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Jakarta Post

A strengthened forest moratorium expected from Jokowi

  • Bustar Maitar

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, May 4, 2015   /  06:33 am

Indonesia'€™s current forestry moratorium is due to expire in a fortnight on May 13. The moratorium, introduced in 2011, calls for a hold on granting new concessions for activities such as logging and plantations for pulp and paper or palm oil.

The moratorium is temporary and should be bound by results, not dates; it needs to be in place as long as required for legal review and reform to ensure permanent protection for Indonesia'€™s forests and peatlands.

This reform, however, is no easy task, and the past four years has seen little progress, with the national land use One Map still pending and a mess of overlapping regulations peppered with loopholes, still holding sway.

President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo'€™s government has already indicated that it plans to renew the moratorium, but ongoing rapid deforestation under the current version shows that in its present form, the moratorium is simply too weak.

It is vital that the moratorium is strengthened to provide full forest and peatland protection. Despite looking impressive at first glance, analysis of the latest moratorium map (2014) along with forest-cover data shows that although 63.8 million hectares are covered by the current moratorium, 46.9 million hectares of that already enjoys legal protection as a part of already existing national parks and other reserves.

Unless the moratorium is strengthened, at least 48.5 million hectares of forest '€” over three times the area of Java '€” will remain under threat.

This includes 16.5 million hectares of primary forest and peatlands which are excluded from the moratorium map or located inside the moratorium area, but which are already covered by existing undeveloped concessions and hence not protected by the moratorium rules.

The remaining 32 million hectares is under threat because, despite consisting of areas of natural forest, it has undergone disturbance in the past, for example through selective logging, and is now classified as '€œsecondary forest'€ and so is not covered by the current moratorium.

The rapid destruction of forests and peatlands is among the nation'€™s most urgent problems: environmentally, socially and economically.

Indonesia'€™s peatlands store almost 60 billion tons of carbon, nearly six times more than all the carbon emitted by human activity annually.

Clearing and draining them has propelled Indonesia to the top rank of greenhouse-gas emitting nations. Moreover, this year'€™s IUCN biodiversity figures show that forest-habitat loss puts Indonesia at the top of another list as the country that is home to the world'€™s greatest number of mammal species (184) currently threatened with extinction.

We need to see the President making good on these pledges, as the problem of Indonesia'€™s forests won'€™t keep.

Forest loss to monoculture plantations damages watersheds and deprives people of traditional sustainable livelihoods in exchange for a smaller number of menial jobs.

Besides this, around three-quarters of fire hotspots occur on drained peatlands, and these are a major contributor to the annual smoke haze which blankets the region and causes untold human suffering.

All of this has direct economic impacts, and has indirectly tarnished the marketability of Indonesian commodities linked to this deforestation.

Playing host to the Asian African Conference and World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia has done much to raise President Jokowi'€™s international profile.

Moreover, the eyes of the world will undoubtedly be on Indonesia later this year at the Paris round of international climate negotiations.

Jokowi'€™s best chance to cut a strong figure there by reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to strengthen the moratorium and thus slow emissions from forest and peatland destruction.

So, what do we mean when we say Jokowi must strengthen the moratorium?

Firstly, the moratorium must be strengthened in order to protect all natural forest and peatland, both inside and outside concessions.

At the moment, forest clearing and peatland conversion is allowed in existing concessions and even in areas where only pre-moratorium in-principle approvals are held.

Secondly, Jokowi must include in a strengthened moratorium a mandate to implement the pledge he made during his blusukan (impromptu visit) visit to Riau'€™s peatlands on Nov. 27, 2014.

During the visit, the President promised that he would review problematic concessions.

These should include concessions which overlap with the moratorium map, areas of natural forest or peatlands, and areas which have seen outbreaks of fires. Related to this is the need to follow through with another of Jokowi'€™s pledges, namely his pre-election promise to develop and publish an integrated '€œOne Map'€. Such a map is crucial to ensure transparency, to protect community land rights and address conflicting concessions to be highlighted for resolution, and to facilitate corruption-free spatial planning.

Analysis done by the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law shows that transparency is one of the keys to slowing deforestation. Districts with the lowest public availability of concession maps and other data tended to have the highest rates of forest loss during the period 2012-2014.

Thirdly, a strengthened moratorium must ensure that traditional and local community land rights are recognised and protected through a clear mechanism which includes conflict resolution.

Instead of criminalising forest-dwelling communities, law enforcement must be improved and targeted at the real masterminds behind industrial-scale land clearing and burning.

Finally, as our field investigations have shown, many local officials and businesspeople are unaware of the moratorium, or simply choose to ignore it and press ahead with land clearances in moratorium areas.

This is because in its current form as a presidential instruction, it carries no legal clout. A strengthened moratorium requires an upgrade in legal status to at least the level of a presidential decree.

Two grand promises have been made which affect Indonesia'€™s forests, by the country'€™s two most recent presidents. The first was made by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in the name of all Indonesians, and committed to cutting 26 percent of the country'€™s business-as-usual levels of greenhouse gas emissions, or 41 percent with international assistance, by 2020.

Yudhoyono made it clear that he intended for those cuts to be made largely by tackling forest and peatland destruction.

The second commitment was made last year by Jokowi during his blusukan visit to Riau, Indonesia'€™s smoke haze ground zero.

During the trip, the President stated: '€œWe have to stop this. We can'€™t allow our tropical rainforests to disappear because of conversion to monoculture plantations or palm oil.'€ Regarding peat, Jokowi stated '€œPeatlands mustn'€™t be underestimated, they must be protected as an ecosystem, and it'€™s not only deep peat which must be protected, but all peat areas.'€

This year, we need to see the President making good on these pledges, as the problem of Indonesia'€™s forests won'€™t keep.

The writer is Greenpeace'€™s global head of Indonesia forest campaign.

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