Failure to tackle deforestation and protect peatlands leaves Indonesia choking

Press release - September 10, 2015
Jakarta, 10 September 2015 - A thick smoke haze from the thousands of fires blanketing Sumatra and Kalimantan is testament to the government’s ongoing failure to address forest clearing and peatland destruction. Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s analysis shows 3,464 fire hotspots this year in Indonesia’s peatlands, which make up a fraction of the nation’s landmass, compared with 5,076 fires elsewhere. This is not a new phenomenon – last year 75 percent of fire alerts in Sumatra overlapped with peatlands.[1]

Last November Indonesian president Joko Widodo visited Sungai Tohor in Riau, one of the provinces most affected by peatland fires, and personally blocked one of the many canals dug to drain peatlands for plantations. He identified conversion of forests and peatlands as the main cause of the annual smoke haze, and promised a thousand canals would be dammed in Riau with the government’s help. This year, while the area immediately upstream of the President’s dam in Sungai Tohor has so far been safe from fire, the rest of the province’s peatlands have not been so lucky, with only a handful of the thousand dams realised.

“The location of fires shows that they are clearly related to forest clearing and peatland drainage. Greenpeace urges the government to undertake rapid intervention to protect peatlands and remaining forest areas, including best-practice mapping of the nation's peatlands,” said Teguh Surya, a forest campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Last week Indonesia revealed its draft Intended Nationally-Determined Contribution (INDC) submission for the COP21 climate summit. This document should have set out solutions to the ongoing deforestation crisis, which has pushed Indonesia into the ranks of the world’s top GHG emitters. Unfortunately, despite Indonesia’s commitments under the New York Declaration on Forests and the soon-to-be-ratified Sustainable Development Goals, the draft INDC fails to provide any commitment to zero deforestation, or peatland protection and restoration.

“President Joko Widodo will soon lead a large delegation to the Paris climate talks. Imagine the embarrassment for Indonesia on the world stage if our commitments do not deal with deforestation and peatland destruction, which is responsible for nearly two-thirds of Indonesia’s GHG emissions,” Teguh Surya said.

The current INDC was drafted with cursory public consultation, and insufficient transparency of data sources. It contains no analysis of Indonesia’s emissions over the last ten years, no baseline predictions and no assessment of what carbon emission reductions are required of various sectors to meet the proposed new target.[2] Worse still, while the previous target of 26% emissions reductions compared to business as usual by 2020 would genuinely reduce emissions, the new INDC target of only 3 percent additional emissions reduction by 2030 abandons this improvement to return to a rapidly rising emissions trajectory.

The government’s aversion to transparency extends beyond the figures in the INDC to a refusal to release land management information including detailed maps showing who controls forests and peatlands. Without land tenure maps in the public domain it is very difficult to identify who is responsible for forest and peatland clearance, and who is fuelling the current haze problem. It undermines the commitments of buyers and traders to end the trade of palm oil linked to deforestation.  

“Indonesians have a right to know who is behind forest and peatland destruction, and to have input into our INDC to ensure the government does something real to stop it,” said. “We won’t let the government hide behind a smokescreen of its own making,” Teguh Surya said.

Notes to editor:

[1] http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/04/preventing-forest-fires-indonesia-focus-riau-province-peatland-and-illegal-burning

[2] The INDC says its methodology ‘will refer to the National Inventory System of Greenhouse Gases (SIGN SMART), UNFCCC Biannual Update Report (BUR), and FREL-REDD+ document’. However, the first two sources are not yet fully published, or at least not available to the public, and the FREL REDD+ document (see elsewhere) contains major omissions, in that it does not estimate peat fire emissions and only includes peat decomposition emissions resulting from deforestation after 2000, thereby excluding considerable ongoing emissions from degradation of peat deforested before 2000. What is available of the SIGN reports also appears not to include peat fires, which worryingly suggests this area is not a priority for current MoEF thinking.

[3] Media briefing: Indonesia’s INDC is not fit for purpose

Media contacts:

Teguh Surya, Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner, mob: +6281915191979

Igor O’Neill, Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaign media, , mob +62 811 1923721