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Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in ‘era of SDGs’

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The public and private sectors must join forces to finance blue carbon, in order to reap social, environmental and economic returns from the ecosystems. 

The Blue Carbon Summit on July 16-17 in Jakarta, Indonesia, clarified the importance of learning and disseminating more about coastal ecosystems. During the event, one of the discussion forums honed in on these at-risk ecosystems, looking in particular at the payment mechanisms needed to keep blue carbon intact.

Financing blue carbon development addressed how to best use the available funding; no matter what kind of payments are on offer, the discussion explored why blue carbon should be accounted for among stakeholders.

Medrilzam, Director for Environmental Affairs at Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), highlighted the importance of incorporating blue carbon into efforts to achieve to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), describing the current environment as “the era of SDGs”.

Watch: Financing blue carbon development

SDG 13 on climate action, he said, was the anchor for several other goals, including sustainable cities and communities; life below water; and life on land. Bappenas had never before included blue carbon as an aspect of discussions at national or regional levels, he explained, but is now factoring it in when measuring emission reductions, as Indonesia moves towards its targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 26% by 2020 and 29% by 2030.

In particular, he highlighted Bappenas’ low carbon development plan, a new development platform aimed at sustaining economic and social growth through low GHG emissions and minimizing the exploitation of natural resources. However, he stressed the need to consider interlinkages, saying that blue carbon related to the economy or the population, and vice versa.

“We cannot just rely on government financing. We know we have limited capacity,” he said, adding that development agencies needed to be imaginative about dealing with emerging forms of innovative finance.

Felia Salim, from the Board of Directors at &Green Fund and Sail Ventures, explained that &Green Fund related to land use, but its model could be replicated for blue carbon by looking at the concept of blended finance.

Mangroves grow along the water’s edge in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“We need to understand, when we talk about finance, that this is really about linking it to the market,” she said. “We are trying to correct the market forces.”

In terms of blended finance, Salim suggested that the conventional financial sector may not yet fully understand how to mitigate risks related to blue carbon, and therefore has a low appetite for them. Thus, it is all about “absorbing some of the risks that cannot be absorbed by the conventional financial sector.”

“This is the blended part. It’s really sharing the risk,” she said. “Basically the public fund is taking up a portion of the risk — that’s the basic principle of blended finance.”

According to Salim, climate risk and strategy must be incorporated into planning, and such strategies should not only account for economic return, but also environmental returns such as the number of hectares of forest that have been conserved, and social inclusion factors such as jobs created or improvements for smallholder suppliers.

“If you don’t involve stakeholders in the area, it won’t be sustainable,” she stressed, adding that companies which had seriously implemented environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk into their strategies have shown to be performing better as a result.

“The social and environmental returns make economic sense,” she said, “because what you want is […] business that is sustainable, that lasts,” reiterating that &Green Fund is trying to finance a gap that the conventional financial sector cannot absorb.

Read also: Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Mangroves and sandbanks protect the shore in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Ecotourism is another route to preserving nature while also providing incomes, as outlined by Bustar Maitar, Director of Kurabesi Nusantara Indonesia, a social enterprise offering liveaboard diving tours in eastern Indonesia.

Despite hundreds of comparable boats operating in the archipelago, Maitar said only 12 were Indonesian owned, representing a big growth opportunity for Indonesian investment.

Continuing the investment conversation, Fitrian Adriansyah, chairman of the executive board of IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative) Indonesia, discussed how IDH invests in collaboration with the private sector.

“We believe sustainable production and trade can transform markets for the benefit of people and the planet,” he said. There is a need to promote greater understanding between the public and private sectors, he added, which “cannot be done if we cannot bridge the gap in terms of understanding the risk when it comes to investment in blue carbon.”

IDH, which invests in commodities, including aquaculture and mangroves, purports to seek impact rather than financial return. Responding to concerns that aquaculture is seen as an “enemy” of blue carbon efforts, Adriansyah said IDH’s criteria in selecting investment opportunities comprised improved productivity; protecting remaining forests; and the inclusion of villagers, smallholders or the community.

