Fires are flaring up once more on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Media reports in the region indicate that the resulting smog has already reached unhealthy levels over parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.
People & Ecosystems
Location: WASHINGTON, D.C.
In May 2010, the Indonesian president declared a new national strategy to develop oil palm plantations on degraded land instead of on forests or peatlands.
Oil palm expansion is a cause of deforestation in Indonesia. Utilizing degraded land—areas that were cleared of forests and now contain low stocks of carbon and biodiversity—is a strategy that could break the link between oil palm and deforestation.
Due in part to WRI, this strategy received significant political and financial boosts in 2009 and 2010. In December 2009, the Indonesian government and its National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS) first announced policy recommendations to support this strategy. In January 2010, the U.K committed £50 million and Norway followed in May by committing $1 billion to tackle Indonesian deforestation. These commitments will fund a two-year suspension of new concessions in natural forests, development of a degraded land database, and incentives to establish oil palm plantations on degraded lands.
Through Project POTICO, WRI helped catapult this strategy onto the agenda. WRI, and local partner Sekala articulated the degraded land strategy, built an economic business case, developed a methodology for identifying acceptable degraded lands, mapped degraded lands, and initiated an on-the-ground pilot. BAPPENAS incorporated the degraded lands strategy, economics, and a profile of POTICO into its official recommendations. We engaged decision-makers to build support for the strategy.
When Project POTICO was launched in 2009, utilizing degraded lands neither was on the political agenda nor had international financial support. Now it has both.
Influenced by WRI’s Coastal Capital: Belize — an economic valuation of the nation’s coral reefs - the government of Belize took momentous steps over the past 18 months to protect this unique ecosystem. For example, after the container ship Westerhaven ran aground on a reef in January 2009, the government decided to sue for damages—something that had not occurred with past groundings. The suit was premised on the forgone economic contribution of the damaged reef’s ecosystem services, a first-of-its-kind approach in Belize history. In a landmark decision, the Belizean Supreme Court ruled in April 2010 that the ship’s owners must pay the government ~US$6 million in damages.
In addition to the ruling, the government tightened a number of fishing regulations, including:
- Restricting the size limit of Nassau groupers and banning the harvest of parrotfish;
- Mandating that all fish fillets brought to landing sites retain a skin patch, facilitating species identification for law enforcement;
- Banning spearfishing within marine protected areas.
These outcomes, especially the ecosystem service-based fine, are landmarks for Belize and the Caribbean region, and perhaps for other reef-rich areas too. They should help relieve threats to the Mesoamerican Reef, which underpins a significant portion of Belize’s GDP. For example coral reef- and mangrove-associated tourism contribute to 12 to 15 percent of Belize’s GDP. Reefs and mangroves also protect coastal properties from erosion and wave-induced damage, providing an estimated US$231 to US$347 million in avoided damages per year – or 20% of Belize’s annual GDP.
WRI played an important role in making these outcomes happen. In November 2008, WRI released Coastal Capital: Belize. NGO partners put our findings in front of national legislators. Belize’s Prime Minister attended the launch gala and later cited videos featuring our economic valuation results as key to his decision to approve the new fishing restrictions. Furthermore, days after the Westerhaven incident, the Belize Fisheries and Environment Departments and NGO partners contacted and worked with WRI to calculate compensatory ecosystem-related damages of the grounding which were used in court. The Supreme Court’s ruling even included verbatim language from Coastal Capital: Belize.
Canada’s majestic boreal zone stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, covering 307 million hectares of forest and woodland and another 245 million hectares of natural landscape. One of the world’s most important ecosystems, it harbors biodiversity, provides livelihoods for local communities, stores large quantities of carbon, and produces paper and timber for use across the world. While much of it remains intact, industrial activity has been invading the old-growth forest.
In response, 21 forest products companies and nine leading environmental organizations, together with Canadian First Nations, signed an historic agreement in 2010 to protect a large swath of this forest and its species at risk, such as the Boreal caribou. The Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement suspends new logging in 29 million hectares of forest land until 2013, and calls for the highest environmental standards of forest management within an area of 72 million hectares – twice the size of Germany. Additional forest will be added as the agreement broadens.
WRI and its Global Forest Watch network first put the issue of Canadian old-growth forest loss on the map – literally. We produced a ground-breaking set of maps documenting old-growth forest loss and areas of surviving intact forests. Global Forest Watch Canada’s maps were accepted as objective, accurate, and credible by activist groups, government officials, and companies. They supported advocacy efforts by explaining the global significance of the forests at stake. And they provided key data for the development of the Boreal Forest Agreement, part of an ongoing effort among environmental groups to fully protect 50 percent of Canada’s boreal forest from industrial development.
