Over 10 years and $1bn on the table yet little was achieved in a historic forests deal, study says

A land clearing area near protected forest in Tangse, Aceh province, in Indonesia on July 27, 2019.

(CNN)More than a decade ago, Indonesia and Norway made a landmark deal: Norway would pay Indonesia up to $1 billion to slash its planet-warming emissions by slowing deforestation. The pact had some success, but new research shows it contributed little to Indonesia's climate goals and suggests Norway could have paid the country far more for what it did manage to achieve.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that Indonesia successfully prevented up to 87 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from entering the atmosphere by pausing logging permits for huge swaths of carbon-rich tropical forest. But the researchers also noted that the results of this moratorium only amounted to 3 to 4% of the country's goal to curb emissions under the Paris Agreement.
That's a small impact, considering roughly 50% of the country's annual emissions between 2000 and 2016 came from deforestation alone. A huge portion of Indonesia's Paris pledge — to slash emissions by 29% by 2030 — could be met by ending deforestation practices.
    Indonesia is home to the third-largest expanse of tropical rainforest, following Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Destroying tropical forests releases massive amounts of planet-warming gases. Yet it's exactly Indonesia's vast resource-filled forests that attract industrial corporations to exploit what the ecosystem has to offer.
      With a years-long record of deforestation for palm oil, pulp and paper, timber, and other logging activities — both legal and illegal — Indonesia remains among the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters.
      The study comes months after the Indonesian government terminated its long-standing agreement with Norway in September, pointing to a delay in payments as one of the main reasons.
      A barge filled with logged timber pulled along the Mahakam river passes the town of Samarinda, East Kalimantan on November 4, 2021.
      In 2010, under the Indonesia-Norway pact, the Norwegian government committed to pay $5 for every ton of CO2 Indonesia prevented from being released into the atmosphere. Indonesia primarily achieved these reductions through its moratorium on new permits, preventing forests and peatland being cleared for development, including for palm oil, timber and pulp and paper plantations.
        In 2020, Norway agreed to pay $56 million after assessing that Indonesia had avoided more than 11 million tons of CO2 in 2016-2017 by protecting forests.
        But using satellite data and historical trends, the study's researchers found that Indonesia's cumulative emissions reduction from 2011 — when its moratorium began — to 2018 totaled up to 87 million tons, far exceeding the payment from its Norwegian donor. The researchers said the amount should have been more than $330 million if the whole term was considered.
        That means for the $56 million it paid Indonesia, Norway effectively bought CO2 emission reductions at a rate of less than $1 a ton.