Finally, Muhammad Senang Semibiring, a Senior Advisor to the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), outlined private financing through a community-based coastal carbon corridor initiative. KEHATI, the first and largest biodiversity conservation trust fund in Indonesia, was begun 25 years ago and makes use of public-private partnerships toward the achievement of SDG 17.

By investing in natural solutions, many elements of coastal areas can be protected. There can be economic benefits in doing so, including for the lives of community members. In identifying the challenges facing the financing of blue carbon initiatives, stakeholders can assess these returns and – as evidenced by the discussions at the Blue Carbon Summit – achieve social and economic benefits as well as environmental advantages.

Read also: Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

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  • Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in 'era of SDGs'

Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in ‘era of SDGs’

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The public and private sectors must join forces to finance blue carbon, in order to reap social, environmental and economic returns from the ecosystems. 

The Blue Carbon Summit on July 16-17 in Jakarta, Indonesia, clarified the importance of learning and disseminating more about coastal ecosystems. During the event, one of the discussion forums honed in on these at-risk ecosystems, looking in particular at the payment mechanisms needed to keep blue carbon intact.

Financing blue carbon development addressed how to best use the available funding; no matter what kind of payments are on offer, the discussion explored why blue carbon should be accounted for among stakeholders.

Medrilzam, Director for Environmental Affairs at Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), highlighted the importance of incorporating blue carbon into efforts to achieve to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), describing the current environment as “the era of SDGs”.

Watch: Financing blue carbon development

SDG 13 on climate action, he said, was the anchor for several other goals, including sustainable cities and communities; life below water; and life on land. Bappenas had never before included blue carbon as an aspect of discussions at national or regional levels, he explained, but is now factoring it in when measuring emission reductions, as Indonesia moves towards its targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 26% by 2020 and 29% by 2030.

In particular, he highlighted Bappenas’ low carbon development plan, a new development platform aimed at sustaining economic and social growth through low GHG emissions and minimizing the exploitation of natural resources. However, he stressed the need to consider interlinkages, saying that blue carbon related to the economy or the population, and vice versa.

“We cannot just rely on government financing. We know we have limited capacity,” he said, adding that development agencies needed to be imaginative about dealing with emerging forms of innovative finance.

Felia Salim, from the Board of Directors at &Green Fund and Sail Ventures, explained that &Green Fund related to land use, but its model could be replicated for blue carbon by looking at the concept of blended finance.

Mangroves grow along the water’s edge in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“We need to understand, when we talk about finance, that this is really about linking it to the market,” she said. “We are trying to correct the market forces.”

In terms of blended finance, Salim suggested that the conventional financial sector may not yet fully understand how to mitigate risks related to blue carbon, and therefore has a low appetite for them. Thus, it is all about “absorbing some of the risks that cannot be absorbed by the conventional financial sector.”

“This is the blended part. It’s really sharing the risk,” she said. “Basically the public fund is taking up a portion of the risk — that’s the basic principle of blended finance.”

According to Salim, climate risk and strategy must be incorporated into planning, and such strategies should not only account for economic return, but also environmental returns such as the number of hectares of forest that have been conserved, and social inclusion factors such as jobs created or improvements for smallholder suppliers.

“If you don’t involve stakeholders in the area, it won’t be sustainable,” she stressed, adding that companies which had seriously implemented environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk into their strategies have shown to be performing better as a result.

“The social and environmental returns make economic sense,” she said, “because what you want is […] business that is sustainable, that lasts,” reiterating that &Green Fund is trying to finance a gap that the conventional financial sector cannot absorb.

Read also: Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Mangroves and sandbanks protect the shore in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Ecotourism is another route to preserving nature while also providing incomes, as outlined by Bustar Maitar, Director of Kurabesi Nusantara Indonesia, a social enterprise offering liveaboard diving tours in eastern Indonesia.

Despite hundreds of comparable boats operating in the archipelago, Maitar said only 12 were Indonesian owned, representing a big growth opportunity for Indonesian investment.

Continuing the investment conversation, Fitrian Adriansyah, chairman of the executive board of IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative) Indonesia, discussed how IDH invests in collaboration with the private sector.

