Race to Zero
Forbes Indonesia|October 2021
Katingan Mentaya Project is leading the way in the global carbon finance-based conservation.
Elisa Valenta

Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial vegetative store of carbon and with over 3 million square kilometers of peatlands globally, the carbon stored with-in peatlands is greater than in all other natural habitats. Protecting peatlands from being degraded is therefore a critical action in averting the growth of carbon emissions and in Indonesia, home to over 22 million hectares of peatland, these carbon-rich peatlands also support biodiversity and local livelihoods so their protection will have positive impacts across many pillars of society.

An early entrant into local peatland protection, Dharsono Hartono, a former JP Morgan banker, began his quest 14 years ago to transform one of Indonesia's largest carbon sinks into a sustainable business. He sought to demonstrate that conservation and profit could coexist, founding in 2007, PT Rimba Makmur Utama to manage the world's largest forest compensation project in Central Kalimantan, dubbed the Katingan Mentaya Project. Dharsono made a long-term bet with his partner Reza Kusumaatmadja on the idea that protecting the peat forest, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and providing sustainable livelihoods for communities, could also ultimately generate profits for the company.

The Katingan Mentaya Project provides an economically viable alternative to land conversion for crops, averting the emission of 447 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 60-year period. “This is a credible business, essentially looking at feasible ways to protect the forest that can be integrated into positive community development,” Dharsono says in an interview.

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