DTE writes to UK minister about UK Climate change MoU with Indonesia

Down to Earth No.80-81, June 2009

The following letter was addressed to Ed Miliband, Britain's Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The letter raises questions about a UK-Indonesia Memorandum of Understanding on climate change signed in December 2008.1
Dear Mr Miliband,

We welcome the important efforts by yourself and the Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoeloar to work together to address environmental concerns and climate change, but we are writing to express a number of concerns about the Memorandum of Understanding you signed at COP 14 in Poznan, December last year.

As a UK- and Indonesia-based organisation advocating just and sustainable ways of addressing the climate change crisis, we are concerned that some of the priorities identified by the MoU raise serious questions about human rights, poverty and environmental protection. In some cases, the MoU prioritises areas of work where climate benefits are not proven and could turn out to exacerbate, rather than mitigate climate change.

We are particularly concerned about the following points and would be grateful for detailed information showing how the UK government will guarantee that human rights, poverty, environmental and climate pitfalls will be avoided in your joint work with the Indonesian government related to the MoU.

1) REDD (MoU point 2 a): drawing on our own and others' research on Indonesia's preparations for REDD, we are seriously concerned that fundamental policy and legal measures relating to resource rights, without which the rights of indigenous peoples in particular cannot be safeguarded, are not yet in place in Indonesia.

According to our analysis, although the legislation on REDD issued by the forestry ministry provides for indigenous communities to become lead actors in REDD projects in theory, there remains inadequate national legal provision to enable this to happen in practice. This means that indigenous communities, who have key skills and knowledge related to safeguarding forests, could be pushed aside or see their interests subordinated by other commercial actors in a future rush for REDD.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has recently raised concerns with Indonesia about this draft regulation on REDD. The Committee also strongly criticised Indonesia for failing to respect indigenous peoples' rights in relation to oil palm plantations.

We would be interested therefore, to hear how the proposed REDD demonstration activities, mentioned in MoU, will address this legality issue and how they propose to guarantee that indigenous communities are afforded Free, Prior and Informed Consent in any REDD projects which affect them.

We would also be interested to know more about the proposals under consideration on long term financing for REDD, mentioned in the MoU. We would like your assurance that carbon markets will not be the priority for financing REDD projects. It is our view that relying on carbon markets to provide financing for REDD should be avoided. There remain serious questions to be answered about rights protection and poverty, environment and climate impacts in the science, methodology and decision-making processes associated with carbon finance, which make it an unjustifiable option.2 Moreover, it should not be left to such an unreliable tool as the market, to drive something as urgent as forest protection: the fact that the carbon price has recently collapsed under the European Trading Scheme underlines this unreliability.

2) Promoting sustainable palm oil (MoU point 2 b): as you know, UK and European demand for agrofuel has had a significant impact on Indonesia's palm oil industry. It has contributed to promoting the expansion of oil palm plantations into forests, including areas over which indigenous communities hold customary rights.

We are concerned that the RSPO is failing to address the urgent need to stop the destruction of indigenous livelihoods and forests in Indonesia, just as EU policies adopted in December have also failed to adequately address these concerns.

This forest destruction, particularly in areas of peatland, which is in part promoted by the demand for agrofuels, is having severe negative impacts on the climate too. Wetlands International estimated that Southeast Asia's CO2 emissions from forest destruction and peat soil oxidation were around 2 billion tonnes per year, with 90% of these originating from Indonesia.3 Yet, prominent RSPO members such as the Indonesian palm oil producers association, GAPKI, have rejected a call for a moratorium on converting forests for oil palm plantations. Similarly, the Indonesian government recently lifted a ban on using peatlands for oil palm plantation developments. We would be interested to know, therefore, how the UK and Indonesia governments will address these issues under the MoU and ensure that by promoting sustainable palm oil, they do not actually promote forest/peatland destruction and the release of yet more CO2 into the atmosphere.

