In industrial nations, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) tracks success in decoupling farm subsidies, and researchers have found that farmers benefit from these reforms.
Beyond this, economists conclude that fertilizer subsidies are less efficient in increasing crop production compared to research, education, and rural roads.
Thus, again and again, from many different perspectives, farm subsidies are counterproductive in harming the environment, promoting tropical deforestation, and hitting farmers where it hurts the most -- in their pocketbooks.
Yet despite clear economic opportunities to reform farm subsidies, Indonesia and other countries seek to greatly expand palm oil and other crop production. Nearly a fourth of gross farm income in Indonesia comes from government subsidies, and these are not decoupled subsidies.
Targeting conservation-compliance sanctions to focus on greenhouse gas-hotspots, such as peat bogs, would allow Indonesia to balance its agricultural-expansion ambitions while reducing carbon emissions.
For example, only a quarter of Southeast Asia’s deforestation occurs on peat bogs. Yet carbon emissions associated with peat bog burning and drainage are enormous -- equal to a fourth of all emissions from deforestation globally.
Together, deforestation and peat-bog drainage account for 15 percent of the world’s carbon emissions -- and tackling these emission sources is a crucial part of any strategy to combat harmful climate change.
Overall, conservation compliance is highly effective -- it only gets activated when a farmer contemplates forest destruction. And it is much easy to focus conservation compliance on the forests that most need urgent protection.
For example, Brazil’s conservation-compliance program has so far saved an estimated 270,000 hectares (685,000 acres) of tropical forest from destruction.