Victory - Indonesian peat forest wins temporary protection

Feature Story - 2008-08-21
Good news for Indonesia's forests and the climate! The province of Riau has announced an interim ban on forest clearing. Riau, one of the areas currently worst affected by rapid deforestation, will keep the ban until a national law is agreed.

Palm oil plantations like this are eating into Indonesia’s precious ancient forests.

In 2007 we highlighted how Indonesia's forests are the fastest disappearing on Earth and how the subsequent burning of peatlands is releasing huge amounts of carbon.

Now that work has paid off: Riau's move will prevent billions of tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

Indonesia is the world's third largest climate polluter

Indonesia's forests are being cleared for palm oil plantations, timber and paper products.

Beneath much of this forest are thick layers of peat that lock up billions of tonnes of carbon.

Once the forest is cleared the peat swamp is drained and often burned to make the soil more suitable for palm oil plantations.

This releases massive emissions of greenhouse gases, making Indonesia the world's third largest climate polluter.

"The moratorium is an important first step and an opportunity for the local government, forest communities and other stakeholders to improve forest governance," said Arief Wicaksono, Greenpeace Southeast Asia's Political Adviser.

The move follows Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's pledge at the G-8 Summit in July to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation by 50 percent by 2009.

National ban needed now

However to ensure their G-8 pledge is more than just nice words, the Indonesian Government needs to quickly ban deforestation nationally.

"The Indonesian government should declare a national moratorium on forest conversion to bring a halt to the vicious cycle of peatland drainage, forest fires and resulting biodiversity loss due to forest destruction." said Zulfahmi, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest campaigner.

Rising global demand for palm oil is driving the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations. Several major multinational companies dominate the palm oil market.

Following our campaign in April, Unilever, the world's biggest user of palm oil announced its support for a moratorium on further deforestation for palm oil.

Only decisive action from both the biggest users of palm oil and the Indonesian Government can halt the deforestation and cut Indonesia's massive annual emissions.

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