10 May Indonesia focusing on forest protection in the lead up to Paris
While most people would agree that Indonesia doesn’t have anywhere near the highest emissions from industry or energy, it does have many forests spread across its 13000 islands. Similar to many developing countries, deforestation is a significant issue in Indonesia, and contributes approximately 80% of its greenhouse gas emissions. According to some estimates, this ranks Indonesia the world’s fifth highest emitter.
Indonesia now has a national forest moratorium which protects some of its forests and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from such activities. Former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono implemented the moratorium as part of Indonesia’s commitment to reducing emissions by at least 26% compared to business as usual by 2020.
Under the moratorium, no new licences granting Approval to convert primary forests to timber, pulp or palm oil will be provided. It was extended in 2013 despite significant industry pushback. An analysis by the World Resources Institute (WRI), the Centre for Global Development amongst others has found that the policy has reduced emissions from forest clearing by up to 2.5% over four years. The moratorium is up for renewal, and current Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Minster of Environment and Forests Siti Nurbaya have indicated that they are likely to extend it as a sign of their Government’s willingness to fight climate change. Like many countries, Indonesia has a vested interest in fighting it as it is susceptible to the salinization of low lying rice paddies, rising sea levels along the coast and the increased spread of disease.
Through implementing a number of actions, the Indonesian Government can strengthen the moratorium and maximise the return from it. Officials from eight districts were interviewed by experts from WRI and the Puter Foundation (an Indonesia NGO) showed that only five of the eight knew what land types were protected under the moratorium, so the first action should be increase the local awareness and understanding of it. This would also give local Governments buy in on the design and implementation of the moratorium. Secondly, a number of loopholes should be closed, including exemptions for what are called “national development projects” such as oil and gas extraction, rice and sugarcane farming and extraction of palm oil for biofuel. Lastly, Indonesia needs a longer term policy for the protection of its most sensitive forests and peatlands. An additional two years of protection could more than double the emissions reductions, and permanent protections would make a significant difference to emissions reductions in the long term. A number of countries are also willing to provide substantial funding to Indonesia so that they aren’t reliant on the removal of forest areas for income.