Tropical regions of the world are home to a vast wealth of biodiversity, the extent of which has not yet been fully realized. Since 1996, more than 350 plant and animal species new to science have been discovered on the island of Borneo alone — and undoubtedly there are more out there.
Though climate change poses a serious challenge to these beautiful landscapes, it is far from the only risk that they face. Indonesia, a quickly-developing country with a booming population, has seen deforestation claim nearly 80 percent of its forests in only three decades. Extensive logging and mining have driven a large amount of the land conversion in this resource-rich nation and have left thousands of endemic species on the verge of complete disappearance. Furthermore, exploitative business practices have left many people in the region impoverished despite large-scale exportation of resources.
But for Borneo, which contains parts of Indonesia and Malaysia, the trouble doesn’t stop there. In Sabah, located on the north end of the island, a Malaysian utility company is pushing forward with plans for the construction of a 300-Megawatt coal-burning power plant. Already twice relocated and delayed due to strong opposition from local populations and environmental groups like Green SURF, this plant could compromise the area’s coral reefs and diverse rainforests and degrade the air and water supply.
But there is hope. Efforts — both by CI-Indonesia and the Malaysian government — strive for the development of green economies and the protection of natural ecosystems. Methods like REDD+, a tool designed to help promote forest conservation through monetary incentives and sustainable economic growth, may provide solutions for the region to preserve both the biodiversity and the services that its rainforests provide for the people of Borneo and beyond.
At the U.N. climate negotiations currently taking place in Cancun, Mexico, CI is supporting governments as they attempt to advance discussions on important climate change actions, including REDD+. Learn more about our engagement at this meeting.
Josh Richards works on CI’s climate strategy team.