Burning questions about the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership

Burning questions about the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership

An open letter from Friends of the Earth International, Friends of the Earth Australia, Yayasan Petak Danum, and WALHI/ Friends of the Earth Indonesia


Melissa Parke, Minister for International Development

Robert Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Mark Butler, Minister for Climate Change, and for Environment, Heritage and Water


Peter Baxter, Director General, AusAID

Dr Justin Lee, Ambassador for Climate Change, DFAT


Dear Minister Parke, Minister Carr, Minister Butler, Mr Baxter and Dr Lee,


We are writing to you today in regards to the recent decision by AusAID and the Australian and Indonesian Governments to cease the major operations of the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership on the 30th June 2013. We understand the project has been intended to run until this time, and that there are some outstanding project activities to be continued until July 2014. We also acknowledge previous correspondence in 2011 and meetings in 2009 between our organisations and AusAID regarding persistent concerns over how the project has been run. We would like to thank you for your attention to these concerns in the past.

We feel however that there are a number of important issues that have yet to be brought to full public attention. We aim to address this lack of public debate in an upcoming speaking tour by members of our groups to Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. We also aim to convene meetings with your staff during this speaking tour, and will be happy to provide input at that time into any review process undertaken by or on behalf of the Australian Government. It is therefore with the intention of gaining a greater insight into the workings of the project that we write to you today.

We would firstly like to express our disappointment that the partnership was unable to achieve any of the major outcomes that were announced in 2007 by Ministers Turnbull and Downer and President Yudhuyono, and re-affirmed by Prime Minister Rudd and President Yudhoyono in 2008. We would also like to express our disappointment that the project was unable to facilitate broad community support, and that it has been the subject of considerable confusion and conflict within the local Dayak Ngaju community.[1] This is in spite of the well intentioned nature of the KFCP, and the general agreement that its aims are worthwhile.  We have no doubt this disappointment is shared by yourselves, however we feel that a number of issues need to be aired in order to establish the reasons for these failures, and avoid a repeat of the undoubtedly unsatisfactory situation that has resulted from the failure of the KFCP to achieve its objectives.

We would secondly like to point out that the KFCP was explicitly intended as a REDD+ demonstration project. As such its objectives were to ‘demonstrate a credible, equitable and effective approach to REDD+, including from the degradation of peatlands’ and to trial ‘innovative, market-oriented approach to financing and implementing measures for REDD+’ in order to provide ‘useful and practical lessons to support international efforts to establish a REDD+ mechanism’ and ‘inform a future climate change agreement’.[2]

Recently in questions before the Senate Estimate Committee, Dr Justin Lee, Ambassador for Climate Change, International Climate Change Division of the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and tertiary Education stated in response to questions about lessons derived from the KFCP:

I am not aware that specific lessons coming from the IAFCP or the KFCP are part of those broader agenda discussions on REDD+ in the UNFCCC.[3]

We appreciate Dr Lee’s openness to hearing the concerns raised by local community members on his trip to the KFCP site last September, however we are concerned at the disparity between the projects initial aims and Dr Lee’s response regarding these broader issues. We believe it is crucial for AusAID to provide a detailed account of why the initial objectives of this project were not met, and that any investigation take a form that will feed into the international climate negotiations. The progress of the KFCP has implications not just for the individual project but the fate of REDD+ schemes more generally. It is therefore our hope that the lessons learnt from the KFCP will be openly shared and discussed, both in Australia, Indonesia and in international discussions on climate change.

Were therefore respectfully request answers to the following questions:


1 – Project budget

How much money was spent during the KFCP and on what? We call on AusAID to provide a detailed breakdown of project expenses, including but not limited to providing information on the volume of funds transferred to IDSS-Aurecon and their sub-contractors, the incentive payments delivered to project participants, funding spent on research activities, and funding spent on major project works.


2 – Political mileage gained and public accountability

Given the ambitious project aims championed by politicians in successive Liberal and Labor governments (the protection of 70,000 hectares of peat forests, the re-flooding of 200,000 hectares of dried peatlands and planting of 100 million trees was projected to lead to 700 million tonnes of greenhouse gas reductions over 30 years[4] ), will these same politicians and their successors be required to publicly account for the differences between these ambitions and the actual outcomes of the project?


