As an Indonesian, and an experienced political campaigner working for Greenpeace, I have felt the full range of emotions in recent years as I’ve fought to protect my country’s forests with my Greenpeace colleagues, friends from other civil society organisations and a few progressive government officials.
Consequently, the first anniversary of Indonesia’s moratorium on deforestation on 20 May 2012 gives me the chance to reflect on where we’ve come from, where we are now and how much more needs to be done.
For many years, we have been challenging the so-called forestry mafia; those unscrupulous, exploitative industry and corrupt officials who have been allowed to treat the forests as their own personal cash cows for far too long by, at best weak, or at worst corrupt, national and local government officials.
As we’ve shone the spotlight on those who destroy the forests for their own gain, we have also welcomed government and industry commitments to shift from exploiting forests to protecting them.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitment, 26% by 2020 combined with 7% annual economic growth, palm oil producer Golden Agri-Resources’ (GAR) 2011 commitment to reform its field operations and decisions by major international companies such as Nestle, Kraft, Unilever, Adidas and Danone to cancel contracts with Asian Pulp and Paper (APP), linked to illegal logging and the clearance of Sumatran tiger habitat, all show that it’s possible to grow the economy or keep shareholders happy without destroying forests.
We all pushed so hard for the introduction of the moratorium as we believed it was the ‘game-changer’ for improving Indonesia’s forest governance. It would allow the breathing space to design and then implement measures and practices which would protect forests for the critical role they play in regulating the global climate, and for the millions of people and rich biodiversity that depend on forests for their very survival.
Following years of civil society lobbying for the moratorium on deforestation, as well as the incentive of US$1 billion for the protection of Indonesia’s forests from Norway, the decree from Indonesian president Yudhoyono to suspend the issue of new forestry permits finally entered into force on 20 May 2011.
We all welcomed this commitment as a first crucial step to seriously protecting Indonesia’s forests, while at the same time warning that pressure from the forestry, agriculture and coal mining industries had weakened the final text of the agreement to such an extent that it could fail.
The moratorium in it’s current form is weak because it only stops new concessions from being awarded and doesn’t include a review of existing concessions. It also offers no additional protection to carbon-rich peatland, home to species close to extinction such as the Sumatran tiger and orangutan, and ramin trees. Finally, the moratorium does nothing to stop coal mining companies from ripping up Indonesia’s forests - most of Indonesia’s huge coal reserves lay under its forests.
Recently, together with our civil society friends, we presented maps that highlight the problems of concession overlap with areas covered by the moratorium. We also provided recommendations to strengthen and extend the moratorium, beyond its current two-year duration. We believe the moratorium needs to be results-based rather than time-bound.
If my government follows our recommendations and honours its commitments, it stands a chance of protecting our remaining forests both for the future of Indonesia’s 240 million people and the global climate, rather than just making a few people even richer.
We will be asking for your help to urge Indonesia and Norway to use the momentum of the first anniversary to strengthen the moratorium, so please stand by to take action with us to protect Indonesia’s magnificent forests.
Yuyun Indradi is Political Forest Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Indonesia