“We believe sustainable production and trade can transform markets for the benefit of people and the planet,” he said. There is a need to promote greater understanding between the public and private sectors, he added, which “cannot be done if we cannot bridge the gap in terms of understanding the risk when it comes to investment in blue carbon.”

IDH, which invests in commodities, including aquaculture and mangroves, purports to seek impact rather than financial return. Responding to concerns that aquaculture is seen as an “enemy” of blue carbon efforts, Adriansyah said IDH’s criteria in selecting investment opportunities comprised improved productivity; protecting remaining forests; and the inclusion of villagers, smallholders or the community.

Finally, Muhammad Senang Semibiring, a Senior Advisor to the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), outlined private financing through a community-based coastal carbon corridor initiative. KEHATI, the first and largest biodiversity conservation trust fund in Indonesia, was begun 25 years ago and makes use of public-private partnerships toward the achievement of SDG 17.

By investing in natural solutions, many elements of coastal areas can be protected. There can be economic benefits in doing so, including for the lives of community members. In identifying the challenges facing the financing of blue carbon initiatives, stakeholders can assess these returns and – as evidenced by the discussions at the Blue Carbon Summit – achieve social and economic benefits as well as environmental advantages.

Read also: Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

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  • Financing blue carbon development

Financing blue carbon development

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The increasing demand of the world population to protein source from marine ecosystems in the last few decades have triggered the fast-growing industry of fisheries and aquaculture in both marine and inland waters. Consequently, overfishing is inevitable and many fishing grounds in Indonesia are steadily depleting. Combination of improved fisheries, good aquaculture practices, modernized post-harvest storage and processing industries could lead to sustainable blue economy.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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  • Opening plenary of the Blue Carbon Summit 2018

Opening plenary of the Blue Carbon Summit 2018

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The opening plenary will put into perspective the importance of blue carbon in both national and global agenda. High-level policymakers and prominent experts will emphasize blue carbon’s potential to mitigate climate change and enhance sustainable economic development. The session is expected to trigger dialogues across sector and stakeholders concern with blue carbon issues during the summit.

Originally published by CIFOR.

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  • Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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Fish for sale in a local market in Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding more sustainable ways to feed the world at the EAT Food Forum in Jakarta.

Creating a more sustainable global food system demands innovation in food technologies, and collaboration at the highest levels of government. These demands were echoed by many prominent leaders who attended the recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia.

More than 500 participants from 30 countries congregated at the Forum on October 30 and 31 to discuss progress on the latest food research, as well as ideas for how to transform food systems in Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned in his opening remarks that “food can trigger political problems if not managed well.” He hoped that the “EAT Forum can reach a collective understanding through international collaboration among development actors from various sectors.”

After a steady decline for more than a decade, global hunger is again on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, according to a recent UN report. The increased number of those going hungry — from 38 million people last year to 815 million people today — is reported to be mainly caused by civil conflicts, and exacerbated by climate-related catastrophes.

Gathering leaders from science, politics and business, the EAT Forum aimed to promote a more holistic approach to food, health and sustainability, filling knowledge gaps, pushing for integrated food policies and finding win-win solutions.

Read more: Feminism, forests and food security

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

A HIGH-LEVEL ISSUE

“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets,” EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen said in her opening speech.

“We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector, from multinationals to local entrepreneurs, to create new products, services and sustainable business models,” she added.

Indonesian Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that “food security has become a prominent issue due to rapid growth in global population.”

“Food security, energy security and water supply are becoming key factors for many economic activities in the world. Improvements in technology and innovation are definitely going to create both opportunities and increasing productivity, but also challenges,” she said.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Terry Sunderland from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) commended the EAT forum for its success in gathering a large number of stakeholders in the food sector, including high-level politicians.

“Getting politicians to recognize the limitations of our current food systems is a great start. Things will not change overnight, but the event in Jakarta is raising awareness. People are listening,” he said.

