Conservation Offers Better Rewards Than Plantations : UNEP

Source : Jakarta Post – September 29, 2011

A United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) report says conserving rainforests in Indonesia can generate three times more revenue than clearing them for palm oil plantations. The report estimates that the carbon value of peat-rich forests ranges from US$3,711 and $11,185 per hectare over a 25-year period, which is a higher value than the revenue from any other land uses such as — among others — agroforestry, sustainable logging and oil palm.

While the range of net present values for carbon credits from avoided deforestation of forests on peat lands is between $7,420 and $22,090 per hectare for a 25-year period. The report also says that rainforest conservation can also deliver multiple green economy benefits from battling climate change such as securing water supplies and improving livelihoods while at the same time protecting the remaining population of orangutans.

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said that the report was important because it found that the ecosystem, the forest ecosystem in particular, also benefited societies and economics. “The forest ecosystems are not only a collection of trees. They are also part of a carbon capture and storage service that nature provides,” he said, adding that this was particularly important for Indonesia because it was the fourth-largest country in terms of carbon stocks or carbon storage in the world.

He added that the world was working toward a low carbon economy in which nations that are able to provide for the global community would become an important economic player because of their forest infrastructure. The report also estimates that many of the coastal, peat-rich forests of Sumatra, where the population of the last 6,600 endangered Sumatran orangutans live, may be worth up to today’s value of $22,000 a hectare at current carbon prices. Palm oil plantations on the same amount of cleared land would produce revenue of less than $7,400 a hectare.

The report, which involved conservation organizations PanEco Swiss, Leuser Ecosystem Foundation (YEL) and World Agroforestry Center, also calls for more international support for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) projects in key orangutan forests. It cited that deforestation contributed approximately 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and was a major contributor to climate change as well as to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services and thus a direct threat to Asia’s great ape the orangutan. The report notes that Indonesia is within the highest five countries for percentage of primary forest loss globally.

Aceh and North Sumatra, two provinces where Sumatran orangutans exist, suffered a total forest loss of more than 22 percent and 43 percent, respectively, from 1985 to 2009. The Norwegian government is currently supporting Indonesia in its efforts to reduce deforestation and illegal logging under a $1 billion agreement that stipulated that Indonesia pass a two-year suspension of new concessions for peat land and primary forest conversion.

Erik Solheim, the Norwegian minister of the environment and international development, said in a statement that “the [UNEP] report underlines that investing and re-investing in forests and the services they provide can be far more profitable and with social and environmental outcomes than trading away our common future for
short-term gains.” (msa)

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