Indonesia boosts staffing of forest protection agency

Reuters Wire Service: September 13: Jakarta

Indonesia's president has expanded the staffing of an agency that aims to save tropical forests to gain carbon credits, after the body struggled to make progress required to win a $1 billion climate deal with Norway.

The move by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to add more officials, including his vice-ministers for agriculture and finance, comes ahead of a visit by Norway's environment minister to Jakarta this month.

The agency did not meet a June deadline to set up a framework to regulate and verify projects to gain credits from forests, which soak up vast amounts of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and no such projects have got off the ground so far.

"If timeline becomes the basis to gauge performance, then its performance was bad," said Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace Southeast Asia's forest campaigner. "But there were competing political interests inside the previous task force which made it difficult to get things done."

The more weighty staffing may not solve the problem since different government ministries have clashed as they try to balance the growth of powerful palm oil, timber and mining industries with Yudhoyono's international climate commitments.

Indonesia in May imposed a delayed two-year moratorium on permits to convert primary forests and peatlands, as part of the Norway deal, but disappointed environmentalists hoping for a bigger area of the sprawling archipelago to be protected.