Read more: Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security, nutrition and the SDGs; Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda

A HOLISTIC VIEW ON FOOD SECURITY

Amy Ickowitz, another CIFOR scientist who participated in the event, said the issues covered in the Forum are in line with CIFOR’s research. But while the Forum focused more on the impacts of food systems on land-use change, CIFOR’s Sustainable Landscapes and Food team “also focuses on the flip side — the impacts of land-use change on smallholder diets,” she said.

The team recently published a paper looking at the relationship between forests and tree-based agriculture, and the diets of children in Indonesia.

Sunderland added that when talking about food security in Indonesia, forests and fisheries play an integral role.

“Inland and marine fisheries stocks, and how they interplay with dietary and nutritional diversity, are important. We need to understand, what are the future demands for fisheries and how will this play out in terms food security? It supports we have done in the past five, six years in terms of moving towards dietary diversity,” he said.

“More support should be given to smallholder farmers so they can reduce their post-harvest waste, so they can trade in a market that’s fair and equitable. And slowly get that mindset that the transformation of our food system can be a positive thing.

Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important,” he added.

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


The EAT Forum was jointly organized by the Indonesian Government and the EAT Foundation.

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or Amy Ickowitz at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

Global food solutions from the Asia-Pacific

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR
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Fish for sale in a local market in Jambi, Indonesia. Photo by I. Cooke Vieira/CIFOR

Finding more sustainable ways to feed the world at the EAT Food Forum in Jakarta.

Creating a more sustainable global food system demands innovation in food technologies, and collaboration at the highest levels of government. These demands were echoed by many prominent leaders who attended the recent EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia.

More than 500 participants from 30 countries congregated at the Forum on October 30 and 31 to discuss progress on the latest food research, as well as ideas for how to transform food systems in Indonesia and the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla warned in his opening remarks that “food can trigger political problems if not managed well.” He hoped that the “EAT Forum can reach a collective understanding through international collaboration among development actors from various sectors.”

After a steady decline for more than a decade, global hunger is again on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, according to a recent UN report. The increased number of those going hungry — from 38 million people last year to 815 million people today — is reported to be mainly caused by civil conflicts, and exacerbated by climate-related catastrophes.

Gathering leaders from science, politics and business, the EAT Forum aimed to promote a more holistic approach to food, health and sustainability, filling knowledge gaps, pushing for integrated food policies and finding win-win solutions.

Read more: Feminism, forests and food security

An agroforestry producer from the Roya community in Peru shows native specias for cooking. Photo by J. Carlos Huayllapuma/CIFOR

A HIGH-LEVEL ISSUE

“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets,” EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen said in her opening speech.

“We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector, from multinationals to local entrepreneurs, to create new products, services and sustainable business models,” she added.

Indonesian Minister of Finance, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said that “food security has become a prominent issue due to rapid growth in global population.”

“Food security, energy security and water supply are becoming key factors for many economic activities in the world. Improvements in technology and innovation are definitely going to create both opportunities and increasing productivity, but also challenges,” she said.

CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) scientist Terry Sunderland from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) commended the EAT forum for its success in gathering a large number of stakeholders in the food sector, including high-level politicians.

“Getting politicians to recognize the limitations of our current food systems is a great start. Things will not change overnight, but the event in Jakarta is raising awareness. People are listening,” he said.

Read more: Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security, nutrition and the SDGs; Research and partners, toward a joint action agenda

A HOLISTIC VIEW ON FOOD SECURITY

Amy Ickowitz, another CIFOR scientist who participated in the event, said the issues covered in the Forum are in line with CIFOR’s research. But while the Forum focused more on the impacts of food systems on land-use change, CIFOR’s Sustainable Landscapes and Food team “also focuses on the flip side — the impacts of land-use change on smallholder diets,” she said.

The team recently published a paper looking at the relationship between forests and tree-based agriculture, and the diets of children in Indonesia.

Sunderland added that when talking about food security in Indonesia, forests and fisheries play an integral role.

“Inland and marine fisheries stocks, and how they interplay with dietary and nutritional diversity, are important. We need to understand, what are the future demands for fisheries and how will this play out in terms food security? It supports we have done in the past five, six years in terms of moving towards dietary diversity,” he said.

