Aceh lies between 20 and 60 degrees north of the equator at the extreme north of the Island of Sumatra and across the Strait of Malacca from Peninsular Malaysia. It is the most western province in Indonesia and has a unique history strongly embedded in a social structure reflecting the importance of Islam to the peoples’ day to day lives. Within a formal administrative structure common to Indonesia there is a system of informal leadership (mukim) which identifies local communities strongly held within religious bonds. These communities, with their religious base, are a strong part of Acehnese society. The Province was granted Special Autonomy in 2001. They are key agents mobilized by the Governor as part of the Province’s REDD initiatives for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The Province occupies an area of almost 57 000 km² and supports a population of 4.3 million of whom most live in rural environments. The population is of mixed ethnic origin with original Acehnese complemented by communities from Java, elsewhere in Sumatra and ethnic Chinese. GDP in 2008 was USD 3.8 million of which the agricultural sector, including forestry and estate crops, contributed about USD 900 million. Aceh has been a major source of oil and natural gas production and this sector is still the main contributor to GDP. Mean per capita income is USD 881.3 with levels of poverty and the HDI similar to the national average.
As LNG production declines the government is focusing on a green development strategy. Green Aceh seeks to optimize the use of its hydro generating potential; implement sustainable forest management, retain and protect its lowlands for food production, to be mindful of the importance of waste management and land use to reducing disaster risk, and to carefully regulate the use of its non-renewable resources. This approach to an economic future with a low carbon footprint is consistent with national policy and underlies the Province’s commitment to sustainable use of its forests, reflected in a significant reclassification of forest use zones to Protection Forest and Conservation Reserves and a moratorium on commercial logging.
Prior to the introduction of commercial logging the estimated area of forest was just over 36 000 km². The remaining forest area of 33 400 km. Like Papua, Aceh has historically low rates of deforestation which attest to the difficulty of large scale logging in steep uplands and the impact of a long, armed struggle for independence. These low rates will influence the approach taken to establishing baselines for future carbon trade. Over 80% of the remaining forest area is designated for nature conservation and protection purposes, emphasizing the importance of developing non-destructive uses for the forests such as tourism and payments for environmental services, including REDD. Current estimates of the carbon sequestered in the forests of Aceh total 602 million tonnes CO₂e. The forests of Aceh contain the biggest remaining populations of Sumatran Rhino, tiger and orangutan. The Leuser Ecosystem Reserve and Ulu Masen Forest Reserve are globally significant forests and are seeking support from REDD investment in their future management.