A British environmental group says forests in Central Kalimantan were being cleared on the day a billion dollar forest protection scheme for the province was being signed between Indonesia and Norway.
The deal last month was part of the REDD scheme, under which Indonesia receives money from Norway in return for protecting its forests.
But the Environmental Investigation Agency says Norway will actually profit indirectly from the plantation clearing that was taking place in Indonesia even as the ink dried on the REDD agreement.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: Jago Wadley, senior campaigner with the EIA
WADLEY: The President of Indonesia signed a moratorium on the issue including the exploitation permits for forest areas in Indonesia. And the moratorium is part of an agreement with Norway whereby Indonesia will try to reduce its emissions from deforestation in return for grants and also compensated payments from Norway. The agreement is a letter of intent of REDD and it has a one billion dollar budget attached to it.
COCHRANE: And REDD is something that we have talked about before on this show, it stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. Now meanwhile with that plan in place and being signed off on between Norway and Indonesia, what else was going on in Indonesia?
WADLEY: Indonesia's also announced that one province in Indonesia will be a pilot province underneath the letter of intent agreement with Norway. And under that various projects will be scaled up to a provincial level to try and make REDD plus work on a landscape level rather than on just a project level.
COCHRANE: So did things go well on that day, was the project put into place and was it the start of a new era?
WADLEY: It was a positive development the President signing the moratorium. However unfortunately on the day that the moratorium was signed, the IA researchers with our partner's were in an area that was covered by the moratorium but which was being actively cleared by a plantation company. Now obviously we didn't know before the moratorium where, before it was released, where it would cover, but we later found out that actually that the deforestation that we'd be filming in Kalimantan was within the moratorium's zone. So unfortunately the moratorium was effectively breached on its very first day.
COCHRANE: And you say this is particularly hypocritical because Norway, which was the country that signed, was signing, putting money, investing into this REDD scheme stands to benefit indirectly. Can you explain the link?
WADLEY: Yes hypocritical potentially the wrong word here in that Norway does stand to profit from the deforestation within the moratorium zone, but obviously it doesn't do that intentionally. It does it through the shareholdings of the Norwegian pension fund in a large Malaysian plantation company called Kuala Lumpur Kepong. The Malaysian company is a holdings group that has many plantation subsidiaries in Malaysia and is expanding into Indonesia, and Norway has about 45 and a half million dollars worth of shares in the company.
COCHRANE: So what can the Indonesian government do to put this right, to prove that it is serious about the REDD scheme and about protecting forests?
WADLEY: Well Indonesia has faced up to some difficult issues of corruption, of crime, of lots of bribery and the issuance of plantations permit, and an Indonesian government study itself came out in March this year really exposed the extent to which plantation companies are operating largely outside of the law in central Kalimantan, the REDD plus pilot program. There were many plantations that have not had their forest area released from the forest estate by the Ministry of Forestry, which is a requirement under Indonesian law. There are also many plantations which really only have principle or secondary permits or licenses and do no have the full sweep of permits that is required under Indonesian law. So in effect these companies are operating without the full official permission of the government of Indonesia and yet they are allowed to continue operating because there are clearly incentives provided to decision makers that allow them to continue outside of the law. So this is a problem that Indonesia really needs to deal with in terms of effective law enforcement, in terms of ensuring that the anti-corruption agency in Indonesia is empowered to really iron out some of these ongoing corruption problems, but also in terms of redefining the authority over land use. Not so much redefining it, but of clarifying it. There are conflicting spatial plans in the province which are used very effectively by businessmen wanting to expand their plantation space in order to get more concessions. And really what we've seen there and what's come out of the Indonesian government's own study is really regulatory chaos and administrative chaos in the plantation sector in central Kalimantan. So it is for the Indonesian government to try and resolve that situation for good.