Editorial: Sweet talk?
Empty words do more harm than good. With two years left in office, and his party’s declining popularity, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should know better.
Typically, he did not waste the opportunity when he delivered a speech last week at the headquarters of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor, West Java, before setting out to join world leaders in Rio de Janeiro for the 20+ UN Conference on Sustainable Development from June 20-22. He appealed to global leaders to move toward a green economy.
He stated confidently that Indonesia’s economy had changed from one in which forests were sacrificed in return for economic growth, to an environmentally sustainable one where forests were prized for the wide range of ecological services that they provided to society.
In his “Manifesto 2015: Sustainable growth with equity” speech, the president said that economic growth must not rely merely on the extraction and exploitation of natural resources. Sustainable forestry, he said, was critical to achieving sustainable development and climate mitigation efforts.
It is true that three years ago, Yudhoyono was the first head of state to pledge voluntary commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020 and up to 41 percent with international assistance. These targets could only be realized if the forests were protected.
Two years ago, the government also signed a two-year moratorium on new forest concessions to secure a US$1 billion deal from the government of Norway.
After all these years, before making fresh appeals or statements like he did in Bogor, one might hope the President would at least do a reality check to see where we stood.
Indonesia is home to perhaps the world’s third-largest area of tropical forest but to this day, illegal deforestation still takes place and new licenses are still being issued. A World Bank report this year has even estimated that 70 to 80 percent of timber exports from our country come from illegal logging.
And little has been heard on progress to achieve those deeper emissions cuts whose deadline is only eight years away.
Meeting the moratorium goals seems like going along a long and bumpy road. The government has again revised its forest-clearing moratorium map with the latest version no longer protecting millions of hectares of primary forest and peatland. Out there, the annual forest fires have returned.
With so much homework still to be done, it requires real action to move forward, not just empty talk — unless amnesia has become endemic.
At the Rio Summit, some 130 heads of states along with officials, experts and environmental activists set to take stock of progress toward commitments made at the 1992 Rio summit, which produced the Rio principles and Agenda 21 — a blueprint for global, national and local action on a wide range of environmental and development issues.
Rio will be the perfect place to decide how our future will look — a world with not enough food and water where energy is hard to find, or a home with clean water and air with plenty of food, resources and jobs for all?
At the same place 20 years ago, people decided they wanted to live in a world where people’s needs would be achieved without having to take the bread out the mouths of future generations. Solutions are out there and it takes bold action — not just sweet, meaningless words — to make them happen.