“More support should be given to smallholder farmers so they can reduce their post-harvest waste, so they can trade in a market that’s fair and equitable. And slowly get that mindset that the transformation of our food system can be a positive thing.

Bringing in forestry and fisheries for a more holistic perspective, particularly in terms of how forests and trees contribute to agricultural production, is also very important,” he added.

By Nabiha Shahab, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News.


The EAT Forum was jointly organized by the Indonesian Government and the EAT Foundation.

For more information on this topic, please contact Terry Sunderland at [email protected] or Amy Ickowitz at [email protected].

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by UK aid from the UK government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

New kid on the block in Indonesia’s timber export industry

Women assemble a sofa in Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo by M. Usman/CIFOR
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Women assemble a sofa in Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo by M. Usman/CIFOR

Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing is like an anak sholeh — a good and pious child — according to several speakers at a recent national policy dialogue held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

From forests to workshops, marketplaces and homes, Indonesia’s timber products form a long and complex supply chain, which FLEGT is helping to regulate and strengthen.

The country’s timber exports are valued at US$11 billion annually. Thanks to its timber legality verification system known as SVLK and the subsequent issuance of FLEGT, with which businesses can export timber and wood products to the European Union with greater ease, the government expects furniture exports to increase significantly.

Indonesia is the only country in the world to have implemented the licensing so far, giving its furniture a competitive advantage in an increasingly discerning market as consumers pay more attention to the issues of a green environment, illegal logging, deforestation and sustainable production.

Watch: Policy dialogue: CIFOR cohosts FLEGT talks in Jakarta

Speakers pose with tokens of appreciation made from SVLK-certified wood following one of the sessions at the National Policy Dialogue in Jakarta. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

However, issues remain in the widespread implementation of FLEGT in Indonesia, especially among small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

The recent policy dialogue, cohosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) on July 13, tackled the topic of FLEGT licensing and supporting SMEs to access global markets.

The dialogue brought together scientists, government representatives, local furniture producers and community leaders to discuss challenges for SMEs to meet FLEGT requirements; a strategy to maximize the impacts of the license on SMEs; and the role of province and district governments to ensure the legality of SME production.

Read more: Indonesia’s timber going green – and global

Ida Bagus Putera Parthama, Director General of Sustainable Forest Management at Indonesia’s Forestry and Environment Ministry, said the initiative stemmed from an effort to eliminate illegal logging, and a desire to “stop the stigma attached to Indonesia about illegal wood.”

He described the license as “a good boy that the whole country has been waiting for” and said “everyone should support it.”

“The final outcome we expect from the system is to increase our market share, competitiveness of products, revenue for communities and in the end improve the livelihoods of those involved,” Parthama explained.

Charles-Michel Geurts, deputy head of the EU Delegation to Indonesia and Brunei, speaks at the National Policy Dialogue in Jakarta. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Charles-Michel Geurts, deputy head of the EU Delegation to Indonesia and Brunei, concurred. “The world is looking to Indonesia,” he said. “Anak sholeh is a role model; everybody likes him [and] wants to adopt him.”

However, some business people voiced concerns. Jepara Small-Scale Furniture Producers Association (APKJ) representative Sulthon Muhamad Amin said that while medium and large companies may not be lumbered with the requirements, the costs associated with the licensing were too onerous for small-scale workshops. Thus, some still preferred to partner with exporters in the local market rather than become exporters themselves.

Sulthon later said small businesses must change this mindset. However, he questioned how this could happen, stating that many small-scale businesses had never heard of FLEGT.

Despite dissemination efforts, local administrations must be more proactive in providing assistance to small businesses, Sulthon said. “If an SME is like a small boy being led by a mother, it doesn’t mean he can be given the information and then left alone.”

Read more: Brexit rattles Indonesia’s timber trade prospects with Europe

FTA scientist Herry Purnomo of CIFOR speaks at the National Policy Dialogue. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

FTA scientist Herry Purnomo of CIFOR, whose work looks at furniture value chains, said SLVK promoted a balance between economic progress and environmental conservation. The system was not only driven by the EU’s system, he explained, as advancing people’s economies through participation and in an environmentally friendly manner was also mandated by the country’s Constitution.

