Innovate4Climate (I4C) is the World Bank Group’s annual global conference on climate finance, carbon markets and investment. Back in person for its seventh edition, I4C 2023 convened the private and public sectors on May 23-25 at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre in Spain to turn up the volume on innovative climate solutions with a focus on markets, finance, policy and technology.
Yani Saloh is Permian Global’s Community Specialist for SE Asia and gave a presentation entitled “Empowering Communities Through Carbon Finance”
The conference workshop brought key players in the voluntary carbon market working on the ground with vast experience in financing, developing and implementing impactful community and nature-based solutions utilizing carbon finance.
Local communities have a fundamental role to play in tackling climate change and in nature conservation. For example, although they constitute less than 5% of the world’s population, Indigenous Peoples protect 80% of the global biodiversity.
Yani comes from Indonesia and was born and spent her childhood in Central Borneo, where the Katingan Mentaya Project (KMP) is located. Katingan Mentaya is a multi-faceted project that is financed by the sale of high-quality verified carbon credits, developed and managed by PT Rimba Makmur Utama (PT RMU) and Permian Global since 2008.
Permian has very high ambitions for tackling the climate crisis, safeguarding biodiversity, and empowering communities by protecting and regenerating threatened areas of tropical forest. Permian’s ongoing carbon and forest conservation projects currently span Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brazil.
Since the very beginning of her career (twenty five years ago), Yani has pursued the goal of making the forests more valuable standing than being cut down, and to deliver benefits for climate, biodiversity and local communities.
“I believe that payments for carbon storage and conservation can achieve this”
The Katingan Mentaya project area, comprises of a 157,000 hectare, peat swamp ecosystem, surrounded by 35 villages and two major rivers. The project is home to several endangered species such orangutans, proboscis monkeys, clouded leopards, pangolins, birds, sun bears, as well as wild pigs, fish and insects.
Originally the project area was allocated by the government for an Acacia plantation, which would have meant deforestation of natural forests, drainage of the peatland and loss of habitats for key species in the area.
“With no project, all of this would be gone”
However the Katingan Mentaya project proponents applied to get this land designation changed. In 2010 they were awarded an Ecosystem Restoration Concession – rights to manage the area for conservation and carbon storage for 60 years. But even with this status, the area still experiences threats. Currently the major threats are forest fires, illegal logging, agricultural expansion and land encroachment. As the voluntary carbon market continues to grow, one of the key aspects of carbon projects is how they can create social benefits not just emission reductions.
Last year, Dee Lawrence from Cool Effect, one of our buyers based in the USA, visited the Katingan Mentaya project. Dee was there to monitor progress and ensure that the project they support is ultimately doing what it says. The social benefits are one of the key aspects of carbon credits that our buyers would like see for themselves. This is what Dee calls “The Good on the Ground”.
The project transforms communities and reduces poverty by offering the local community several opportunities, such as jobs, income in a sustainable way, and creating access to basic needs such healthcare, water and sanitation, infrastructure, educational programs, all of which are integrated into project activities.
Since 2016 the project has run a “Microfinance and Women’s Empowerment” program in 7 villages, with 1,200 beneficiaries to increase incomes.
This microfinance program supports small business development by helping community members set up household-based micro businesses. Eighty three percent of microfinance program recipients in the Mendawai village are women (approximately 450 beneficiaries).
To reduce poverty, the project creates formal and informal jobs. Eighty percent of formal staff come from the region itself. For the informal sector, the Katingan Mentaya Project provides paid employment for the local communities, in areas where there was none before :
1. Community forest monitoring and patrols. Local communities – becoming Forest Guardians involved in protecting the forests.
2. Fighting forest fires in and around areas critical to the project. Peat can becomes flammable easily, especially during periods of drought.
3. To prevent carbon credits from literally going up in smoke, the project trained and employs 550 local community members as firefighters.
4. In 2021-2022, 4,103 local people were involved in forest fire patrols and monitoring including developing fire breaks through an agroforestry scheme.
5. The project firstly aims at fires prevention and then suppression when necessary.
The project provides sustainable livelihoods and in the process can convert former illegal loggers into forest guardians. With this project, the forests become more valuable standing than being cut down. Thus the project cannot survive nor succeed without a deeply integrated level of involvement with local communities.
One particular KMP success story is a man named Mr. Ingking who used to be an illegal gold miner and wildlife hunter. He hunted pangolins in the forest to sell to collectors as an income. After a few years with the project, he was promoted to work as an area Protection and Monitoring officer. He continues to encourage the residents to protect their forests and not hunt. In his role, he’s gained a lot of understanding and knowledge from his work and received mentoring from his own supervisor.
Mr. Ingking is a shining example of a KMP success story. He has learned many new skills that he is very proud of. He is now a good wildlife photographer, skilled at setting up camera traps, proficient at conducting surveys and monitoring key species in the area, such as orangutans. When the community is employed, empowered, and their understanding increase, they become the frontline, as well as the driving force, in maintaining the forest and peat ecosystems within. From this success story we can see that a stable income is important for the local communities as well as skill improvement, consistent mentorship and giving community members pride in the work they do and in themselves.
The project holds a triple gold standard for Climate, Community and Biodiversity. The work is monitored annually and verified by a credible third party. In addition, our work contributes to sixteen United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals with 70 targets and 68 indicators by national definition and KMP priority activities. All progress and impacts are supported by thorough evidence.
“We feel we are making the forest become valuable to the local people by remaining standing, rather than cut down. This is essential for long term success.”