3 – REDD+ policy design (incentives-based conservation and carbon trading)

In the Bilateral agreement between the Australian and Indonesian governments, the KFCP was explicitly promoted as both a demonstration of an incentive based REDD project, and a demonstration of the value of market mechanisms for REDD finance, including REDD as a carbon offset. We call for an open dialogue about the implications of the KFCP for the incentive-based model for REDD, as well as REDD as a form of carbon offsetting.


 In particular we would like to know:

  • Why was the World Bank Indonesia Forest Carbon Trust Fund Program not established?
  • What problems arose in the institution of incentive-based payments for local community members engaged in project activities (seedling cultivation, reforestation, canal blocking and any other activities)?
  • Why were partner donors not found for the KFCP, as was intended? In particular, why did the Finland government not become a partner after considering the possibility in 2010?
  • Was private finance pursued and if so, what were the reasons for the lack of success in sourcing that finance?


4 – Independent project evaluation

When will an independent evaluation of the KFCP be conducted? If so, what will its scope and terms of reference be? How will it take into account criticisms from local community members? And how will its results be publicly communicated?

Will the Australian Government maintain its commitment to communicate project outcomes and lessons learnt to the UNFCCC? Which relevant negotiation streams will the KFCP lessons be communicated to?


 5 – Consultation or consent?

Does the Australian government believe that persistent criticisms of the KFCP from local customary leaders and Indigenous representative bodies illustrate that the project was not a genuinely collaborative endeavor between project partners and the local community, as was the stated intention of the Project Design Document?[5]

Why has the Australian government adopted the World Bank’s definition of Free, Prior and Informed Consultation, rather than the UN’s principle of Free Prior And Informed Consent?


 6 – Conflicts and confusion among local communities

Please provide details of the actions taken by KFCP staff in response to confusion amongst community members about the project. In particular, how did KFCP staff respond to conflicting statements that were released from customary leaders from Kadamangan Mantangai in 2011?

We request that AusAID provide details of conflicts that arose in Mentangai Hulu village surrounding the non-payment of wages, livelihoods program and subsequent conflicts in June 2012. How did project partners respond to these conflicts prior to making the decision to cease project activities in the village in September 2012?

We request that you address these concerns in a letter of reply. Thank you for your attention to these issues and we look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Friends of the Earth International

Friends of the Earth Australia

Yayasan Petak Danum, Banjarmasin

WALHI/ Friends of the Earth Indonesia 



Nick McClean

Friends of the Earth Australia

[email protected]

+61 (0)415 775 531


Beck Pearse

Friends of the Earth Australia

[email protected]

+61 (0)405 105 101


Deddy Ratih

Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI, Friends of the Earth Indonesia)

[email protected]

+62 812 50807757


[1] Please see Forest People’s Programme (2012) Unfulfilled Promises: A note on the KFCP’s recent attempts to respect the rights of affected communities on the Kapuas River, Central Kalimantan. Available at http://www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2012/09/kfcp-commitments-after-year-promises-final.pdf

[2] Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, ‘Action under the International Forest Carbon Initiative’ http://www.climatechange.gov.au/government/initiatives/international-forest-carbon-initiative/action.aspx; Australia-Indonesia joint submission on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries SBSTA (Submission under the Cancun Agreement) September 2011 available at http://www.climatechange.gov.au/government/initiatives/unfccc/submissions/20111201-australia-indonesia.aspx

[3] Dr Justin Lee, Ambassador for Climate Change, Hansard, Senate: Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, Estimates, 27 May 2013, page 74, available at http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22committees%2Festimate%2Fd4326782-f869-4bca-b3eb-1bac46c28f94%2F0000%22

[4] Olbrei, E. and S. Howes (2012). A Very Real and Practical Contribution? - Lessons from the Kalimantan Forests and Climate Partnership, Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 16  

[5] Australia Indonesia Partnership Kalimantan Forest and Climate Partnership: Design Document 2009