Indonesia cannot be trusted to lock up its forests as part of future global carbon trading scheme while corruption in the logging industry remained a two-billion-dollars-a-year problem, a human rights group said Tuesday.

AP/Michael von Bülow02/12/2009 05:45
Indonesia is home to one-tenth of the world’s rain forests and could earn billions of dollars from the world’s major polluters under a future scheme that will be discussed at a United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen next week.

Under such an international scheme to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012, a developed country could offset its own greenhouse gas emissions by paying heavily wooded, developing countries such as Indonesia to curb logging.

But Human Rights Watch released a report on Tuesday that found corruption and mismanagement inside the forest industry was now costing Indonesia two billion US dollars a year — the equivalent of its entire health budget.

Joe Saunders, the New York-based human rights group’s deputy program director, said an influx of carbon trade dollars would likely worsen the corruption while the lack of controls and conflicts of interest within the forestry sector were being addressed.

"The hope of carbon trading is that at last there’s real money on the table to compete with the forces of evil, but if you’re not watching the money flow, it’s going to feed into a leaking system that doesn’t show results," Saunders told The Associated Press.

Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change executive chairman, warned that the fight against corruption should not slow the fight against deforestation.

"I agree … the money should be prevented from going into corrupt people’s hands," he said. "But this is not a reason that we should stop saving the forest."