On May 20, 2011, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono issued a two-year moratorium on new permits for use of natural forest and peatland on 74 million hectares of land - about three times the size of Great Britain. The bold initiative is the pillar of a $1 billion Indonesia-Norway partnership agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation (often referred to as REDD+).
Indonesia is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, due mainly to deforestation. The country has major timber and paper industries and is a leading producer of palm oil, aiming to double production of the commodity by 2020. The moratorium will allow time for Indonesia’s government to review and improve national processes for issuing new permits for forest concessions.
Its operation will be monitored via a map to be published by the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and a REDD+ Task Force. This will be reviewed every six months and open for public comment, including by civil society groups and the media. This openness and transparency is vital for the partnership’s credibility and accountability.
For seven years, WRI and its Indonesian partners have worked to strengthen the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s capacity to document the country’s extensive forest resources and concessions. WRI’s work in support of Indonesia’s new national strategy for palm oil production on degraded land has included mapping, economic and legal analysis, and a pilot project designed to divert planned oil palm concessions away from virgin forests onto nearby degraded land. This strategy provided a powerful argument for the government to use with industry in pushing for the moratorium. WRI’s forestry and climate experts also worked with the Indonesian and Norwegian governments to make data and maps related the moratorium publicly available.
Following record-breaking air pollution across Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, ministers from five Southeast Asian countries will meet in Kuala Lumpur this week for urgent talks on combating the haze.
New analysis of the patterns and causes of the fires in Sumatra that caused the haze highlights serious issues at the kickoff of this 15th meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution.
The new analysis from the World Resources Institute (WRI), which has been closely monitoring the fires since they began, highlights four key challenges that should help set the agenda for the Ministers of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Thailand.
1. First, pulpwood and oil palm concessions have a more significant role in the fires that we earlier thought.
WRI’s analysis shows that that the number of fire alerts per hectare, in other words their density, is three to four times higher within pulpwood and oil palm concession boundaries than outside those boundaries.
Menteri dari lima negara Asia Tenggara akan berkumpul di Malaysia minggu depan untuk sebuah pembahasan penting mengenai usaha mengatasi kabut asap. Hal ini terkait terjadinya kebakaran hutan baru-baru ini yang telah memecahkan rekor polusi udara tertinggi di berbagai wilayah Indonesia, Singapura, dan Malaysia. Beriringan dengan dimulainya pertemuan ke-15 dari Komite Pengarah Tingkat Menteri Sub-Regional untuk Polusi Lintas-Batas (Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution), analisis mendalam mengenai pola dan penyebab dari api terus berlanjut. Semoga saja krisis terakhir ini dapat memastikan bahwa pertemuan tersebut dapat berlangsung lebih produktif dari 14 rapat sebelumnya, sekaligus mendorong kawasan untuk menemukan penyebab dari kebakaran dan kabut asap tersebut.
This post originally appeared as an Op-Ed in the Straits Times.
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Spanning six nations and 500 million acres of land in Central Africa, the Congo Basin contains the second largest contiguous tropical rainforest in the world and is home to a wealth of biodiversity and wildlife. More than 75 million people rely on it for food, fresh water, and shelter. Global demand for the region’s forest and mineral resources is high and growing.
Nowhere is the pressure more intense than in Gabon, a nation with 80 percent of its territory covered by dense tropical forest. With resource use demands spiraling in recent years, Gabon urgently needs better forest management planning if the government is to achieve its goal of becoming an emerging economy while preserving the country’s natural resources.
WRI’s forestry team has been working in Central Africa since 2002 to help nations collect and publish accessible information on forest concessions, logging infrastructure, and protected areas, thus improving transparency and governance in the forest sector.
With assistance from WRI and World Wildlife Fund, Gabon is improving transparency and access to natural resource information by combining forestry, mining, and conservation land use data into a single, public, information atlas. Recognizing the need for vastly improved coordination between various land allocation ministries, as well as the importance of reliable, high quality information for decision-making, the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum, and Hydrocarbons led the initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Forests. As a result, Gabon can begin to tackle conflicting land use claims and plan for comprehensive and coordinated land use allocation at the national level. In addition, industry and the public, armed with information, can participate more actively in decision-making and monitoring activities.
This multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral, and transparent approach is setting the foundation for improved land use and management in Gabon.