SINGAPORE Dec 5 Indonesia on Wednesday approved
a rainforest conservation project that sets aside an area
roughly the size of Singapore and rewards investors with
tradable carbon credits in the first of its kind to win formal
backing in the country.
Four years in the making, the Rimba Raya Biodiversity
Reserve will protect nearly 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres),
much of it carbon-rich peat swamp forest at risk of being felled
for palm oil plantations.
Russian energy giant Gazprom and German insurance
firm Allianz are backers of the project, the world's
first on deep peat.
A senior Indonesian official announced the approval on the
sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Doha, Qatar. Forestry
Minister Zulkifli Hasan signed a letter last week saying the
project had passed all the key steps. Reuters has seen a copy.
"We hope projects like Rimba Raya will lead the way in
proving that conservation can address the rural development
needs of the communities and also preserve our forests for
generations to come," Hasan said in a statement.
The project challenges Indonesia's often poor conservation
record and lax enforcement where national parks are illegally
logged. Indonesia has the world's third-largest expanse of
tropical forests but these are disappearing quickly in the rush
to grow more food and exploit timber and mineral wealth. Forest
clearance is a major source of greenhouse gases.
By saving the forest and locking away planet-warming carbon,
investors such as Gazprom will receive carbon credits they can
sell for profit or use to cut their own emissions. Money from
credit sales will also fund local livelihood projects.
The project area, in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo
island, is brimming with rare animal species and adjoins a
national park. It is designed to be a sanctuary for endangered
Rimba Raya is part of a U.N.-led scheme called reducing
emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). The aim is
to show forests can pay for themselves and compete with powerful
palm oil, mining and timber interests.