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September 9, 09

NEWS / Indonesia, U.S. Promote Conservation of East Asian Forests


Regional forum aims to protect environment, encourage trade in legal lumber

By Bridget Hunter
Staff Writer



Washington — Indonesia and the United States have convened a new forum aimed at promoting trade in legally harvested timber and protecting fragile ecosystems.

Participants in the first Asia-Pacific Regional Dialogue to Promote Trade in Legally Harvested Forest Products, held September 2 in Jakarta, Indonesia, included representatives from Australia, Brunei, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, the Solomon Islands and Vietnam. The U.S. delegation was led by Mark Linscott, assistant U.S. trade representative for environment and natural resources, and included officials from the departments of State, Agriculture, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Hadi Daryanto, director general of forestry production in Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry, led the Indonesian delegation.

“The regional dialogue illustrates this administration’s commitment to finding effective and creative solutions to trade-related environmental challenges,” Linscott said, calling the forum “a very constructive start to our work, allowing us to exchange information, describe our respective efforts, develop a common understanding of the issues and explore collaborative, regional approaches to address them.”

The dialogue, an outgrowth of a U.S.-Indonesian working group established in 2006, is another facet of the United States’ ongoing efforts to protect vulnerable forests in the tropics and subtropics that are critical to slowing climate change, protecting endangered species and promoting global environmental health. Worldwide, these forests are threatened by illegal logging operations, land development and pollution.

Meetings led by then-U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman in April 2006 resulted in a number of bilateral initiatives and investment agreements aimed at deepening U.S.-Indonesian ties through free trade. The trade and investment framework agreement that emerged from these meetings called for negotiations toward an agreement to combat illegal logging and trade in endangered species.

The United States and Indonesia enjoy a robust economic relationship, with two-way goods trade totaling $21.7 billion in 2008. Indonesia’s exports to the United States of lumber, plywood, wood-based furniture and other forest products totaled more than $1 billion.

OTHER EFFORTS TO PRESERVE INDONESIA’S NATURAL HERITAGE

The Asia-Pacific dialogue on forest products is the latest in a series of cooperative initiatives aimed at enhancing environmental protection in Indonesia and the region.

On June 30, the United States, Indonesia, Conservation International and Yayasan Keanekaragaman Hayati Indonesia (KEHATI) entered into the largest debt-for-nature swap concluded to date under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, a U.S. federal law, since its passage in 1998.

The agreement will reduce Indonesia’s debt payments to the United States by nearly $30 million over the next eight years, and Indonesia has committed those savings to support grants to protect and restore the tropical forests of one of the most biologically diverse countries on earth.

Funds generated by this program will help Indonesia protect several forest areas on Sumatra, Indonesia’s second largest island, which are home to the endangered Sumatran tiger, elephant, rhino, and orangutan. These forests also provide important ecosystem services such as maintaining the quality and quantity of freshwater supplies and sequestering carbon dioxide.

The Indonesia agreement marked the 15th Tropical Forest Conservation Act pact, following agreements with Bangladesh, Belize, Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama (two agreements), Paraguay, Peru (two agreements) and the Philippines. Over time, these debt-for-nature programs are expected to generate more than $218 million to protect tropical forests.

A separate venture, called the Heart of Borneo Conservation Initiative, aims to preserve equatorial rain forests in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei to protect biodiversity in the region.

Under the 2006 initiative, U.S. assistance funds were used by two organizations in consultation with the governments in the three countries. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) works with the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei at the national and local level to support the protection and sustainable development of forests in the region, while the International Tropical Timber Organization funds biodiversity conservation initiatives in Sarawak, Malaysia, and West Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Borneo, the third largest island in the world, once was covered with dense rain forests, but in the 1980s and 1990s those forests were cleared so quickly that nearly 80 percent of them were lost, shipped to industrialized countries in the form of garden furniture, paper pulp and chopsticks.

By 2020, the Heart of Borneo initiative aims to protect 240,000 square kilometers of forest, achieve a zero rate of conversion from high-conservation-value forest to other land uses and create income-generation opportunities from environmental goods and services for local communities, according to the WWF. The initiative is seen by many environmental advocates as the last, best hope to protect what remains of Borneo’s biodiversity, which researchers estimate represents 6 percent of Earth’s total biodiversity.

http://www.america.gov/st/energy-english/2009/September/20090908134154abretnuh0.2587091.html?CP.rss=true

 




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