Are Loggers Best Suited to Stop Deforestation in Indonesia?

By Rainforest Action Network

Photo: RAN/David GilbertEveryone knows that a fox can’t be trusted to guard the hen house. So why would anyone think that a government agency in charge of logging could implement a strong moratorium on deforestation — especially when that agency has done such a poor job enforcing existing laws to date?

I’m talking about Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry and their potential role in the country’s anticipated moratorium on deforestation.

A presidential decree outlining the scope, administration and content of the moratorium was supposed to come out on January 1, 2011, but Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is caught in the middle of a fight over several versions of the text. One version has been drafted by the country’s REDD+ Taskforce and looks to be considerably more effective in helping reduce deforestation and linked emissions. Several other versions have been drafted by the Ministry of Forestry and others, such as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, and would do little for the forests, climate and communities that depend on these areas for their livelihoods.

A recent investigation by the Indonesian government in Central Kalimantan sheds some light on potential problems associated with enlisting the Ministry of Forestry to lead a moratorium on deforestation.

Here’s the investigation details from the Jakarta Post: Out of 967 plantation and mining farms in the province, 891 companies were found to be operating without proper permits — that is, illegally. The 1999 Forestry Law stipulates that permits to use forests for business purposes should be issued by the Forestry Ministry in Jakarta. The task force investigation found that out of 325 plantation companies with a total area of 4.6 million hectares, only 67 obtained permits from the Forestry Ministry. In the mining sector, of 615 registered companies in the province, only nine hold permits to convert forests in an area of 30,000 hectares. Potential losses were estimated to be 158.5 trillion rupiah ($17.6 billion US dollars) in the province alone.

As the President debates the various versions of the moratorium, no doubt with a lot of political pressure weighing upon him, I would put one question to him: “Are logging interests — who run the Ministry of Forestry — ready to take the lead in stopping deforestation?” Their track record suggests not. It would be a shame to squander this opportunity for Indonesia to continue its leadership in reducing climate pollution from deforestation and creating the foundation for green and just “low carbon” development.