Norway Won’t Fund Indonesia Tree Planting Program

The billion dollar deal signed by Indonesia and Norway will only be used for preserving forests and peatlands and will not finance tree-planting in deforested areas, says a presidential aide.

Agus Purnomo, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s special assistant on climate change, said Saturday that initially the agreement was to have covered REDD Plus programs, but Norway apparently agreed only to fund REDD (reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation) programs.

REDD Plus programs include tree planting initiatives intended to increase absorption of carbon and slow global warming, according to the United Nations.

REDD Plus programs also include initiatives that are focused on degradation, conservation, reducing emissions from deforestation and sustainable forest management.

“The agreement is for REDD Plus programs, but there is no money for carbon *absorption* enhancement through tree planting,” Agus told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Indonesia considers tree planting a potential way to shift the country from a polluter to a net absorber of carbon by 2015.

Wandojo Siswanto, the head of working group on the climate unit at forestry ministry, said tree planting was the most popular climate change initiative program in Indonesia.

“We will renegotiate the agreement with Norway. Indonesia needs money for tree planting,” he said.

The ministry’s carbon-mitigation scenario says its target to re-green 2.2 million hectares of forest each year could be increased if richer nations provided additional funds.

Many were pessimistic that the target could be reached since it is not clear who would take care the trees after planting.

The government said it had planted almost one million trees in the last three years but did not say if the trees grew as expected. The forestry ministry said that it plans to plant about 1 billion additional trees.

Wandojo said that this year’s tree planting target could be verified under international standards.

Negotiators from the two countries will meet again next week to discuss the agreement’s details.

Yudhoyono said that Indonesia would impose a two-year moratorium on new permits for oil palm plantations, which experts say is a major cause of Indonesian deforestation.

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest forested nation and has 120 million hectares of rainforest. Deforestation rates in the country are the world’s highest due to illegal palm oil plantations, mining and forest fires.

Indonesia was named the world’s third largest carbon polluter between 1997 and 2000 – ranked just behind the US and China – when 3.51 million hectares per year had been destroyed. Deforestation subsequently decreased to 1.08 million hectares per year.

Wandojo said that illegal palm oil plantations would increase deforestation in Indonesia to 1.17 hectares per year in 2010, equal to 2004 and 2006 levels. The government had yet to determine a baseline level for calculating needed deforestation-related emission reductions, he said.

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