The Jakarta Post
In wake of the recent forest fires that razed more than 2 million hectares of land in Indonesia, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo plans to issue a government regulation (PP) on restoration, conservation and rehabilitation of peatland.
Presidential special envoy for climate change Rachmat Witoelar said on Tuesday that a draft of the regulation was currently being prepared by the government.
'[The PP] will be signed soon,' he told reporters after a meeting at the Environment and Forestry Ministry to prepare Indonesian delegates for the UN climate talks slated for next week.
Climate Change Mitigation Board chairman Sarwono Kusumaatmaja hinted that the government was preparing the regulation as diplomatic ammunition during the UN climate conference.
The Indonesian government is expected to face tough questions during the conference with regard to its targeted 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In October alone, daily emissions from the rampant peat and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan equaled the daily average carbon output of the entire US economy.
'Before going to Paris, hopefully there will have been some decisions [made], especially those related to [forest] fire prevention,' Sarwono said during the meeting on Tuesday. 'What we are preparing at the moment will give additional value for us, in order to get support, both domestically and internationally.'
Also suggesting that the presence of Jokowi in the early days of the talks would also greatly help when explaining Indonesia's position at the climate conference.
'Alhamdulillah [thank God] the President is willing to come [to the climate talks]. If he indeed comes, he will be in a position to explain that we are formulating future steps in accordance with our experience in dealing with forest fires,' said Sarwono.
The annual forest fires in Indonesia, which this year reached catastrophic levels due to a prolonged dry season, has put the country in a tough position leading up to the Paris climate conference known as COP21, as haze from the fires is reported to have caused up to half a million cases of respiratory infection with neighboring countries also heavily affected.
Following the fires, extinguished only due to the arrival of late October rain, Jokowi ruled that there was to be no opening of new land for peat conversion to oil palm and timber plantations and no more permits.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla also announced a plan to restore at least 2 million hectares of peatland in the next five years, admitting that peat areas had been abused by previous administrations who had given permits to palm oil firms to cultivate peatland.
Such pledges, backed by Indonesia's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) and the 400 or more delegates whom are set to fly to Paris in the coming days, would make the negotiation process run smoothly, according to Rachmat.
'With more than 400 members, I believe this is the biggest delegation [ from Indonesia; in the history of climate talks]. In the context of negotiation, maybe this will be more effective for lobbying. The public will certainly wait to see what these delegates will bring back home,' he said.
In addition to explaining Indonesia's plan to decrease damage caused by peatland fires in the future, the government will also push the issue of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in the agenda as some countries want to drop the topic from the Paris agreement draft, which is already on the table.
'Many countries, especially developed ones, think that REDD+ is redundant because it has been mentioned in several articles related to land use issues. We object to that. REDD+ is beyond trees, forests and foliage,' Rachmat said.
Therefore, Indonesia will form a group with other countries, such as Congo, Panama and Costa Rica, to lobby for the inclusion of REDD+ in the agreement.
'Our goal is to keep the discussion going during the conference. It won't harm anyone, we will only include a few words [in the document]. If REDD+ exists, it involves the whole atmosphere and paradigm of sustainable forest management with indigenous people,' said Rachmat.
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