SINGAPORE - Six provincial governors from Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines on Thursday backed an expanded U.N. scheme aimed at protecting and conserving forests in return for carbon credits.
In a joint statement after a meeting on the sidelines of an annual gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders, the governors said the scheme, called REDD+, held the promise of boosting livelihoods for local communities, a key step in curbing deforestation.
But fair distribution of wealth was key.
People in the cities have better education, they are richer but actually they produce carbon poison, said Abang Tambul Hussin, regent of Kapuas Hulu in Indonesia's West Kalimantan province.
The communities in the forest area have to be more prosperous, he told the meeting, convened by the Asian Development Bank and ecosystems service firm Carbon Conservation.
Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) aims to reward developing countries for saving their forests in return for carbon offsets that they can sell to rich nations.
The United Nations hopes REDD will be part of a broader global climate pact from 2013, ushering in a potentially multi-billion dollar boost to the global carbon market.
REDD+ expands the idea to protection, restoration and sustainable management of forests.
The governors said that the REDD+ approach offers tremendous promise in creating a new set of incentives for the preservation and sustainable management of forests, and urged world leaders to push the concept at U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen next month.
FIRES, ILLEGAL LOGGING
Four of the governors were from Indonesia, including Central and West Kalimantan on Borneo island, South Sumatra and West Papua. Attapeu province in Laos and Albay province in the Philippines also endorsed the scheme, with some of the provinces already starting pilot REDD+ projects.
Indonesia is on the front line of effort to save the world's remaining tropical forests, with deforestation responsible for more than 10 percent of mankind's greenhouse gas emissions.
But the meeting also underscored the challenges facing the scheme that many rich nations support in the hope of offsetting some of their planet-warming emissions at home.
Ensuring the money from forest carbon credits flowed to local communities, awareness of the scheme on the ground, poverty, fighting illegal deforestation and curbing the expansion of palm oil estates were among the key issues facing REDD+, they said.
It's very important for us that people know exactly that if they take care of the forest they can have also the money, Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang told Reuters.
The challenge for us is to maintain our forests, especially dealing with fires, illegal logging, but added the threat from illegal logging had eased and that the province would cap palm oil plantation coverage.
Maybe at the end of this month, about 900,000 hectares. Enough, he said. Central Kalimantan has lost about a third of its forest area and has Borneo's largest peat carbon store.
The governor of West Papua, Abraham Octavianus Atururi, said his province still had 85 percent forest cover but pointed to the region's poverty, population of under one million, limited infrastructure and problems in monitoring illegal land clearing.
(Editing by Ron Popeski)