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Our Forest Management After COP26

This article was published on Tempo.co on 30 November 2021.

Forests have become the main topic of the United Nations Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, UK, and have been the subject of conversation and negotiation throughout the event. The Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use is proof of this, a total of 142 countries jointly committed to stopping deforestation and land degradation by 2030. Although the declaration is not legally binding, it poses a moral imperative. Indonesia was also one of the signatory countries.

Numerous pledges and funding commitments were made as a follow-up to the Glasgow Declaration. The pledge amounted to US$19.2 billion to protect and restore forests. This also includes US$1.7 billion to promote the well-being of indigenous peoples and local communities, particularly to further involve these groups in climate program planning and decision-making.

In COP26, various parties promised to create a new way of working to carry out their business activities. The 28 member countries of the Forest, Agriculture, and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue, with Indonesia as the co-chair, have agreed to protect forests in trading forest products and agricultural commodities. A total of 12 companies holding a dominant global market share for soybean, cocoa, palm oil, and livestock commodities, have also committed to stopping forest loss related to the production and trade of agricultural commodities.

The financial sector also expressed its support. More than 30 financial institutions, which cumulatively managed US$8.7 trillion in assets, have committed to eliminating deforestation risks from their investments in agriculture and plantations by 2025. What do these promises and commitments mean for Indonesia's emission reduction targets? The World Resources Institute compared the business-as-usual scenario with reducing carbon emissions in forests and land by fulfilling the promises and commitments stated in the Glasgow Declaration. If all signatory countries are able to stop forest loss by 2030, approximately 32.8 million hectares of forest loss and 18.9 gigatons of CO2 equivalent carbon emissions could be avoided.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s data (2019) about primary and secondary forest cover in Papua indicated that there were 34.039 million hectares of forest covering 84 percent of Papua's territory in 2019. According to the Public Relations Division - Ministry of the Environment and Forestry, nearly 70 percent of Papua's forests were under a permanent moratorium in 2021. If we assume that 70 percent of Papua's forests are protected, there will be a chance that forest loss will be 70-84 percent or 5.5 million hectares in the permanently unprotected forest areas. In other words, 2.4 gigatons of CO2 equivalent emissions could be released.

Indonesia's Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nations predicts that, under the business-as-usual scenario, Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will reach 2.87 gigatons CO2 equivalent. When comparing this with carbon emissions from the 5.5 million hectare deforestation scenario in Papua, Indonesia clearly needs to vigorously prevent forest loss by, for example, utilizing 34 million hectares of forest that no longer has standing trees or has been degraded (Bappenas, 2020). The government also needs to carry out reforestation and/or restoration on a large scale, which is greater than the allocation for forest rehabilitation in the 2021 State Budget of IDR 952 billion for 56,000 hectares (Financial Notes of the 2021 State Budget Draft). At the same time, the government must also protect secondary forests with standing trees covering an area of 42.2 million hectares (MoEF, 2019).

Preventing emissions from being released into the atmosphere from deforestation is a huge climate mitigation achievement. However, forests also have another potential. As forests grow, carbon is also absorbed from the atmosphere. The Global Forest Watch data for 2001-2020 shows that forests absorb an average of 7.3 gigatons of CO2 equivalent per year globally. During the same period, Indonesia's forests absorbed 0.644 gigatons of CO2 equivalent per year and emitted 0.948 gigatons of CO2 equivalent or a total net emission of 0.304 gigatons of CO2 equivalent. Therefore, Indonesia should strategically halt deforestation to ensure that carbon sequestration by forest areas can still be effectively implemented. The Glasgow Declaration aims to not only stop forest loss and land degradation but also to reverse the trend of deforestation. The signatories of the declaration intended to strengthen efforts to accelerate the restoration of forests and other terrestrial ecosystems, such as peat and mangrove. President Joko Widodo's speech at the Glasgow Declaration session mentioned a plan to restore 600,000 hectares of mangroves. Mangrove restoration can potentially absorb 0.009 gigatons of CO2 equivalent per year.

Ecologically or socially appropriate forest and land restoration require active collaboration with communities that own or occupy the land. Therefore, regional restoration initiatives, such as Initiative 20x20 in South America and AFR100 in Africa, that bring together civil society organizations, investors, and governments as a collaborative unit serve as strategic measures. The expectation is that 600,000 hectares of Indonesia's mangrove restoration initiative, funded by the World Bank, can be designed and implemented by establishing cooperation among these key actors. Through this method, restoration funds can be channeled to community groups and local entrepreneurs working on land restoration. Transformative system change can only be achieved through collaboration.

In order to achieve system change and fulfill the commitments of the Glasgow Declaration, the signatories of the declaration or their stakeholders need to establish a clear and measurable work plan to achieve its goals by 2030. Furthermore, the implementation progress needs to be regularly transparently monitored, reported, and verified. Collaboration and transparency are key factors to ensure the fulfillment of promises and commitments. In Indonesia, collaboration with stakeholders, including businessmen, civil society organizations as well as indigenous peoples, and local communities, is absolutely necessary. Likewise, public disclosure in informing the progress of the Glasgow Declaration work plan implementation is also required. Addressing the climate crisis is our joint responsibility and good forest management supports this.

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