Last week, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi’ Widodo disbanded the country's independent REDD+ Agency as part of his effort to better coordinate activities related to forestry and the environment. While some worried this could undermine the country's efforts to save its forests and slow climate change, Pungky Widiaryanto of the State Ministry of National Development Planning says the change makes sense, and will lead to a more efficient implementation of REDD.
5 February 2014 | For almost five years, a scheme to mitigate climate change called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) has gained great momentum in Indonesia, particularly after the government signed a letter of intent (LoI) with Norway in 2010.
According to the LoI, Norway commits to compensating Indonesia US$1 billion in total as long as Indonesia reduces emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Among its activities the establishment of the REDD+ Agency, or BP REDD+, was probably the most important achievement to pave the way for the success of REDD+ in Indonesia even though the process took a long time under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Basically, the notion of BP REDD+ was aimed at preparing a global REDD+ scheme. Importantly, this agency was also expected to address the underlying causes of Indonesia’s high deforestation rates — a lack of coordination, weak law enforcement, unclear spatial planning and a bad forest governing system. All these problems involve disputes among various institutions.
The idea of forming BP REDD+, moreover, was due to skepticism within existing institutions in managing promised REDD+ incentives as public funds.
A study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in 2010 found that the then forestry ministry misused a reforestation fund during Soeharto’s regime. This issue raised concerns about the capacity and accountability of the ministry to manage, use and distribute the REDD+ incentive.
Many stakeholders had supported the creation of BP REDD+ since it apparently both satisfied the LoI with Norway and succeeded in reducing deforestation in Indonesia.
However, BP REDD+’s authority was unclear; its appearance as an ad hoc organization provoked conflicts with other ministries.
Under Yudhoyono, the establishment of a new agency or temporary institution was a common strategy and made matters more complex. For instance, although the BP REDD+ was directly under the president’s authority, several ministries resented it because the agency took over the existing ministries’ authority. Poor capacity also led to problems related to legitimacy, convening power and the ability to act.
Its chairman, Heru Prasetyo, enjoyed credibility after serving in the then Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development, or UKP4.
However, both existing institutions and the legislature questioned his authority to coordinate other ministries and to implement policy reform.
BP REDD+ had only little recognition from other government agencies, causing REDD+ to progress slowly in Indonesia. For example, there was a debate with the forestry ministry in developing and submitting the Forest Reference Emissions Level. Uncertain funding mechanism as a result of less support from the Finance Ministry and Ministry of National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) was another problem faced by REDD+.
Compared to his predecessor, President Joko “Jokowi’ Widodo created a more effective and efficient government by diminishing unnecessary ad hoc institutions and combining some ministries. He combined the ministries of environment and forestry into the Environment and Forestry Ministry.
On Jan. 21 President Jokowi signed Presidential Regulation No. 16/2015 in which BP REDD+ along with the National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) are integrated into the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
The decree also mandates a new division under Minister Siti Nurbaya, called the Directorate General of Climate Change Oversight, replacing the function of BP REDD+ and DNPI. Arguably, this new directorate general is intended to improve coordination in climate change issues. It makes sense that Minister Siti wants BP REDD+ under her authority given the tremendous amount of resources spent by the ministry and commitments to realize REDD+ strategies.
The idea of REDD+ in Indonesia was initiated by the earlier forestry mnistry through forming a multiple stakeholders’ forum — the Indonesia Forest Climate Alliance in 2007.
The ministry was concerned with establishing REDD+ project procedures, demonstration activities, forest carbon measurement and a monitoring, reporting and verification system. The ministry had correspondingly invested in developing one substantial carbon accounting system, the National Carbon Accounting System of Indonesia.
In addressing the underlying causes of deforestation, Minister Siti made some commitments. First, to increase good forest governance the ministry is ready to establish up to 600 forest management units to manage about 137 million hectare of forestland.
Second, with regard to solving forest tenure issue, the ministry is also allocating around 12 million hectares of forest area to be managed by local communities and indigenous peoples for five years. This commitment complies with safeguard issues under the principles of REDD+.
Third, the Minister just established a de-bottlenecking policy by delegating all forestry related businesses’ permits to the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM). In addition to one-stop licensing services, this new policy principally aims to prevent corrupt practices. Furthermore, the Minister also promises to continue the one map policy initiative for avoiding overlap land allocation in administering the forest areas.
All forest policy reforms above are good signals that “change comes from within” for the success of REDD+ in Indonesia. The merging of BP REDD+ into the ministry, however, must be monitored and controlled by the public to ensure transparency and accountability.