Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has disbanded Indonesia’s BP REDD+ agency, which was established in 2013 to help the country meet greenhouse gas emission targets from deforestation, and merged it with Ministry of Environment and Forestry.
The decision, which was issued via Presidential Decree No. 16/2015 issued on Jan. 23, will see the Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Management Body, as well as the National Council on Climate Change, folded into the ministry.
Both agencies are peak government bodies whose role is crucial to halting Indonesia’s rapid deforestation rates and mitigating climate change.
“The task and function of reducing greenhouse emissions conducted by BP REDD+ as stated in Presidential Decree No. 62/2003 now will be integrated as the ministry’s task and function,” Article 59 of the decree said.
There was no elaboration on the technical arrangements, but the decree said that the authority would be given to minister Siti Nurbaya.
BP REDD+ was founded in 2013 by then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as part of Indonesia’s $1 billion REDD deal with Norway.
In 2009, Indonesia pledged to cut deforestation rates — which are estimated to be some of the fastest in the world — by up to 41 percent by 2020. A year later Indonesia signed a letter of intent with Norway, which outlined Indonesia’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation of peatland, in exchange for payments of up to $1 billion from Norway.
BP REDD took over from the REDD+ Task Force, which was established in 2010, and has since worked on Indonesia’s REDD+ planning, including projects such as the One Map initiative — a centralized forestry map, which is aimed resolving conflicting land claims that have hampered emissions reductions targets.
The decision to disband the agency has met a mixed response from some within Indonesia, but Norway’s ambassador to Indonesia Stig Traavik took a cautious tone when contacted on Thursday.
He said it was natural for a new government to want to “manage things their own way” and Norway was open to some changes.
When asked whether he thought Joko was serious about Indonesia’s environmental pledge, he replied the two countries had a long partnership on climate issues and he was confident things would progress.
“We have heard about the decision but not in detail. The main thing now is how to reach the goal together,” Traavik said.
Abetnego Tarigan, executive director at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, said for certain issues the merger could be positive.
“The previous president formed BP REDD+ with the help of the Norwegian embassy as a debottlenecking attempt in the efforts of solving environmental issues in Indonesia,” he said.
“However, the problems have been that the ministries were not working well because they couldn’t work hand in hand.”
Abetnego said what was important was whether efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were effective.
“If merging BP REDD+ was an attempt to kill it all … I think that would be a colossal mistake,” he said.
“With the merger, the assumption is that there wouldn’t be any difficulties in solving environmental issues, as the ministry is a big institution and also has regional units in many areas.”
William Sabandar, former deputy of operations at BP REDD+, was less affirmative about the decision.
“This is how I see it as a former deputy of BP REDD+. What’s certain is that the presidential decree violates the agreement between the Indonesian government with the Norwegian government which is stated in the Letter of Intent in 2010.”
He said it was sad to see that the merger had not been considered thoroughly in terms of its local, national and international effects.
“The international dimension would be how they would consider Indonesia’s important role in the global climate change movement.
“The national dimension is how serious we are in boosting the country’s forest and land management across the archipelago.
“The local dimension is the BP REDD+’s role in involving the society and boosting welfare.”