Our forests, your pollution: Indonesian environmentalists speak out against Australia's carbon offset schemes

Two climate justice activists from Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Indonesia’s largest and oldest environment organisation, are joined by Muliadi from Central Kalimantan to discuss Australia’s plans for forest offsets in Indonesia.

We all know about using offsets for plane flights, but its little known that both major political parties rely on using offsets across the whole economy to deal with climate change. Instead of transforming to a low carbon society, Australian climate policy favours the unlimited use of international carbon credits to meet any emissions reduction targets. The government predicts that by 2050 Australia will be offsetting up to half of its total emissions, which allows for the continued use of coal and other fossil fuels. These offsets need to be sourced from somewhere and Australia is looking to the tropical forests of neighbouring Indonesia and Papau New Guinea for carbon offset credits, as part of a United Nations scheme called REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).

The Australian government has established two aid funded REDD pilot projects in Indonesia to demonstrate the feasibility of forest carbon trading and assist Indonesia’s integration into the international carbon market. While there has been some support within Indonesia for REDD other groups have been more critical, including WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) and ARPAG a collective of villagers living adjacent to Australia’s REDD project in Kalimantan. Local community groups like ARPAG are concerned about the impact of carbon trading on their local rights and the environment.

With many NGOs and governments now pushing for urgent agreement on the proposed REDD scheme at the UNFCCC meeting in Cancun, are we risking creating a massive climate loophole that will see global emissions rise rather than fall? How much do we know about the impacts of pilot forest offset projects on forest dependent communities? How can we work with local communities for just solutions - rather than impose schemes that risk exacerbating existing injustices?
As negotiations on a carbon price progress in Canberra and we head into the international climate negotiations in Cancun, Friends of the Earth climate justice campaign invites you to a discussion of this crucial issue.