Connecting the Dots on REDD+

When it was first brought into the international climate negotiations in 2005, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) was a revelation. By using the power of carbon markets to encourage forest conservation, REDD promised to supply the incentives and support needed to reduce deforestation at a scale sufficient to fight climate change. But when I was recruited by the Conservancy to “figure REDD out,” the gap between the REDD projects already operating and national implementation promoted by climate negotiators was huge.

The sums of money being discussed made communities, governments and corporations take notice. They started to develop pilot programs, design and advocate policy proposals and conduct research.  Over the past five years, this has produced a relatively coherent — albeit rough — roadmap for national REDD+ implementation (the “+” refers to advanced REDD projects that also pay attention to conserving and expanding carbon stocks). That roadmap is based on planning and action at sub-national government levels, which a recent Economist article shows is central to the global dialogue on forests.

I’ve watched this take shape in Indonesia over the past 4 years. The national program, started in 2007 by the Ministry of Forestry, is now driven by the President’s strong commitment. He wants to reduce emissions by 26% compared to business as usual (41% if there is international support), with new institutions established to align multiple ministries and facilitate implementation of an integrated national strategy.

East Kalimantan Province on the island of Borneo is finalizing a strong strategy that outlines a wide range of emission reduction programs and growth opportunities, and the government is designing a new Green Development Agency to drive the provincial strategy forward.

Since 2008, the District of Berau —located within East Kalimantan —has been working together with provincial and national stakeholders, with support from The Nature Conservancy, to develop the Berau Forest Carbon Program (BFCP). This district-wide REDD+ program will protect forests at scale by delivering incentives for sustainable timber harvesting, effective protected areas management and development of a sustainable oil palm sector. It will also ensure benefits go to local residents.

Site-level actions in BFCP will use and refine the tools and approaches developed over the past two decades in Indonesia and elsewhere to achieve sustainability in individual land management units. These are the building blocks that must be brought together under a district-level REDD+ management framework.

These levels are now aligning in a potentially powerful way. BFCP is a key part of the East Kalimantan strategy and East Kalimantan is one of the highest-priority provinces within the national program. The degree of integrated engagement of district, provincial and central governments gives us a rare and important opportunity, and results here will reveal a lot about the potential for REDD+ in Indonesia. It is necessary to identify appropriate roles for the different actors in REDD+ implementation. Regulations and policies need to be actively aligned across scales and old conflicts resolved. A new spatial plan will need to be jointly developed. National and provincial level decision-making—for example on issuance of mining and plantation licenses—has to be better coordinated with the district plans. If these challenges can be effectively addressed in East Kalimantan it could help establish a path for other provinces to follow.

Success is still a long way off, but we have started to connect the dots from disparate site-based projects to the national and international stages. We’ve begun the transition from pilots and draft regulations to a time when national REDD+ programs will operate efficiently and transparently across the globe.

(Image 1: Lex Hovani. Image credit: TNC. Image 2: Aerial view of the forests in the Berau District, East Kalimantan, the island of Borneo, Indonesia. Image credit: TNC)

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