Indonesian Forest Moratorium Falls Short

By Rainforest Action Network

Indonesian logging EIATelepak and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) have just released a report confirming that the Indonesian Forest Moratorium was breeched on the day it was announced. The photographic evidence in the report verifies that KLK, a Malaysian palm oil company, was actively clearing peatlands in the area where the moratorium pilot project was meant to take effect.

This rightfully raises the question, “Will the Indonesian Forest Moratorium help save forests and reduce record greenhouse gas emissions being released by Indonesia, or will it fall short and allow logging as usual to continue?”

Businesses hoping that Indonesia would move forward with a robust moratorium on issuing new rainforest clearance permits are sorely disappointed by the large number of loopholes and exemptions in the final document, issued five months late after intense palm oil and pulp and paper sector lobbying to weaken it.

A government moratorium on issuing new forest clearance permits was one of four main forest-related climate commitments made by the President of Indonesia as part of a $1 billion agreement with the government of Norway signed last year. Various economic studies have indicated that curbing deforestation, improving forest governance and promoting a shift to low carbon rural development would be positive for Indonesia’s GDP growth and international competitiveness.

Unfortunately, the moratorium’s final specifics fall far short of the proposals put forward by reformist leaders in Indonesia and international expectations. The moratorium is loaded with exemptions and exceptions. Secondary natural rainforests, including critical tiger and orangutan habitat, huge areas of virgin rainforest slated to become sugarcane plantations, large new mines, and all existing permits, including a large number issued by the Ministry of Forests hours before the moratorium was originally scheduled to start, mean that widespread deforestation will continue.  At least two-thirds of the primary forest and peatland area included in the moratorium are estimated to be forest areas that were already illegal to clear under pre-existing laws and regulations.

But with palm oil and other commodity prices soaring, Indonesia’s plantation conglomerates have seemingly let greed for more land blind them to the wider national interest. Working with mining sector and pulp and paper interests, the conglomerates successfully lobbied to gut the moratorium and ensure that it remained under the control of the corruption-ridden Ministry of Forests, which proved the winner in a struggle with honest reformist elements over the design of the moratorium’s scope and its implementation.

International buyers of palm oil and paper products are growing increasingly wary of sourcing from Indonesia due to the high rates of deforestation, widespread social conflict, high climate emissions, negative impacts on tigers, orangutans and biodiversity and pandemic levels of corruption.

Indonesia is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the U.S. Some 85% of Indonesia’s emissions come from clearing of natural rainforests and draining of carbon-rich peatlands, which are also important habitat for endangered orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos. Deforestation is driven by expansion of the palm oil and pulp and paper sectors producing goods for the global commodity markets. These controversial products are in turn entering into the supply chains of leading companies around the world, where they can pose reputational risks to many highly valued brands.

Rainforest Action Network encourages responsible corporations to continue to publicly support strengthened efforts by the Indonesian government and business sector to promote economically positive low carbon development pathways and permanent protection for peatland and forest areas.