New deal offers hope for Indonesian forest protection

Riau province declares moratorium on forest and peatland destruction

Feature story - August 15, 2008
The Indonesian province of Riau today pledged to halt the destruction of its forests and peatlands, a move that will prevent billions of tones of carbon from entering the atmosphere.

A An aerial view shows degraded land after fires have destroyed the forest in preparation for oil palm plantation. Palm oil companies have recently cleared forest and peatlands in preparation for oil palm plantations.

At a ceremony in the provincial capital Pekanbaru, Riau Governor Wan Abu Bakar announced the temporary ban, which will remain in place until a law is agreed. 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.

"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 Advisor.

Indonesia ranks third in global greenhouse gas emissions after the United States and China, largely as a result of deforestation. Much of the peatlands and forests are being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations which produce palm oil, a major commodity used in food, cosmetics and biofuels.

Some 25 percent of Indonesia's palm oil plantations are in the tiny province of Riau and there are plans to expand these by 200 percent. This would have devastating consequences for Riau's peatlands, which store 14.6 billion tonnes of carbon - equal to one year's global greenhouse emissions.

"The Indonesian government needs to declare a national moratorium on clearing forests and peatlands to make way for palm oil. This would finally end the vicious cycle of peatland drainage, forest fires and the resulting loss of biodiversity," said Zulfahmi, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest campaigner in Sumatra.

A separate proposal to halt the conversion of South East Asian forests for palm oil production is to be considered in November at the annual meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

To find out how forest destruction for palm oil is destroying the climate see:

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