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Indonesia's carbon-rich wetlands essential

April 12, 2011 at 1:12 PM   |   Comments

JAKARTA, April 12 (UPI) -- Because of their potential for storing carbon, Indonesia's wetlands -- which include mangroves and freshwater peat forests -- are integral in the fight against climate change, experts say.

Unless Indonesia preserves its 7.41 million acres of mangrove forests -- representing 23 percent of the world's total -- the country's climate change mitigation programs would be pointless, said Daniel Murdiyarso, a senior researcher from the Center for International Forestry Research at the organization's conference Monday in Sanur, Bali, the Jakarta Post reports.

Mangroves should have adequate protection, Murdiyarso said, calling for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to keep his pledge for Indonesia to change its status from "a net emitter" to "a net sink" for carbon by 2030. The rate of deforestation for Indonesia's mangrove forests now stands at approximately 7 percent a year.

Jakarta has pledged to reduce the country's emissions by 26 percent on its own and by 42 percent with international climate aid.

But Indonesia now ranks as the fifth largest carbon emitter in the world, with deforestation and forest degradation accounting for more than 80 percent of its emissions.

"It is a fact that wetlands store a lot of carbon that has the potential to be lost to the atmosphere more rapidly than any other tropical forest type" when cleared by typical burning procedures, said Matthew Warren, a researcher from the U.S. Forest Service

"Do not allow them to be drained and burnt because that will release carbon," Warren said.

A report released by Greenpeace last week said management consultancy McKinsey & Co has suggested strategies to Indonesia and other nations that could help them proceed with logging practices while still generating revenue from the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, or REDD, and REDD+ schemes.

The Greenpeace report said McKinsey's approach offers an incentive to governments to artificially increase predicted deforestation rates so that later reductions could secure more compensation.

Also, in its "REDD Alert: Protection Money" report released last November, Greenpeace said that because of vague definitions, continued clearance of forest could be allowed in Indonesia under the guise of rehabilitation of degraded forest areas.

Greenpeace said documents from the forestry, agriculture and energy departments in Jakarta reveal plans for expansion in the pulp, palm, agriculture, biofuel and coal sectors that could bring an additional 156 million acres of land into use by 2030.

After Brazil, Indonesia has the second-highest deforestation rate in the world.

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