NUSA DUA, Bali (JP): Never before has the development and the environment discourse shifted so dramatically as in the last six months.
Global recognition of the human contributions to climate change is leading to unprecedented responses from citizens, governments, and private corporations.
An important question is will these responses be too little too late? A more immediate and urgent question is who will be the winners and losers on the new climate change mitigation and adaptation playing field?
By many estimates, Indonesia is one of the world's leading emitters of carbon dioxide, the most prevalent of the global warming gases. This is due to the large amounts of carbon that are released into the atmosphere through peat and forestland logging and clearing for palm oil and pulp wood plantations.
As the host of the 13th UN Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, Indonesia is under pressure to demonstrate a real commitment to addressing its land-based emissions of greenhouse gases.
The first and least complicated way for Indonesia to show leadership and significantly reduce land-based emissions is to take steps to protect peat forests from conversion to plantations. This will require a change in Indonesia's development strategy that currently allows plantation companies to convert forests to establish new plantations.
The second and more complicated approach to reducing land-based emissions is to significantly reduce deforestation.
Keeping in mind the millions of easy dollars that flow from logging operations and natural forest conversion to agriculture, it is clear that this cannot be accomplished without significant compensation to those who forgo the opportunity and perhaps their right to log and convert their forest areas. This is particularly difficult since it is not legally clear just who has the right to forego these opportunities.
Conventional wisdom (status quo) points directly to the central government, forest and agricultural industries and to a somewhat lesser extent, local governments as the stakeholders who will require compensation for the foregone opportunities. Should this prevail, once again we will see millions of rural Indonesians marginalized and under even greater threat of losing their land.
As the World Bank scrambles to take the lead in managing large multilateral funds aimed at addressing the climate crisis, and bilateral development assistance redefines priorities and programs to fit into new climate change mitigation and adaptation frameworks and the voluntary carbon market expands, a question that continues to be ignored is, will this impressive response improve or threaten the lives of local rural peoples?
The recently released UNDP report makes a convincing case of how without serious attention and commitment by the government of Indonesia, its poorest people will suffer most as the climate changes. The report highlights the large amount of investments that will be needed to assist the poor to adapt. What is missing in the presentation is discussion of the political commitment that is required to ensure that Indonesia's rural poor benefit rather than suffer from the financial flows for avoiding deforestation, and adapting to climate change, that will likely result from the post-Bali scenarios.
The provinces of Papua and West Papua are at this time the best example. They take the position that the land and natural resources of the province are under the ownership of Adat or indigenous communities.
Like most provinces in the "outer islands" the majority of the provincial territory is classified "forest area". In the case of Papua and West Papua, the designated forest area is more than 95 percent of the land base. This classification, in accordance with the 1999 forest law, falls under the authority of the Ministry of Forestry to determine. The problem originates from what comes next.
According to the same
law, "forest area" does not mean "state forest area". To be classified
as a State Forest Area, a given forest must be determined to have no
rights existing over the land. The law requires a well-defined process
to be implemented by the Ministry of Forestry to determine whether or
not any such rights exist in a particular forest area.
Currently, only 10 percent of the 120 million hectares of forest area has been fully gazetted as State Forest Area, leaving the status of the remaining 90 percent of forests undetermined.
An equally important provision of the forestry law allows for the existence of "private forests".
These are areas where land rights over the forest area exist. In the case of Papua, the provincial government clearly states that they view indigenous communities as having land rights over the territories that the Ministry of Forestry has classified as forest areas. As a result, local Papuan communities, by law should have a full say over anything and everything that is planned within their territories. This includes timber concessions, timber plantations, agribusiness such as palm oil estates, and any arrangements that are made to maintain forests through avoided deforestation mechanisms.
A post-Bali challenge for Indonesia will be to legally define and recognize the rights of the end users/beneficiaries, in this case referring to benefits flows derived from reduced emissions from degradation and deforestation (REDD).
Without a legally consistent and verifiable system of benefits flows, any kind of REDD scheme will fail. This will require the recognition of communities who have proprietary rights over the areas in question.
While the evolving legal and policy analysis continues to support the position of local peoples' rights over their natural resources, particularly land, the resistance from Jakarta remains formidable. This is where a significant change in government policy is required. It is legally consistent and appropriate for the government to devolve responsibility for land titling to the Land Administration Agency (BPN) and the protection of forest functions (biodiversity, hydrology, production, etc) to the Ministry of Forestry.
As REDD funds begin to flow, the question of communal title becomes critical. This deals with the fundamental question of who are the final beneficiaries in the chain. Unless this question is dealt with, the risk of only causing greater conflict over land will increase.
Another question is whether, in the short term, the Indonesian government can manage a working administrative and judicial system that will validate the legal basis for communal title in areas where it matters most.
Only then can financial flows aimed at mitigating and adapting local land use in the context of carbon management be effective and socially just. (Avi Mahaningtyas and Chip Fay)
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