was finalised in May.3

This regulation provides for centralised control and supervision of REDD projects in Indonesia. It also makes participation by indigenous peoples prohibitive, both legally and financially.4

In December 2008, the ministry issued a regulation on REDD pilot projects. (P.68/Menhut II/20085). This has been seen as a further sign Jakarta wants to ensure that REDD projects in the regions, such as the Ulu Masen project in Aceh, and planned schemes in Papua, do not proceed without central government say-so.

According to the DNPI, a separate regulation on financial aspects of REDD will be issued before June. In January, Agus Purnomo of the DNPI said one of the key unresolved issues was on taxation and the split in revenues for investors, who had been 'kicking and screaming' against the ministry's proposal.6

A consultation with CSOs held in March this year failed to show any movement on the part of the government to address CSO concerns which were raised when the initial draft REDD regulation was made public in July 2008. 

CERD complaint

Indonesia's REDD arrangements have come under fire from the UN too. A March 2009 statement by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) criticised the draft REDD regulation for being incompatible with indigenous peoples' rights. The Committee recommended that the draft regulation, as well as other laws, be reviewed and amended to ensure their consistency with the rights of indigenous peoples to own and control their traditionally owned territories and to consent to activities, such as REDD, that may affect them.

The CERD statement also strongly criticised Indonesia for failing to ensure that indigenous peoples' rights are respected in the development of oil palm plantations. Indonesia has an ambitious oil palm expansion programme primarily aimed at supplying export markets, including agrofuel markets, which is destroying forests, evicting local communities and violating indigenous peoples' rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.7

The statement was welcomed by Indonesian NGO Sawit Watch and the indigenous peoples' alliance, AMAN, which called for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to be used by the government as guidance.8

There is great concern that Indonesia's REDD regime will end up rewarding big companies which destroy forests (such as pulp and oil palm companies), rather than communities who know how to use them sustainably. It could well have the negative impact of replacing indigenous resource management systems which protect forests with unproven, market-driven REDD schemes where the major motivation becomes profit, rather than sustainability, secure livelihoods and forest protection.

One controversial project in Riau, Sumatra has been proposed by one of Indonesia's biggest pulp companies Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL). The company's REDD pilot project plan involves draining and clearing an area of up to one hundred thousand hectares of peatland in the Kampar Peninsular, while offsetting the emissions from these plantations by protecting and rehabilitating 400,000 hectares of adjacent peat forest. According to the World Bank's Facility (FCPF), the much-criticised body that assists countries prepare for REDD, projects by the pulp industry in which pulp companies develop plantations on degraded lands are highly eligible for carbon finance because they reduce pressure on peat forests.9 Such companies are in effect being rewarded for the high rate they destroyed forests previously. Communities living in the Kampar Peninsular have not been informed by APRIL that it plans to take over their customary forests and agricultural lands and turn them into Acacia plantations.

Twenty REDD schemes are at various stages of development10 (see DTE 79 for an outline of some of these in Kalimantan, Aceh, Riau and Papua).

Concern about the potential impacts of REDD on local communities prompted Indonesia's Consortium for the support of Community Based Forest Management (KpSHK) to issue a 'Forests for People' petition for UNFCCC COP14 in Poznan. This argues that REDD plans neglect the interests of over 80 million Indonesians dependent on forests and forest resources. The petition, signed by 22 groups - most of them local communities - supports local rights over forests, local community benefits from international climate change mitigation initiatives and a reduction in consumption by citizens of industrial countries of goods made from materials from forests and forest lands in Indonesia.11

Meanwhile, a draft regulation on customary forests (PP Hutan Adat) has been criticised by AMAN. The draft is based on the 1999 forestry law which places customary forests under state control. In a letter to the President, AMAN's general secretary Abdon Nababan also criticised the draft regulation for prohibiting indigenous communities from trading forest products and closing down opportunities to have adat forests recognised. The letter stated that the draft regulation offered no solution to conflicts over forests, but would instead serve to legalise the takeover of indigenous forests, with the risk of protracted conflict. The letter ended by pointing out that PP Hutan Adat fell far below national and international standards such as those contained in Indonesia's Constitution and those confirmed by the UNDRIP.12

WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) considers REDD as a false solution to climate change and regards it as a failure of the second generation negotiations to reduce climate change impacts after 2012.13

Despite civil society opposition, plans to push ahead with REDD and sign up for international initiatives are going ahead. In January, the DNPI's Agus Purnomo announced plans to set up a climate trust fund to pool donor commitments, which was due to be launched before June.14

In early March, the World Bank reported that Indonesia had applied to join the FCPF.15 The plans themselves and the preparation process have prompted concerns among civil society groups that, once again, indigenous peoples' rights and participation have been sidelined.16 In December 2008, NGOs FPP and FERN reported that the FCPF had been cutting corners during the first stage of its operations and the World Bank's forest fund was not following its own rules or safeguard policies. None of the REDD plans studied by the NGOs dealt with the critical issues of governance, human rights, land tenure reforms or Free Prior and Informed Consent for indigenous peoples.17

The same month, the UN's UN-REDD scheme announced that Indonesia's 'quick-start' project had been approved by its board (see box).