3) Co-operation on studying carbon capture and storage (CCS) (MoU point 2 h): there are two concerns to raise here. First, CCS as related to the coal industry. We are concerned that measures to study CCS as a possible future option for Indonesia's coal-fired energy sector will mean support for an industry which is associated with serious resource rights conflicts, forest destruction and air and water pollution in coal mining areas in Indonesia, as well as being one of the dirtiest means of energy generation in terms of GHG emissions. We believe that efforts need to be focused now on moving away from fossil fuel generation to renewable alternatives (both in Indonesia and the UK), rather than supporting this industry in the hope that as yet unproven CCS technology can eventually clean it up.

Second, CCS as relates to gas exploitation. We are concerned that existing projects, involving British-based companies (for example BP's Tangguh gas project in Bintuni Bay, West Papua) are failing to carry out practices that may immediately assist the reduction of emissions by using CO2 reinjection technology. Will it be part of the MoU agenda to ensure that this is done?

4) Offsetting: we wish to draw your attention to the concern we have that the MoU overall reflects an intention on the part of the British Government, to promote offsetting - in particular offsetting UK emissions in Indonesia - as a means of meeting the UK's greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets.

As you know, the debate about offsetting is far from settled, despite clear indications that the UK government is in favour of it. The new UK climate change law, requires the government to "have regard to the need for UK domestic action on climate change" when considering how to meet targets and budgets. In addition, the government is required to set a limit on the purchase of offset credits for each carbon budget period, by secondary legislation, requiring a debate in both houses of Parliament and taking into account the Climate Change Committee's advice. The CCC has itself recommended that the government should not plan to purchase offset credits to meet the UK's 'interim' budget (less than 10%), although it does state that around 20% of emissions reductions could be met by offset credits in the 'intended' budget.

It is our opinion - along with many others in civil society in both the UK and in Indonesia - that substantial GHG emissions reductions are required here at home in the UK as well as in Indonesia (i.e. not either or) to achieve anything like the level of emissions reductions required to bring climate change within safe limits. Offsetting emissions produced in the UK in Indonesia should therefore not be part of the UK national effort to tackle climate change.

In addition, insisting on the offsetting option (as the UK government is apparently doing) is seriously damaging the prospects of securing a good global agreement on emissions reductions in Copenhagen in December 2009. This is because offsetting is widely seen (and justifiably so, in our view) as an attempt by industrialised countries to continue business as usual in their own countries by buying offsets in the South, instead of doing the hard work at home.

At a recent meeting in Jakarta with MEPs, Indonesia's main civil society grouping working on climate change issues, the Civil Society Forum on Climate Change4, called on the EU and member countries to commit themselves to reduce their emissions according to the UNFCCC and not compromise this with any kind of pollution trading mechanism. The CSF statement said emissions reductions by industrialised nations in their own countries were a non-negotiable form of compensation for their ecological debts.

We hope that you will take these points into consideration during future communication with Indonesia regarding the MoU and on other occasions and look forward hearing from you in the near future on these urgent issues.

Finally, we are sending you a copy of 'Forests for the Future' a book jointly produced by the Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago (AMAN) and Down to Earth which details how indigenous communities in Indonesia have - against all the odds - maintained agroforestry systems that sustain the carbon-rich forests. The book was produced with funding from DFID, and is largely written by indigenous communities themselves. We believe it provides important lessons for climate change decision-makers on the crucial role played by such communities in maintaining the forests for the good of the planet as well as of their own people. In this spirit, for the ongoing climate change negotiations, we trust that your team will support indigenous peoples' call for protection of their rights in all climate change initiatives that affect them.

Letter signed by Carolyn Marr, UK Coordinator, DTE and sent on May 26th, 2009.



1 Memorandum of Understanding between the State Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Indonesia and the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of The United Kingdom Of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on Environmental Cooperation and the Response to Climate Change, from www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/internat/devcountry/indonesia.htm

2 For more details of the questions surrounding REDD and the REDD context in Indonesia, see DTE 79.

3 Hooijer, A., Silvius, M., Wösten, H. and Page, S. 2006. PEAT-CO2, Assessment of CO2 emissions from drained peatlands in SE Asia. Delft Hydraulics report Q3943 www.wetlands.org/Portals/0/publications/General/Peat%20CO2%20report.pdf

4 DTE is a member of CSF. See english.csoforum.net/