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Conservation Featured Observations

Are Carbon Offset and Environmental Service Incentives Saving the Environment?

Carbon offset
Are Carbon Offset and Environmental Service Incentives Saving the Environment?

The perspective is from Kalimantan’s local community.

Carbon offset is currently starting to be promoted as an effort to offset our “sins” to our environment by doing good deeds.

An example is by planting more trees in terrestrial areas and mangroves in coastal areas. Other than that, there is also a concept of environmental services by safeguarding the rainforest and as compensation for that, there will be some funding by converting the potential carbon absorbed by the rainforest into some money to develop the livelihood of the local community to build their lives without harming the forest.

Kalimantan is one of the world’s lungs covering 40.8 million hectares. It lost 2.7 million hectares of forest by 2009 and an additional 2.2 million hectares by 2016. According to WWF, Borneo could lose 75 percent of its forest by 2020 due to the alarming level of deforestation on the island. The threats are coming from some unethical activities such as illegal logging and forest land clearing for the monoculture industry. These activities then lead to the growth in illegal wildlife trade, as the cleared area of the forest then allows access to more remote points in the forest.

The local community, as the frontliner, is also struggling in their lives to be the saviour of the forest. They have no other options to fulfil their lives other than approving the offer to work on such destruction to the forest. On the other hand, some NGOs are doing some public awareness to save the forest and promoting some alternative livelihood.

However, no community development has a major impact. Organic farming, for instance, is not effectively impacting the livelihood of the community as there is no proper market for the product. Therefore, the scheme of environmental service incentive and carbon offset seem very interesting to be promoted to the local community. But, is that scheme working effectively to promote pro-environmental behaviour by the locals?

According to social marketing theory, to promote such an initiative, the target audience should think, want, need and/or desire rather than moving directly to persuasive efforts. The fact is, the local community knows this concept by only the potential of money resulting from this program. In the end, it is more on business marketing rather than promoting the value of safeguarding the forest. The marketing technique being used leans heavily on money-oriented. Therefore, sustainability concepts or pro-environmental perspectives are still far away from being known by the local community. For instance, the carbon offset business is now developing to sell the package of carbon offset and ask them to buy more rather than the message to reduce and limit their offset activities. So, it is more profit-oriented. Environmental service incentive itself is so far being seen by the locals as the ordinary program, where they will do only with the money and will have no guarantee of continuing the behaviour if the program is over.

Finally, this program, either from the government or the business sector, should implement the concept of social marketing by building awareness and let the community set the perspective on the idea of environmental preservation first.

Moreover, the business sector that promotes carbon offset specifically should integrate the value of reducing the negative activities that lead them to offset the carbon rather than dismiss the message and let the company or customer buy more carbon packages. At this stage, it shows how important it is to include the sustainable message in each product they market as part of the sustainable marketing effort.

The writer, Dwi Riyan, is an ASEAN Master In Sustainability Student at Gadjah Mada University.
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