10/10/2007 (The Jakarta Post) - The burden of forest preservation should be shared by all those that benefit from it, including the industrialized countries.
Global warming has been a major issue over the last decade. Global temperatures have increased by nearly one degree Celsius over the last 150 years, since the industrial era began. High levels of carbon emissions are blamed for this.
The Kyoto Protocol was signed nearly 10 years ago by 141 countries. It mandates that participating countries, many being the pioneers of the industrial era, reduce their carbon emissions starting next year to below 1990 levels. To date, however, key industrialized nations, such as the USA and Australia, remain reluctant to ratify the Protocol.
World leaders have been calling for more action to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of temperature increases. Former U.S. vice president Al Gore is one of them. In fact, he made a 100-minute documentary movie, An Inconvenient Truth, explaining the causes and dangers of global warming on his 100 minute movie.
His movie contains many scenes highlighting such things as the disappearance of the glaciers and the melting of ice at both the North and South Poles. The big picture is that when carbon emissions are high, temperatures increase, glaciers melt and sea levels rise, thereby leading to the inundation of the world's low-lying islands.
At the United Nations General Assembly a few weeks ago, one whole day was devoted to discussing climate change. The meeting was aimed at creating momentum and building political commitments from all countries to mitigating the impact of global warming before the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali on 3-14 December.
One major point of discussion was that all countries are expected to preserve their own forests and conduct reforestation. This point has become very relevant for countries like Indonesia, which has one of the most extensive rain forests in the world.
So far, Indonesia has put in place a set of laws and regulations to ensure that forest exploitation satisfies international requirements. For example, oil palm companies have to become members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which certifies palm oil exports to the European Union countries. Logs are also verified with regard to their sources, ages and replanting requirements before they can be exported.
But, unfortunately, deforestation continues in many parts of the country. In Riau, illegal logging has caused the rate of forest destruction to reach alarming levels (the pulp and paper industry is allegedly responsible for this). A similar situation prevails in Kalimantan, apparently due to illegal log exports to neighboring countries.
Here we have an incentive issue. While preserving rain forests would undoubtedly be beneficial for Indonesia in the long run, the country also has a right to exploit its forest for the good of its people. Indonesian forests contain the high quality timber needed by the furniture, construction, and pulp and paper industries. Our forests also contain major mineral resources beneath the surface. The areas currently under forest can also be used for growing various kinds of plantation crops, including oil palms.
So despite pleas from the international community, forest preservation remains easier said than done, especially with the abundance of impoverished communities living in the forests and their surrounds.
Therefore, Indonesia must convince the developed countries to share the burden of preserving its forests. Burden-sharing is only reasonable as the benefits of forest preservation will not only accrue to Indonesia, but also to other countries, including the developed countries that are primarily responsible for producing the greenhouse gases in the first place.
Forest preservation and reforestation won't work if the burden is only shared by a few while the benefits accrue to many. For Indonesia the costs are too high to take on alone. This message must get through at the upcoming summit in Bali. Otherwise we'll just witness a rerun of what has been happening so far: summits going nowhere and deforestation going forward. The writer is a research analyst at PT Bahana Securities