Business

Skepticism mounts on benefits
of moratorium

Industry stakeholders backed by renowned scientists have challenged the government’s forest moratorium plan and demanded valid scientific assessments of its impact on the sustainability of the environment and economy.

University of Lampung agricultural economist Bustanul Arifin says the moratorium, which fell under the government’s carbon emission reduction scheme (REDD), is based on variables that were not based on justifiable scientific findings.

Among the variables, he said, was a 26 percent reduction of carbon emissions by the end of 2010 and a 41 percent reduction target. The government claimed the latter target would be possible only with assistance from donor countries or mechanisms under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The governments of Indonesia and Norway signed a letter of intent (LoI) on a climate deal in May requiring Indonesia, the world’s third-largest forest nation, to issue a moratorium on its primary forests and peatlands. In return, Indonesia would receive US$1 billion from Norway. The President is expected to issue a decree for the implementation of the climate deal.

“To date, scientific justifications for the targets are unclear,” Bustanul said at a seminar on the moratorium.

The correlation between funds raised through the government’s emission reduction plans with the goal to tackle the forestry crisis was vague as there was not a definitive architecture to the so-called REDD scheme, Bustanul said.

“It is also difficult to say that the REDD scheme takes into account the livelihoods of people living around the forest,” he said.

Instead of implementing the moratorium, Bustanul argued, efforts to solve problems pertaining to conflicting land ownership and disputes over the definition of the types of forests would do more to control deforestation and land degradation.

Also speaking at the seminar, Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) forestry expert Dodik R. Nurrochmat said the government needed to clearly identify the location of various types of land.

“The definition of primary forest and peatlands should also be clarified in the draft of the moratorium. The moratorium should not contradict higher prevailing regulations,” he said.

Representing one of industries that will be heavily affected by the moratorium, the Indonesia Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki) said the draft on the presidential decree on the moratorium did not specify the scope and the location of forests and peatlands prohibited from conversion.

Gapki secretary-general Djoko Supriyono said that without proper implementation, the moratorium could contradict the people’s right for the alleviation of widespread poverty through the creation of employment.

“Currently, the livelihood of 2.8 million people depend on the palm oil industry: 1.2 million people work in palm oil plantations, while the remaining 1.6 million are farmers,” he said.

Djoko said the moratorium would mean palm oil companies or farmers could not expand their businesses or recruit more workers. “Less jobs created means slower economic growth.”

He claimed that the palm oil industry helped the economic empowerment of people working or engaging in the industry, citing as an example the average monthly income of smallholders in Riau, which reached Rp 5.5 million per month ($611), or more than $20 per day.

Indonesia is currently the largest palm oil producer in the world. In 2009, total production reached 21 million tons. The country exported 14.5 million tons of palm oil last year. (rdf)

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