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Norway signs deal with Indonesia to curb deforestation

The partnership agreement aims to maintain a downward trend in deforestation levels amid plans by the Indonesian government to build a new capital city in a Borneo jungle.

(CN) — Things are going well for Indonesian rainforests lately.

The world’s largest archipelagic state has reduced its deforestation levels by almost 90% since the 2014-2015 forest year, which runs from Aug. 1 to July 31.

Indonesia has the third largest amount of rainforest in the world, hosting a great diversity of flora and animals. They include the iconic orangutan, whose name comes from Indonesian words meaning “person of the forest.”

The Indonesian government reported that 115.500 hectares (285,400 acres) of forest were cut down in 2019-2020, a drastic decrease from 1.09 million hectares (2.69 million acres) in 2014-2015. Deforestation reductions may have saved the country from millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions, it said.

Norway wishes to contribute to the positive environmental results, which is why the Scandinavian country signed a partnership agreement to continue deforestation initiatives in Jakarta on Monday.

“Indonesia is a world leader in reducing deforestation. Their efforts and formidable results have global significance in the fight against climate change. In addition, this is invaluable for preserving nature and biodiversity,” said Espen Barth Eide, Norway's minister of climate and environment, who signed the agreement in the Indonesian capital with Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia's environment and forestry minister.

Under the deal, Norway has committed to pay for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in Indonesia, with higher reductions leading to more money. A third party will take charge of examining numbers reported by Jakarta.

Norway is already set to pay Indonesia 550 million Norwegian krone ($55 million) for reduced deforestation in 2016-2017. Further payments will be made for the years in between once an independent third party has verified the island nation's reports.

Eide praised Indonesia for having reduced its CO2 emissions by limiting the chopping of tropical forests over the past six years. This made it possible for the government to report the lowest level of emissions from deforestation in 20 years.

Indonesia aims to achieve a climate-positive forest and land-use sector by 2030. Restoration of rainforests, peat bogs and mangroves are part of that ambition, as they absorb carbon.

The two countries reached a similar partnership in 2010, which Indonesia ended last year after it claimed Norway failed to timely pay for positive results.

In the newly signed partnership, Indonesia alone will manage the Norwegian funds and lay out its own strategy to reduce deforestation onwards, Norway’s government said in a press release published on Monday.

While limiting forest cutdowns seems successful in the Southeast Asian country, scholars and environmental activists remain concerned about Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's ambition to move the capital from Jakarta to what is being called Nusantara, an under-construction city in East Kalimantan province, located in Indonesia’s biggest rainforest on Borneo island.

Officials said that it can take decades for the new capital to function, but some government buildings should be ready for use by 2024, when Jokowi ends his last term as president.

Deemed as Jokowi’s legacy project by critics, the new capital will take up around 56,180 hectares (138,823 acres) of land.

Environmentalists have warned that the project may accelerate the destruction of tropical jungles that are home to long-nosed monkeys and orangutans, as reported by Agence France-Presse.

Jakarta is among the fastest-sinking cities in the world, which is why Jokowi suggested moving the political infrastructure to another island while keeping the present capital as the country’s economic center, resembling the American system of Washington and New York.

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