In line with this, sustainable value chains and investments to support forest conservation and equitable development are a key part of FTA’s work.

Purnomo also echoed Sulthon’s thoughts, saying small-scale businesses faced different issues to big companies. Thus, local administrations should be more active in maximizing the benefits of FLEGT licenses for SMEs.

“We should also think about the domestic market, not only about the EU market,” Purnomo added. “Maybe we need to use SVLK more in domestic procurement processes.”

Taking note of Indonesia’s status as the first country to have FLEGT licenses, the scientist said environmental awareness would continue to grow, including in other emerging markets across the region such as Korea and Singapore. “Later it will be very difficult for us to catch up.”

For business people, exporters and consumers, FLEGT is a new kid on the block worth getting to know.

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

Related publications


This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). We would like to thank all donors who supported this work through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

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  • Policy dialogue: CIFOR cohosts FLEGT talks in Jakarta

Policy dialogue: CIFOR cohosts FLEGT talks in Jakarta

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A national policy dialogue cohosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on July 13 brought together more than 200 policy makers, scientists, business owners, craftsmen and more to discuss the potential benefits of Forest, Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licenses for small and medium enterprises in Jakarta, Indonesia. The event was also supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

Originally published at CIFOR.org.

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  • ‘Black gold’ for climate mitigation

‘Black gold’ for climate mitigation

CIFOR’s Daniel Murdiyarso, left, speaks during a panel discussion on “Black gold for climate mitigation? The rediscovered carbon stocks in tropical wetlands and peatlands” at the Global Landscapes Forum: Peatlands Matter in Jakarta. Photo credit: CIFOR
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CIFOR’s Daniel Murdiyarso, left, speaks during a panel discussion on “Black gold for climate mitigation? The rediscovered carbon stocks in tropical wetlands and peatlands” at the Global Landscapes Forum: Peatlands Matter in Jakarta. Photo credit: CIFOR

Measuring the wealth of carbon stocks in peatlands.

Indonesia – New tools and new discoveries are drastically altering our knowledge of peatlands. Scientists have recently discovered the existence of huge, previously unknown areas of peatland in central Africa and South America – and the numbers are quite astonishing.

A new map developed by CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) partner the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) suggests much more peat exists in the tropics than was originally estimated – a total of around 1.7 million square kilometers.

Additional research published this year revealed that as much as 30 billion tons of carbon may be locked away in the Cuvette Centrale peatland that straddles the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Compare that with the estimated 10 billion tons of carbon the world emits each year.

The peat swamp covers just four percent of the Congo Basin – and yet stores as much carbon in its waterlogged soils as all the trees across the surface area of the two Congo Basin countries combined. The two countries could use this new discovery as a major opportunity to help crack down on global climate problems.

Given their renewed value, these countries need to move quickly to protect these precious carbon stocks, according to panelists at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF): Peatlands Matter event in Jakarta on May 18, where numerous FTA scientists appeared.

The science discussion forum, entitled The rediscovered carbon stocks in tropical wetlands and peatlands, was organized and moderated by CIFOR and featured panelists from Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG), as well as UN Environment.

Panelists discussed the latest tools for identifying and locating wetlands and peatlands, and revealed how scientists are using them to reassess carbon stocks.

A disaster for the climate? 

But will this new discovery of peat in the Congo Basin be a boon or a liability for global climate change mitigation? That depends on what happens next, said panelist Lera Miles, senior program officer at the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

“We need to make sure that it’s not a risk,” she said. “Now is the time to be proactive, and think about what can we do to make sure that any use of this resource is sustainable. From a carbon perspective, the number one thing to do is to make sure there is no drainage.”

When peatlands are drained and dried out, and the organic matter they contain is exposed to the air, large amounts of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere. The dried-out soil becomes extremely vulnerable to fire.

