UN Report Offers Green Economy as Means to Offset Cost of Orangutan Protection

13th Sep 2011 Press Releases

Jakarta – Indonesia could balance conservation and development objectives – and potentially triple the economic benefits derived from key orangutan habitats– by adopting Green Economy initiatives, according to an 18-month study released today by theUnited Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) under its Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).

Orangutans and the Economics of Sustainable Forest Management in Sumatra, which was produced at the request of the Republic of Indonesia, examines specific sites in Sumatra that host significant populations of critically endangered orangutans, and offers concrete sustainable land-use options.

Continue to Orangutan Report Website

Under the UN climate convention, governments are negotiating a mechanism to provide payments for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation plus additional forest “activities” (REDD+), with the aim of halving deforestation by 2020. By investing in these sustainable development programs, those sites in Sumatra could potentially turn land valued at $7,832 per hectare for oil palm production into protected forest that earns $22,090 per hectare through carbon offset programs.

Local communities could see economic benefits rise by as much as 71 percent through programs that promote biodiversity and sustainable development.

“Prioritizing investments in sustainable forestry including REDD+ projects can, as this report demonstrates, deliver multiple Green Economy benefits and not just with respect to climate, orangutan conservation and employment in natural resource management,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director.

“The report indicates that in Aceh and in North Sumatra there has been a reported 50 per cent decline in water discharges in as many as 80 per cent of rivers as a result of deforestation—losses that have serious implications for agriculture and food security including rice production and human health,” he added.

The study was produced by GRASP, in association with PanEco, the World Agrofrestry Centre, and Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL), and drew on the work of more than 60 experts and contributors. Funding was supplied by the Government of Norway and the Government of Monaco.

Orangutans and the Economics of Sustainable Forest Management in Sumatra carefully examines land-use issues at two pilot sites on the island of Sumatra: Tripa swamp and the mountain forests of Batang Toru, both of which host significant populations of critically endangered Sumatran orangutans. The assessment quantifies the economic trade-offs between unsustainable and sustainable forms of land use, and concludes that revenues for local communities and regional governments could actually rise if a conservation model is favored over a deforestation model.

If not, the report predicts that orangutans in those areas could become locally extinct by 2015.

“Indonesia is committed to the principles of Green Economy, and we welcome this report as a way forward,” said H.E. Zulkifli Hasan, Minister of Forestry for the Republic of Indonesia. “Indonesia is blessed with tremendous natural resources, and they play a vital role in the day to day life of our nation. We are confident we can preserve the forests and the wildlife for future generations to come.”

Between 2005-2010, Indonesia had accelerating forest loss compared to 2000-2005 and is within the highest five countries for percentage of primary forest loss globally.

Between 1985 and 2007, nearly half of the forest on Sumatra disappeared. The two Indonesian provinces where Sumatran orangutans occur, Aceh and North Sumatra, have witnessed a total forest loss of 22.4% and 43.4%, respectively from 1985- 2008/9.

Currently the Government of Norway is supporting the Government of Indonesia in its efforts to reduce deforestation and illegal logging under a $1 billion agreement that includes a two-year suspension of new concessions that convert peatlands and primary forests.

Erik Solheim, Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development, said his government was now providing additional support to INTERPOL towards building an enhanced collaboration among United Nations agencies and others to combat illegal logging.

“We recognize that in order to make REDD+ a success, tackling illegal logging and assisting governments such as Indonesia with the capacity to combat such crime, will be important,” he said.

“This study underlines that investing and re-investing in forests and the services they provide can be far more profitable and with social and environmental outcomes rather than trading away our common future for short-term gains,” said Mr Solheim.

The new report, whose findings come in the run up to the UN climate convention meeting in Durban, South Africa, indicates significant opportunities for other international donors to extend REDD+ initiatives in Indonesia’s Sumatra region as well as other tropically-forested countries.

GRASP was created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2001 to respond to the global conservation crisis facing chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos and to lift the threat of imminent extinction.

For more information please visit orangutanreport.un-grasp.org.

Download UNEP Press Release [English, PDF]