REDD+ Agency launches multi-institutional partnership to enhance fire detection and prevention

13 March 2014 | Jakarta – In order to help reduce peat fire-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, BP REDD+/National REDD+ Agency is spearheading efforts to enhance capacity at all levels of government with regards to forest fire detection and prevention. One of the strategic programmes of the National REDD+ Agency is an initiative to move towards climate-based anticipatory fire risk management and the development of National Standard Operating Procedures for Land and Forest Fire management. With a view to bolster and accelerate these efforts, members of the National REDD+ Agency, in collaboration with the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare, scientists from Bogor Agricultural University and Columbia University, and representatives of the United Nations System (UN System) have launched a partnership to develop a state-of-the-art, early warning and planning fire management system.

Situating this discussion within the context of increased peatland fires and haze, Dr. William Sabandar, Deputy for Operations at the National REDD+ Agency, emphasised the importance of adopting a comprehensive anticipatory approach among government agencies and at all levels. In addition, he urged participants to develop national standard operating procedures that will be supported by the National REDD+ Agency and other line ministries, including a state-of-the-art climate based early warning system that enables local governments to take anticipatory action.

On top of the need to foster collaborative efforts among stakeholders, a further priority is to move away from the “reactive” policies currently being applied, towards a more “anticipatory” approach to forest fires. In view of this Dr. Rizaldi Boer, Director of the Centre for Climate Risk and Opportunity Management in Southeast Asia and the Pacific (CCROM-SEAP) at Bogor Agricultural University (IPB), and Dr. Shiv Someshwar, Director for Climate Policy at the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development (CGSD) of the Earth Institute, Columbia University, during the event, explained that periodic variations in climate could be detected several months in advance. For instance, they noted that the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) ushers in severe droughts to Indonesia every few years, triggered by changes in the ocean-air relationships in the Pacific Ocean. These changes lead to sea surface warming which alters rainfall patterns. Admittedly, each episode is different, but statistical information on fluctuating temperatures could predict rainfall patterns and ultimately, predict the likelihood of peat fireswith high certanity.

The fire prevention system being developed works via a risk-calculator tool that combines climatological information on the ENSO, daily rainfall monitoring, fire vulnerability based on land management practices and land use changes,and regional fire hotspot detection. While this mechanism contains great potential for fire prevention, there are also several apparent challenges in designing fire prevention policies based on this system. For instance, the issue of determining how funds for fire prevention are disbursed presents a fundamental challenge to policy formulation.

Indonesia’s resolve to curb peat fires requires an integrated approach to fire detection and prevention. The National REDD+ Agency, with the support of stakeholders, has adopted proactive measures such as the incorporation of community based ground-truthing of satellite data, and the development of information infrastructures with relevant government agencies. Participants also discussed how best to synchronise ongoing efforts of fire data collection among government and external partners, and outlined next steps for cooperative action in enhancing fire warning capacity in the short- and medium-term.