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Rimba Raya REDD project: Response from Infinite Earth to Greenomics Indonesia’s report

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Yesterday, REDD-Monitor wrote about the Rimba Raya REDD project in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, focussing on a report by Greenomics Indonesia, which stated that only 36,331 hectares of the project area had the necessary Ecosystem Restoration License. Infinite Earth, the project developer, has posted a statement on its website in response to the Greenomics report.

Infinite Earth’s statement is posted here in full:

The recent paper by Greenomics, which on the surface may seem to be the result of an exhaustive and rigorous investigation, contains statements presented as facts that are incorrect or are at least contextually inaccurate, to which we offer the following factual clarifications:

Rimba Raya’s total project management area, as approved by Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry, is comprised of approximately 64,000 hectares (160,000 acres), which includes three distinct land-use rights regimes: a Ministerial decree for more than 36,000 ha, an environmental management cooperation agreement with the adjoining Tanjung Puting National Park for more than 18,000 hectares and a commercial agreement with a palm oil company for more than 8,000 hectares. We have never claimed to have received a Ministerial Decree for 64,000 hectares.

A second fundamental misunderstanding in the Greenomics article is that Rimba Raya is claiming carbon credits from the extent of the 64,000 hectare “total project management area”. In fact, Rimba Raya derives carbon credits from just 47,000 hectares (known as the “Carbon Accounting Area”). The balance is protected voluntarily as an additional buffer zone without remuneration and at significant additional cost to Rimba Raya.

The project has undergone rigorous verification by SCS Global Services as part of validation and verification requirements under the Verified Carbon Standard, or VCS, which is a globally respected agency whose methodologies are used to ensure carbon emissions reduction projects, meet the highest standards. The VCS requires projects to undergo two sets of rigorous auditing by independent certified validators before they can be approved and issued carbon credits.

SCS’s assessment, carried out over three years in two phases, was that the project fully complied with the standards set and internally accepted by the VCSA. The project was certified to have prevented emissions of 131.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) over its 30-year project life from preserving the carbon locked away in peat swamps and above ground. That is the equivalent of the annual emissions from 33 million cars (based on 4 tonnes a year for a mid-sized car).

The third inaccuracy in the Greenomics’ article stems from their failure to understand the definition of “right of use” under the VCSA rules. “Right of Use” may be achieved through a variety of mechanisms including but not limited to (excerpted): 1). A right of use arising or granted under statute, regulation or decree by a competent authority, 2). a right of use arising under (contract) law, 3). a right of use arising by virtue of a statutory, property or contractual right in the land, vegetation or conservational or management process that generates GHG emission reductions and/or removals.

Lastly, the Greenomics article clearly leaves the impression that Rimba Raya is somehow benefiting from the sale of carbon credits from an area of National Park that was not under threat of deforestation. This is patently untrue. Even a cursory investigation of the facts would have revealed that the area in question and the National Park boundaries, as defined by an official 2005 Ministerial Decree, were in fact not part of the National Park in 2008 when Rimba Raya made the application for its ecosystem restoration license, nor in mid 2010 when Rimba Raya successfully completed their validation – part one of a two part audit. In fact, the area in question, which only recently partially overlaps Rimba Raya’s total project management area as a result of a newly drawn park boundary, was originally and irrefutably part of the area gazetted for conversion to palm oil. This is the cornerstone of Rimba Raya’s “additionality argument”, which specifically and explicitly underwent intense scrutiny in multiple audits. The VCS auditors have been privy to and analyzed ALL documents that relate to the Rimba Raya project from its inception, and found the project to have met the very strict standards of proof of “right of use”. The facts and supporting evidence have been carefully audited and found to meet the standards of the VCS for successful verification of the project and these verification documents are all publically available.

It is disappointing that Greenomics did not take the time to thoroughly understand these pertinent details or contact Rimba Raya for further explanation. Had they done so, they might have avoided drawing their conclusions based on incomplete data and in the process tarnishing their reputation and ours with these erroneous accusations.

The incontrovertible fact remains that in the absence of the Rimba Raya project, this area would have irrefutably been converted to palm oil by this date. Instead, today the communities that have traditionally depended on these forests still have a chance to continue their traditional way of life rather than becoming enslaved by palm oil and with Rimba Raya’s help will experience significant improvements to their standard of living. The people of Indonesia have retained their national patrimony (a non-renewable resource) rather than have it converted to palm oil and exported abroad. At the same time, the Indonesian government was not asked to forgo the tax revenues generated from the land-use permits. Rimba Raya paid exactly the same rates that palm oil or timber concessionaires would have paid and it promises to deliver community development programs unmatched by the broken promises of palm oil. Lastly, the National Park and the endangered orang-utan have been spared the relentless pressures of palm oil expansion under which they both have suffered for decades.

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  1. As an indigenous people of Central Kalimantan I don’t really care about debates on PT. Rimba Raya Conservation (RRC) location and permit, my only concern is how much money out of millions dollars that PT. RRC will generate from this project will truly allocate and distribute to the local communities. I do believe that at the current stage everything is merely ‘a promise’ rather than ‘a reality’. It is really difficult to secure a promise that only put local commuities as stakeholders NOT as rightholders of a project.