One aspect of REDD that appears to have caused some impatience within Indonesia's forestry department is how soon REDD funding will start to flow into the country. Back in January, Purnomo warned that expectations about REDD should be managed, saying that money would not just "fall from the sky just because we have forests". But by April, forestry minister MS Kaban was expressing frustration about this. He was quoted as saying that internationally agreed REDD schemes were not guaranteed to benefit Indonesia. Launching a national seminar to support voluntary carbon trading initiatives in Jakarta, he said that simple and cheap alternatives were needed, because REDD schemes were difficult to implement and were taking too long to provide funds. He said Indonesia was hoping to get foreign funding worth up to US$3.75 billion (IDR33.75 trillion) per year, but could not say how much Indonesian communities already maintaining forests would be able to earn.

"REDD really could become a way for us to get foreign funds to manage forests," he said.18 "We are absorbing carbon, but aren't getting paid for it because the schemes are too complex. We are pressing developed countries to give incentives. They have benefited from Indonesian forests, which absorb their emissions. The problem is, we can't wait and so we have to find alternatives schemes which are simpler and cheaper." LEI, the Indonesian Ecolabelling Institute has been asked to develop a scheme for the voluntary carbon trade. LEI director Daru Asycara said the institute was also developing carbon certification standards for community-managed forests.19

Konawe Selatan

A community-run planted teak forest management scheme in South Konawe District, Southeast Sulawesi, is a model for developing carbon conservation, according to Indonesian NGOs Forest Watch Indonesia, Telapak and JAUH.

The timber produced by the community-based Hutan Jaya Lestari Cooperative (KHJL) has been verified by the Forest Stewardship Council, facilitated by JAUH and the Tropical Forest Trust.

KHJL was set up in 2003 as part of the district social forestry programme to manage a 720 hectare area. The area is not natural forest, but consists of monoculture teak plantations (Tectona grandis) or mixed teak and mahogany (Switenia sp.).

Estimates have been made of the carbon storage capacity of just over 12.13% of the area, described as 'people's teak forest' (around 50 hectares). Preliminary results of studies show that the potential amount of carbon stored in the trees is 13.7 tonnes per hectare.

An information leaflet produced by the NGOs reports that KHJL is proposing to scale up its operations to manage an expanded area of 28,116 ha in a former government-run teak plantation area.20



In March Indonesia's 'quick start' programme proposal for REDD was approved by the UN-REDD Programme Policy Board.

According to an UN-REDD press briefing, the Indonesian government, in partnership with UNDP, FAO and UNEP, with support from the Norwegian government, is ready to start implementation of this quick-start phase.

The programme has three priorities: socializing the REDD scheme in Indonesia, including a lesson learned element; facilitating the improvement of the carbon counting system and development of a fair payment system; and helping the Indonesian government to implement the initiative at national and local level.

UN-REDD says that support will also "need to guarantee that local communities can benefit from this scheme". Alex Heikens, UNDP Technical Advisor for Environment Unit, said that, if designed properly, REDD could enhance recognition of the important role that local communities play in forest management. Sulawesi will be a focus area for the UN-REDD programme.

More details are due to be made available in the next weeks.21


Selected resources


1 DTE couldn't find a dedicated website, for example
2 For more information about the CSF, see
3 The new regulation, P.30/Menhut-II/2009, 1 May 2009 is available in Indonesian from
4 See DTE 79 for further background.
5 Via
6 Reuters 29/Jan/09
7 For the CERD statement see:
8 Press Statement 23/Mar/09 by FPP, Sawit Watch and AMAN.
9 Chris Lang, FCPF's "poster child" would reward forest destroyers in Indonesia, 2/Mar/09. For more background on the FCPF see DTE 76-77
10 Reuters 29/Jan/09
12 Letter from Abdon Nababan, AMAN, to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, 6 May, 2009.
14 Reuters 29/Jan/09
15 Reuters 4/Mar/09.
16 AMAN, Sawit Watch and FPP are writing to the Indonesian government and World Bank to express these concerns. See
17 Press release by FERN and FPP 1/Dec/08.
18 Reuters 29/Jan/09
19 16/Apr/09
20 Community Logging to Store and Sink Carbon: A Model from Konawe Selatan [no date]. Forest Watch Indonesia, Perkumpulan Telapak and Jaringan Untuk Hutan (JAUH) Sulawesi Tenggara. For further information contact,,