In addition to the GLF event, Miles was also in Jakarta for a meeting of the Global Peatlands Initiative, alongside policymakers from both the Republic of Congo and DRC. The group went on a field trip to Riau, Sumatra, to observe firsthand the efforts Indonesia is making to try to re-wet and restore peatlands that have been badly damaged by deforestation and oil palm cultivation.

“Restoration is much more resource intensive than conservation from the onset,” said Miles. “We know that it is not sustainable to drain peatlands because of the fire risk, huge associated regional health problems, and the damage to the soil itself which eventually makes it impossible to grow anything.”

“And obviously it would be disastrous for the global climate if there were widespread degradation in these newly-discovered peatlands in central Africa.”

That means tropical countries need international support to plan and fund policies to protect these areas and to make sure they are developed sustainably.

“It certainly wouldn’t be fair to expect the countries to take on that burden completely by themselves,” she said.

Firefighters put out fires spreading in Sebangau national park, Central Kalimantan. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR

Magic map 

But international awareness of peatlands’ importance for climate change still seems to be lagging behind, FTA scientist and moderator, Christopher Martius of CIFOR, told the panel.

Martius analyzed the plans made by countries to the UNFCCC for how they will reduce their carbon emissions. Of the 139 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted so far, there were 68 mentions of ‘forest’ and 18 mentions of ‘mangrove’. None, however, mentioned ‘peatlands’.

“That means we need to do more to move peatlands into the awareness of policymakers,” said Martius. “Peatlands may be implicit when countries talk about land use, but it’s important that more attention is given to this high-carbon ecosystem.”

CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso told the audience that wetlands and peatlands should be on the agenda of every annual UNFCCC meeting, and that countries should explicitly incorporate them into their NDCs.

CIFOR’s new map showing the extent of global peatlands can help with this process, he said. It is freely available and interactive, and the scientific and policy community can help to make it more accurate.

“The map isn’t ours, it’s yours, it’s open for the public,” Murdiyarso said. “We need your knowledge to refine the interactive map – this will make the map more convincing to governments, communities and practitioners.”

Policymakers can already use the map to locate carbon assets, and plan how to protect and manage wetlands and peatlands more wisely, he said.

Act now 

Miles told the panel that the Global Peatlands Initiative is working on a rapid response assessment of the global peat resource to help bring these issues to global attention.

More information is needed to confirm the extent of the peatland area, she said. In addition, for a more accurate estimate of the carbon stocks, it is also necessary to find out how deep and carbon-dense those peat bogs are – but pinning down the area and distribution is the first priority, she says.

“Once it starts to degrade, whether it’s two meters or five meters deep, you’ll still be getting significant annual greenhouse gas emissions.”

However, countries should already act now to protect these places, Miles said. “I don’t think we ought to be waiting for better field information before starting to take this issue seriously.”

“Even if we need more precise information about how widespread the peat swamp is for the purposes of spatial planning, we don’t need to wait to identify how the development needs of this area can be met in a way that still protects its valuable ecosystem and all of its services – not just its carbon stocks.”

By Kate Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forest News

For more information on this topic, please contact Daniel Murdiyarso at [email protected] or Christopher Martius at [email protected].


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

We would like to thank all donors who supported this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

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FTA seeks to influence debate at GLF on peatlands

A plant emerges from the ground in Mendawai, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A plant emerges from the ground in Mendawai, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF): Peatlands Matter takes place on May 18 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The significance of the conference is underscored by the need to reach a common understanding of problems and solutions around peatlands — key hotspots at the intersection of certain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including food security, water and biodiversity — and of addressing climate change.

The GLF is an important forum for a program like FTA, which is not only a research program but a research for development program. Because of this, FTA works in the sphere of research, and beyond that in the sphere of influence, in order to affect the way stakeholders behave and adopt suitable solutions.

Working with stakeholders is also important to ensure the “legitimacy” of the research that FTA designs and implements, so users feel that the research and researchers have understood and accounted for their interests, values and concerns — necessary for successful uptake.

