The Burning Season

By Emmanuel Narokobi

As the fiery comments continue to rage on one of the hottest posts on this blog right now, I was directed to the likewise hot feature film called The Burning Season‘.

I’ve only been able to watch the trailer on YouTube and also the interviews with the Director Cathy Henkel so I’m still waiting for a DVD copy to come my way soon so I can watch the film for myself. In any case the film revolves around the oil palm burning season in Indonesia, the dying population of orangutans, an oil palm farmer and a carbon trading entrepreneur from Australia.

I obviously become more interested in the film when I saw how the carbon trading entrepreneur Dorjee Sun was being portrayed as the solution to the environmental issues in Indonesia. And I must confess I was also interested in Dorjee also because of the fact that he’s my age which makes me wonder what I’m doing to contribute to our environmental issues in PNG. But that’s another story.

So since our carbon trading counter parts in PNG have been giving us their thoughts on what they want to do with our forests I thought it would be interesting to see how Dorjee was approaching his carbon trading plans for Indonesian Papua.

I particularly liked a couple of things he mentioned on his website videos here and here where he states:

  • “…the way its going to succeed is by making sure that no one in the entire community from the national government, to the provincial government, to the local community take more than their fair share. Because its only by an equitable balance that you will get full buying from everyone and that includes us and that includes the bank Merrill Lynch…”
  • “…ultimately we’ve been thinking about ways to make it so its not handout. So the money will get to the people by the forests but we feel that its actually damaging to give the money without recourse…without strings…because if it seems to be money for free then people won’t appreciate it, they wont invest it, they wont learn the skills required to actually create a meaningful life…so we’ve been looking at micro-finance…”
  • “…this is going to take much longer than anyone anticipated, its not going to be like a horse race its gonna be a marathon and its gonna take 30 years…it will happen its just a matter of patience and dealing with each step as it rises…”
  • “…We’ll be continuing to invest in this project probably for the next 12 months with no real sign of return…how much money we’re gonna pull out at the end of the day? It all remains to be seen based on what happens with the first verification, which will show how much deforestation we’ve actually stopped, that will then give us an indication of how many carbon credits we have created…”
  • “…12 to 18 months we should have credit to sell to the market and then at that point in time we’ll be able to start seeing some return as a commission from what we sell for the Governor, so yeah interesting times so like if I wanted to make money I’d probably go into a different business…the fact is that, there is no quick money here, the only way you’ll prove value is if you protect the forest for 30 years”

So certainly a different attitude and approach to what we’ve seen in PNG so far, but its good to see what other people in the same industry are doing to develop the carbon trading industry in our part of the world. You can read more about what Dorjee is up to here.

But just so you know after the Bali conference, Merrill Lynch signed the world’s first avoided deforestation deal with Dorjee’s company, Carbon Conservation. The proposal will save the 1.9 million-acre Ulu Masen forest in Aceh province, Papua and thereby protecting the endangered ecosystems and their inhabitants.

Then in November 2008 Dorjee achieved another of his goals. He brought Governor Irwandi of Aceh to California to meet Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to reduce forestry-related greenhouse gas emissions. This agreement is the first state-to-state sub-national agreement of its kind in the world and will help bring global attention to the urgency of saving Indonesia’s forests.

Dorjee has since won Environmental Finance’s “Carbon Finance Deal of the Year” award and in April 2009 was honored by the African Rainforest Conservancy for his work. They also named a newly discovered species of chameleon from Tanzania after him.

In May 2009, Dorjee was named as one of 10 young leaders who have demonstrated the ability to come up with fresh ideas, directions and solutions in the Weekend Australian Magazine’s Next 100.


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