Australian REDD #Fail in Indonesia's Kalimantan Forests
April 21, 2012
The Australian government's aid agency, AusAid has quietly scaled back
an ambitious project in Indonesia that sought to reduce carbon
emissions through re-forestation and rehabilitation of peatlands.
The $100 million dollar scheme was launched in 2007, but nearly five
years on, less than a third of that amount has been committed and the
projects targets have been drastically reduced.
Correspondent: Katie Hamann
Speakers: Professor Stephen Howes, director, Development Policy
Centre, Australian National University, co-author of report assessing
the KFCP's progress; Louis Verchot, principal Climate Change
scientist, Centre for International Forestry Research or CIFOR
HAMANN: In 2007, Australia's then foreign minister Alexander Downer
inaugurated AusAIDS Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership, a
project that would, in his words, make "a very real and very practical
contribution to improving our environment" yielding "immediate and
The plan was to raise $100 million dollars, to enable the planting of
100 million trees and rehabilitation of 200,000 hectares of peatland
on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan.
The protection of peat areas is considered vital to curbing carbon
emissions because they act as vast carbon sinks. The ambitious scheme
was part of a wider experimental program known as Reducing Emissions
through Deforestation and Forest Degradation or REDD - pilot projects
for which are currently underway across the globe.
Professor Stephen Howes is the Director of the Development Policy
Centre at the Australian National University and the co-author of a
report assessing the progress of KFCP.
HOWES: It was an extremely a high-profile announcement, it was made in
a hurry, it was made because the issue of climate change had become
live political issue in Australia. So there was pressure to make an
HAMANN: Almost five years on and approaching its original deadline,
the AusAID project is struggling to gain traction.
Only 50,000 seedlings have been planted and the reflooding of
peatlands has yet to start. Professor Howes research is critical of
AusAID's failure to publically declare that the project's targets had
been significantly revised downwards.
Of the proposed 100 million dollar commitment, only Australia's 30
million dollar contribution has been realised. And AusAID now expects
to reflood just 25,000 hectares of peatland. Professor Howes blames
the initial enthusiasm on, what he terms an 'announcement culture'
HOWES: And by that, we mean it's really a culture or environment, in
which it's the initial announcement which is made at the ministerial
level, that gets all the attention. And after that, the importance and
attention given to the project becomes much less. Of course, it's only
one project, but it's an important project, and if we're going to have
a more effective aid program, there will need to be a shift, in
emphasis away from the initial announcement, towards following through
what actually happens with the project and what results it delivers.
HAMANN: AusAID is not alone in facing challenges with its version of REDD.
Louis Verchot is the Principal Climate Change Scientist with the
Centre for International Forestry Research or CIFOR ... an
organisation which monitors REDD projects around the globe.
VERCHOT: The situation in tropical forestry doesn't change very
quickly. There are alot of entrenched interests, there are alot of
problems dealing with the remote areas, where the forests are.
Governance issues are a problem, resources for government officers or
for communities to manage a forest are awful. So there's a whole host
of problems out there, and a whole host of interests and there'll need
to be a major shift. What we're asking for in tropical forestry right
now, is a tectonic shift in the way we manage our forests and treat
our forests in these regions.
HAMANN: In a statement to Radio Australia AusAID says an agreement
with seven villages located within the KFCP site had finally been
made, clearing a path for the reflooding of peatlands ... and 1.4
million seedlings are being raised for future planting. The agency
acknowledged that progress has been slow but said it was in line with
similar efforts elsewhere.
The project has also been extended by at least one year.
Lou Verchot says the challenges of implementating REDD are enormous
and without a genuine commitment from the international community
there can be no real progress in countries where forests continue to
be felled at an alarming rate.
VERCHOT: Most of the projects are in go-slow mode because the finances
are not certain. You don't want to undertake a process to raise hopes
in communities that the finance is going to be there, that we're going
to change the way we manage these forests. If you're not sure that
it's going to come behind with sustainable funding to make that a