It’s become clear this week — between Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s comments on tackling corruption and reducing negative environmental impacts of deforestation and Al Gore’s speech extolling the business case for rolling back deforestation and commending Indonesia’s emerging leadership on the issue — that industry elites with a vested interest in maintaining business as usual are at odds with Indonesia’s political leadership.
Many extractive industry types are suggesting that adopting environmental reforms will stymie development and have called for the planned moratorium to be withdrawn. In addition to Indonesia’s political leadership, this “environment versus development” argument also places them squarely at odds with the facts. Contrary to companies like Asia Pulp and Paper’s claims that adopting environmental and social safeguards will hamper national development and job creation, an effective moratorium and REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) scheme present an opportunity to jumpstart a new type of “low carbon” sustainable development that would be good for business, communities, and the environment.
The President’s decree on the moratorium is expected any day now. What gets included in the President’s decree — and, even more importantly, what gets done while the moratorium is in place to combat corruption and reform land use policy, decision-making processes, and community rights and tenure — is of critical importance.
The contents of the decree and what happens while the moratorium is in place should matter to a wide-range of businesses in the U.S. and elsewhere that have supply chain or financial links to commodities like pulp and paper and palm oil that are driving deforestation in Indonesia. An effective moratorium could help eliminate social and environmental controversy and create more certainty and supply sustainability. Whether it’s businesses that make and sell food, cosmetics, and household cleaners and thus rely on palm oil, or publishers, copy/printing paper manufacturers, and tissues and packaging companies that require pulp and paper, these firms should be supporting a robust moratorium and measures to adopt safeguards, reduce emissions, and undertake key reforms.
All of these businesses should be working with their Indonesian counterparts, as well as the U.S. and Indonesian governments, to support President Yudhoyono and the private sector and civil society voices advocating a moratorium that includes suspending further loss of Indonesia’s remaining natural forests (both secondary and primary) and peatlands (including those less than three meters deep), even in areas where licenses have been approved but conversion hasn’t yet taken place. And they should be reconsidering their business with pulp and paper and palm oil companies like Asia Pulp and Paper, APRIL, Duta Palma and P.T. Smart whose practices are at odds with this approach.
No matter the scope of the moratorium, the key for protecting the climate, for providing local livelihoods to Indonesians, and for achieving low-carbon development will be to realize the intent behind the moratorium by establishing baselines and monitoring mechanisms, identifying high carbon value areas both in concession areas and outside them, tackling corruption, and dealing with land tenure issues and policies. The private sector has a key role to play, both by giving business to suppliers that demonstrate low carbon and socially and environmentally responsible practices and by supporting the aspirations put forward this week by President Yudhoyono and Mr. Gore.