Although it may not have made it to the front page of our newspapers here in the US, there was big news this week for our planet and for some of the last remaining tropical rainforests. The President of Indonesia has extended the forest moratorium, protecting roughly 20 million acres of forest from the threat of deforestation. This was great news, but it does not solve the entire problem because plenty of Indonesia’s forests were left unprotected and deforestation continues to wreak havoc there. Here is Yuyun Indradi, one of my Indonesian colleagues’ account of the news.
I have been fielding calls non-stop over the last couple of days, because as you may have noticed, there has been widespread coverage lately (see here, here and here) on the Indonesian government’s extension of its forest moratorium.
It’s good news.
And it’s encouraging that the President of Indonesia, known as SBY, is renewing his commitment to protect forests – and cut my country’s massive carbon emissions. If the powerful palm oil lobby here in Indonesia had got their way for instance, the forest moratorium would have been scrapped and there would be a free for all to clear land for pulp and paper, palm oil and mining concessions.
Thankfully that did not happen.
But sadly, the moratorium still doesn’t go far enough. As I’ve been telling journalists who have asked for our view on the moratorium extension, the President did not go far enough – he did not strengthen the moratorium to cover all forests and peatland. Like the previous moratorium, the extension only covers primary forests, and rather than ALL natural forest and peatland. This is what’s really needed if we want to save Indonesia’s remaining tigers and orangutans, which are under threat from relentless palm oil, and pulp and paper expansion.
Why is there a moratorium anyway?
A shocking 85% of Indonesia’s emissions are from deforestation and peatland clearance, making Indonesia one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters on the planet, behind countries such as China and the United States. Norway is funding Indonesia’s forests and climate initiative to the tune of US$1 billion, with the aim to create an incentive to protect forests in Indonesia and cut greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a noble aim, and one we have been lobbying (both quietly and loudly) for years now.
So in May 2011, Indonesia introduced a two-year moratorium on permits for new concessions in primary forests and peatlands. While this moratorium was a welcome step in terms of the signals it sent, in practice most of the primary forests that it covers are already legally protected; the remainder are largely inaccessible and not under immediate threat of development. However, it leaves almost 50% of Indonesia’s primary forests and peatlands without any protection as they lie within already designated concessions and other significant areas of high carbon forest are not covered by the moratorium, as they are considered to be secondary forests.
The new two-year moratorium does nothing to fix that.
And furthermore, it does nothing about crucial issues of governance, which we feel goes to the heart of the matter. Without proper oversight and enforcement, the moratorium is a weak decree.
We have closely monitored the moratorium’s implementation, and for the two years during the last moratorium we still found cases of overlap with concessions and some deforestation (encroachment) in protected areas.
That’s not to mention that the Ministry of Forestry has changed forest functions (from protected forest to production forest) and forest status from forest area to non-forest area.
So what are we going to do?
More work needs to be done to harmonize spatial planning, developing sectoral policies and maps, stronger law enforcement measures (including addressing corruption and money laundering in the forest sector) and mechanisms for social conflict resolution. We will be pushing (quietly and loudly) to get this done.
And we’ll continue investigating and publicizing cases of deforestation, the companies responsible and the laws that need strengthening.
We’ll remind the President that the path to zero deforestation means more than signing a decree.