REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and REDD+ (which also includes carbon stock enhancements) play a key role in tropical countries with rich forest resources and troubling deforestation issues. The original idea for REDD came from RED, which is a payment mechanism to reduce deforestation and to mitigate climate change. In 2003, at the ninth Conference of Parties (COP 9) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Milan, the idea of compensation for reduced deforestation was brought up by the Amazon coalition at a side event. Later, at COP 11 in Montreal in 2005, Costa Rica and Papua Guinea submitted a formal proposal on behalf of the Coalition of Rainforest Nations to request the inclusion of deforestation reduction in the Climate Convention.
In response to the request from developing countries, at COP 13 in Bali, the Norwegian government established their $1.6 billion International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI), which sought to fund tropical forest conservation programs in several countries, such as Indonesia, Brazil, Liberia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Guyana. Thus, Norway played a major role in the REDD+ funding system, as its funding accounts for more than half of all REDD+ funding to date (Howell 2015, 3). In 2010, the Letter of Intent (LoI) was signed between Norway and Indonesia. Norway pledged $1 billion over five years towards efforts to cut green gas emissions in Indonesia. In the Lol, there is a term specifically indicating the role of REDD+: “Establish a special agency reporting directly to the President to coordinate the efforts….” (LoI, VI, b). However, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) signed Presidential Decree No. 16 Year 2015, and the duties, functions, and authority of this REDD+ Agency were integrated into the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (itself a merging of two independent ministries that predated the Jokowi administration).
The integration of the REDD+ agency into the ministry raises many questions:
First, it potentially troubles Indonesia’s relations with Norway. Several years after the initial agreement, Indonesia shows no progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, and as a result, no payments based on the performance-based aid mechanism have been received, with the exception of one $50 million donation for phase one. In March 2016, the Norwegian government admitted “they hadn’t seen actual progress in reducing deforestation in Indonesia” (Financial Times, March 1, 2016). Referring to the integration of the REDD+ Agency, Norway’s Ambassador to Indonesia Stig Traavik told the Jakarta Globe, “We have heard about the decision but not in detail. The main thing now is how to reach the goal together.”
Second, it clouds the authority of the REDD+ Agency. A government official at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry commented on the advantage of the integration during a meeting with us. She pointed out that the former REDD+ Agency didn’t have the authority to manage forest, which is under the authority of the ministry. In her view, through integration, the REDD+ Agency can now be much stronger, not only having the authority to release forest-related regulations, but also using institutions at the subnational level. However, even if this true, from a political perspective, the downgrading of the REDD+ Agency from the cabinet level to an office that is far away from the president’s sight has many disadvantages.
Third, it questions the functions of the REDD+ Agency. In 2015, then agency head Heru Prasetyo laid out the agency’s action plan for its ten current programs, such as monitoring the forest permits moratorium, one-map policy, law enforcement support, indigenous land mapping, forest fire prevention, and so on. Now, however, these ten programs are experiencing changes and challenges. Take, for example, relations with indigenous peoples. Mina Setra, Deputy Secretary General of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), mentioned that they used to work closely with the REDD+ Task Force and REDD+ Agency, and together they developed a plan and strategy for the engagement of indigenous communities on REDD+ activities. Now, however, with the new president and his integration of the REDD+ Agency into the ministry, everything has had to restart. Although AMAN has had positive conversations with President Jokowi, action on the REDD+ agenda seems to have stalled.
Fourth, the issues of funding and corruption remain unaddressed. There is no REDD+ financial mechanism in Indonesia for now. The money from the Norwegian government for the pre-creation phase, for example, was channeled through UNDP to avoid corruption. Ex-head of Indonesia’s REDD+ Task Force, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, once said in an interview, “The second I became head of the task force, I told the Norwegian ambassador here: ‘Please allow me not to take your money before I can assure myself it will not be misused.’” (Lang, 2013). By putting REDD+ under the Ministry of Environment and Forestry without a solid financial mechanism, money will go to the ministry itself. The previous Ministry of Forestry, at least, had a reputation as one of the most corrupt government institutions in Indonesia.
Lastly, the impacts on the other forest countries is unclear. The decisions and actions of the Indonesian government will have influence on other countries, such as Ethiopia, Guyana, and Brazil, who have also signed bilateral agreements with Norway. Indonesia’s REDD+ Agency used to be a good example for them to learn from. A researcher at CIFOR, Efrian Muharrom, mentioned in a meeting with us that Brazil and Indonesia used to learn a lot from each other’s experiences with REDD+. It remains unclear if the integration of the REDD+ Agency will be viewed by others as a best practice or as a cautionary tale.
Currently, we cannot tell what direction the decision to integrate the REDD+ Agency will take. It is still too early to make any firm conclusions. But if REDD+ in Indonesia wants to be a success story, it needs to address the above concerns.
Howell, S & Bastiansen, E. (2015). Report of a Collaborative Anthropological Research Programme. REDD+ in Indonesia 2010-2015.
The Jakarta Post, BP REDD+ to go on despite uncertain future, http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/01/16/bp-redd-go-despite-uncertain-future.html
Jakarta Globe, Jokowi Folds Emissions Agency BP REDD+ Into Forestry Ministry, http://jakartaglobe.id/news/jokowi-folds-emissions-agency-bp-redd-forestry-ministry/
Lang, Chris. (March 3, 2016) Norway admits that “We haven’t seen actual progress in reducing deforestation” in Indonesia. http://www/Redd-monitor.org