Helping Indonesia reduce its greenhouse gas emissions

One of the most important projects in the fight against global warming has made public its final report, say Suyanto and Sonya Dewi, the project’s leaders

Indonesia has been well-known in scientific circles as the third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, after the USA and China. Most of those emissions come from land uses and land-use changes, particularly deforestation.

However, Indonesia is also one of the world leaders in acting quickly to try and reduce its emissions.

To help the Government of Indonesia identify sources of emissions and design ways of reducing them, the European Union funded the World Agroforestry Centre to implement a ground-breaking project called Accountability and Local Level Initiatives to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Indonesia (ALLREDDI).

We worked in close partnership with the Government’s Directorate General of Forest Planning, Ministry of Forestry, Brawijaya University and the Indonesian Centre for Agricultural Land Resources Research and Development to create national carbon accounting and monitoring systems that complied with the Tier 3 reporting guidelines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

At its core, the three-year project helped improve the technical capacities of provincial and district government staff and designed practical, achievable schemes for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in five pilot areas in western, central and eastern Indonesia: Jambi, Gorontalo, Papua, South Kalimantan and Pasuruan.

This involved training in the use of methods developed in the project for estimating carbon stocks at plot level through field measurements and computer modelling for both above- and belowground stocks and on both mineral and peat soils. We also trained staff in extending estimations to the level of landscapes through quantification of land-use and land-cover changes, beyond the loss of natural forest.

To support the field work, detailed, time-series, land-cover maps (1990–2005) were created from satellite imagery and field surveys that showed, for the first time, the extent of forests, agroforests and agricultural land across the nation. The maps also enabled everyone to see how these land uses had changed over time and where, and how, emissions occurred.

Analyzing the National Forest Inventory’s massive data set from across Indonesia was also useful in identifying carbon densities in various types of forests and other land cover. A spatially explicit, interactive web platform has been built on a database that was developed from the inventory data.

Complimentary to this kind of baseline work, our team also worked with farmers, village residents and local government staff to estimate opportunity costs as part of a trade-off analysis of land-use profitability compared to reduction of emissions. This was done in a participatory fashion to support low-emissions development planning. Our scientists, the villagers and government officials had to work closely together to better understand local development planning and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions. And then decide what alternatives could reconcile the need for economic growth and the need to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

To help with identifying alternative land uses and the costs involved, we created new software called REDD Abacus. This software calculates the opportunity costs involved in reducing emissions, such as switching from a high-emitting land use to a lower one while facing the consequences of forgone economic benefit.

The process of integrating the data— through household surveys and interviews with key farmers and development planners—led to greater understanding in itself but then the software was able to show the resulting costs of various alternative land uses. This can also be the basis of creating low-emissions development plans, which is now a legal requirement for every province and district in Indonesia.

Of significance, too, was the publication of the Measuring carbon stocks across land uses manual (Indonesian and English versions) and the Measuring carbon stock in peat soils: practical guidelines (Indonesian and English versions), both of which will add to the technical capacity of the Government, NGOs and communities in measuring and managing their carbon stocks.

Overall, we feel confident that the project has made a substantial contribution to the fight against global warming by equipping Indonesia to better understand its greenhouse gas emissions and begin to design strategies to reduce them.


Edited by Robert Finlayson


Read the report

World Agroforestry Centre. 2011. Accountability and local level initiative to reduce emission from deforestation and degradation in Indonesia. ALLREDDI Final Report. Bogor, Indonesia: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Southeast Asia Regional Program.



This work was related to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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