Data from the 2013 Ministry of Forestry’s Statistic book showed that approximately 29.8 million hectares of forest area no longer has forest biophysical condition, or in other words, is in degraded condition. Meanwhile, more than 15.3 million hectares of non-forest area – in the form of Convertible Production Forest (HPK) and areas for other use (APL) – is untouched natural forest with high biodiversity. This forest area, which is categorized as non-forest area, is often referred to as planned deforestation area. This planned deforestation area is the source of planned emission calculated in the 29 percent total emissions that are planned to be reduced by 2030 through the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by Indonesia in the COP21 Paris.

If we consider one hectare of natural forest to store 150 tons of carbon (based on the FAO standard) or approximately 550 tons of CO2 equivalent (with IPCC multiplying factor), 15.3 million hectares of forests would store 8.4 gigatons of CO2 equivalent. In the Indonesia’s INDC document, it is recorded that the total annual emission in 2030 will be 2.8 gigatons of CO2 equivalent, with land use and forest sectors emission reach almost 1.1 gigatons of CO2 equivalent. Hence, the emission that can be avoided by changing the policy to remove planned deforestation will be almost three times bigger than Indonesia’s annual emission in 2030, or even almost 8 times bigger than the emission from land use and forest sectors in 2030. Let alone the rich biodiversity that can be protected.

Low Carbon Development Dilemma

The government, under the leadership of President Joko Widodo, intends to redistribute approximately 9 million hectares of land for communities as one of the promises in the Nine Priority Agenda (Nawa Cita). Such land, according to the Minister for the Environment and Forestry, may originate from HPK or APL. Spatial planning always request for APL expansion for area development purpose through conversion from forests to non-forests area. For example, Riau in 2012 requested 2.7 million hectares of forest area to be converted into non-forest area, and in 2011, East Kalimantan requested for land conversion of 2.5 million hectares. If non-forests area is needed to achieve development target, both for land resdtribution and regional development, the 29.8 million hectares of forests area that no longer have forest biophysical condition can be the main source for redistribution and conversion. Similarly, if there is a request to convert forests area for large-scale plantations area, this conversion can be fulfilled from the 29.8 million hectares. Put simply, we can do a land swap scheme that swap degraded forests area with primary and secondary natural forests area. Land conversion from forests area through HPK, especially area that is still relatively intact, should be avoided.

Based on the Nine Priority Agenda, the government is currently planning a large-scale infrastructure development, especially to meet the power shortage. The target is to provide 35 GW of power capacity within 5-year working cabinet administration. Imagine that after 70 years since Indonesia’s independence, our installed power capacity only reached 50 GW. If we want to provide additional 35 GW of power capacity within five years, the easiest way would be to use coal-based diesel power plant (PLTD). However, this plan, among others, would contribute to the emission from energy sector, amounting to 1.4 gigaton of CO2 equivalent in 2030 according to INDC. To date, coal remains the highest emitting source of energy.

Is it possible for Indonesia to change its strategy by shifting to clean, new, and renewable energy? It may not be possible to shift massively within 5 years. It is also impossible to slow down the manufacture-based development that has already been left behind other countries. Therefore, what we need is carbon offset. One simple measure would be to reduce the planned deforestation in the forestry sector to balance the carbon emitted from the energy sector. Primary and secondary natural forests of 15.3 million hectares in HPK and APL, which pose potential avoided emission of 8.4 gigatons of CO2 equivalent, can be a potential carbon offset.

Dealing with the Dilema

The research conducted by the World Resources Institute in 2013-2014 on forest and land management in the context of land swap between degraded land and private-owned concession on peatland area in West Kalimantan suggested that the challenges to implement this scheme lies on the regulations on forests acquisition or conversion and spatial planning. According to the prevailing regulation, at least 2.273 days or approximately 6 years are needed to acquire or convert forests into non-forests area. This number of days does not include additional time needed for consultation with and approval by the House of Representatives (DPR).

Spatial planning may become an obstacle if the the land allotment is not in line with the need to swap. On the other hand, spatial planning can be a formal foundation for land swapping should the allotment be in line with the need to swap. This means that spatial planning is the key to utilize the 29.8 million hectares of forests area that no longer have forests biophysical condition as well as to protect the non-forests area of 15.3 million hectares that are rich in biodiversity.

There are three parallel measures that need to be taken. The first measure is to review the Government Regulation 28/2008 regarding national spatial planning (RTRW) that needs to be adjusted to strengthen environmental consideration and to control climate change. The second measure is to perform national reclassification of forest and land status based on their biophysical condition. The reclassification results can be used to undertake the third measure.

The third measure is to conduct simultaneous evaluation on provincial and regental/municipal spatial planning by using Strategic Environmental Assessment (KLHS) mechanism. Today, Government Regulation on KLHS has yet to be issued even though the draft has been ready since more than two years ago following various cross-sectoral and cross-multi stakeholder consultation processes. The Agrarian and Spatial Planning ministry may lead the acceleration process of the government regulation or issue an Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministerial Regulation as a bridge.


It is important to have a common understanding among sectors on the need to reclassify forests and land as a strategic step to achieve development goal that balances the needs of infrastructure decelopment and emission reduction. Without the common understanding, collaboration for spatial planning that guarantees sustainable development can never take place. Eventually, achieving emission reduction target and sustainable development are national goals that require holistic paradigm to enable cross-sectoral collaboration.