“It is a big deal because it reflects the fact that Indonesia has turned (a corner).”
Here’s a conundrum: rich nations are far better able to protect nature, yet most of the planet’s most biodiverse areas are in developing nations.
What to do?
The answer, according to many environmentalists, is simple: rich nations should pay poor ones to protect their natural resources, which are seen as part of the global commons (that is to say, natural resources owned and shared by us all). Global natural resources held by us all in global trust for future generations in perpetuity should include forests in the tropics, which are among the most biodiverse areas on earth.
According to one scheme, developed by a professor of environmental economics at the University of Oslo in Norway, we should regard tropical forests as “conservation goods” whereby rich nations can effectively function as “buyers” who purchase forests from poorer nation “sellers.” However, unlike in traditional buyer-seller arrangements, these buyers will not consume “the goods,” but rather buy them so as to stop the sellers from consuming them themselves.
For Norway, one of the world’s wealthiest nations on a per capita basis, this idea is more than merely theoretical. A decade ago the small Scandinavian country signed a $1 billion deal with Indonesia, which has some of the world’s largest tropical jungles, to help protect those forests. In recent decades vast swathes of virgin forest have been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations and agricultural land in Borneo and Sumatra.
Norway was adamant that before any payment would be made Indonesia should scale back its deforestation rates. Now the European country has decided to transfer the first payment of that historic deal to Indonesia because deforestation rates in Indonesia, it seems, have indeed started dropping.
In 2010 Indonesia imposed a moratorium on forest-clearing and by 2016 protected areas covered over 66 million hectares across the archipelago. Sadly, the ban did not prevent smallholders from continuing to burn forests on a large scale to create new agricultural land, thereby triggering massive forest fires that released noxious fumes affecting millions of people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
The country’s government say that carbon emissions from deforestation began to decline in 2017 for the first time, thanks to stepped-up prevention and conservation efforts. Once Norway can independently verify this claim, it will transfer payments to Indonesia.
“It is a big deal because it reflects the fact that Indonesia has turned (a corner), and that is great news for all of us,” Oyvind Eggen, director of the Oslo-based Rainforest Foundation Norway, was quoted as saying. “We want to see from Indonesia that this is a trend and not a one-year event,” Eggen stressed.