Read also: Strength in numbers: How the Global Landscapes Forum connects the land use community

A man plants a young tree in Mendawai, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

Importantly, working with stakeholders is fundamental for issues where the nature of the problem (and related solutions) is not easily agreed upon. Peatlands are one such issue, as one cannot apply a single lens (be it the carbon lens, the local environment lens, the biodiversity lens or the livelihood lens) to understand the potential solutions.

That is why FTA and its partners are proud, once again, to be one of the key providers of knowledge at the GLF, namely for mutual understanding and action. At the Jakarta conference, this will feed into three debates on the “science behind peatlands”, set to be heard during the event’s discussion forums.

Fueling three debates

The first discussion forum, titled “Black gold” for climate mitigation? The rediscovered carbon stocks in tropical wetlands and peatlands and hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), looks at the latest tools for identifying and locating wetlands and peatlands, and reveals how scientists are reassessing carbon stocks.

Ahead of the conference, CIFOR produced a set of six briefs illustrating the science behind peatlands, all the result of research under FTA. The briefs point out that peatlands are the most threatened type of ecosystem, especially in Southeast Asia, due to agricultural development. Another publication, Managing peatlands in Indonesia: Challenges and opportunities for local and global communities, shows that the drainage of peat swamp forests and their conversion into agricultural land causes considerable and irreversible environmental, social and economic damage.

CIFOR has also published a new map that reveals more peat in the tropics, with “unprecedented extents and volumes […] three times the size of previous estimates, and mainly outside Asia.” It states that “South America appears as the main host of peat areas and volumes with Brazil at the top of the list, closely followed by Indonesia.” These publications address where peatland can be found, its characteristics, what can be done at a management level to protect it, and the human aspect relating to those who live on and around it.

A canal runs through a peat landscape in Mendawai, Indonesia. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

A second debate at the GLF covers Peatland fires, haze and health, a session organized by UN Environment, raising awareness on the impacts of peatland fires on the climate and human health, and showcasing innovative tools for tracking, preventing and managing the impact of fire and haze events.

There is a need to support local governments and planning agencies in understanding the need for clear spatial planning for peat areas and identifying areas for planting and restoration. This discussion is informed by FTA’s work, and especially builds on the UK Department for International Development (DFID)-supported project with Indonesian and UK scientific partners on the political economy of fire and haze.

Third, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) holds People and peat: Livelihoods in context, focusing on livelihood options for local communities using a case study landscape in Jambi, Indonesia, as the starting point. The case looks at conflict resolution in forests.

ICRAF previously acted upon a request from farmer groups to help with “zonation management rights”, said the session’s moderator Ingrid Öborn and FTA scientist Meine van Noordwijk. They could therefore provide “on-demand help”, they explained, as they sought to “manage wet forests in ways relevant for people”. The session is expected to explore social aspects of the peatlands issue, including how local livelihoods can be secured in such areas.

A policy brief published by ICRAF, titled Agroforestry on peatlands: combining productive and protective functions as part of restoration, states that: “In order to control the use of fire and to avoid the deep drainage that is responsible for degradation, government commitments need to go beyond good intentions alone. Land-use solutions are needed that provide local livelihoods while keeping the peat profiles wet.”

A CIFOR research assistant measures root growth in an oil palm plantation in Jambi province, Sumatra. Photo by Adam Gynch/CIFOR

FTA’s role in the GLF motto of “reaching 1 billion”

The GLF aims to reach 1 billion stakeholders to advance landscape approaches and address sustainable development challenges. This event will gather key stakeholders from around the world around on the issue of peatlands.

The role of FTA is to engage in debate and provide scientific evidence that sheds light on broad and complex issues, which integrate social, environmental, economic and governance elements.

Therefore, FTA’s goal at the GLF is to bring relevant, credible and legitimate results to the forum, which will contribute to the overall effectiveness of FTA’s research, for progress, mutual understanding and to change perspectives on the ground.

As applied at this GLF peatlands thematic event, FTA’s ambition to is to lay the groundwork for evidence-based, legitimate and effective debates, to enable agreements between stakeholders on solutions to be rolled out for the sustainable management of peatlands and to preserve this inestimable resource.

Click here to find out more about attending the GLF or watching the livestream. 

By Vincent Gitz, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.


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