US and Indonesia, Save Forests, Save Climate – Cut emissions Now!

Feature story - February 19, 2009
Strong leadership from the US, and partnership with large developing nations such as Indonesia, are essential to reaching an agreement at the critical UN Climate Talks to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the end of this year. As the world’s 2nd and 3rd largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and Indonesia have an historic opportunity to show decisive leadership, and ensure the strong climate protection needed to foster real and sustainable economic security.

This image of rainforest being burned for a palm oil plantation in Indonesia was also given to Madam Clinton.

Early this morning we attempted to send an urgent message to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, ahead of his meeting with the new US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jakarta, to take immediate action to combat dangerous climate change and stop Indonesia's rampant deforestation. We planned to deliver our message, along with a joint letter to President Yudhoyono and Secretary Clinton, at the US Embassy and at the Presidential Palace.

Yesterday, security forces around the US Embassy had allowed more militant protests than ours, including one where the US flag was torched. Also, Indonesia's Chief of Police had encouraged Indonesian people to express their opinions openly. However, when we peacefully unfurled our banner reading "Save Forests, Save Climate - Cut emissions now", in front of the Presidential Palace we were barged out of the area, and our banner was confiscated.



"The summer melting of the Arctic, more severe hurricanes, increasing drought, wildfires and heatwaves; these impacts are all signs of an increasingly chaotic climate system that will undermine the economic and development goals of all nations.

Time is running out. Dr James Hansen, a leading climatologist from NASA, recently stated that the world is now in "imminent peril". The window for avoiding that peril is narrow, and closing rapidly, but it is not yet closed. With the right leadership, we can bring global greenhouse gas emissions under control, set them on a downward trajectory, and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change."

-- Extract from our open letter to Hillary Clinton and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono 

We were more successful at the US Embassy, where we were able to display our message and to deliver the letter for Secretary Clinton and a framed print of pristine peatland threatened by fires from nearby peatland forest clearing for palm oil. We were still committed to getting our message to Secretary Clinton. What ensued was a 2 hour-long chase around the centre of Jakarta, following the latest intel on where Hillary's motorcade would go next. We finally caught up with her at the fourth attempt as the motorcade whizzed past - our banner was in full view and she would have seen our message.

This year Indonesia will hold national and local Parliamentary elections in April, and a Presidential election in September. Indonesia's emissions from deforestation are the highest in the world, so we think it is critical that reducing emissions from deforestation is a key policy objective for the leading parties, and for the Presidential candidates.

President Yudhoyono made a commitment to the international community to halve Indonesia's emissions from deforestation by 2009. However, plans recently unveiled by the Ministries of Forestry and Agriculture to open up vast areas of Indonesia's forests and peatlands for conversion to pulp and paper and palm oil, make it impossible for the President to honour his commitment and fulfil Indonesia's international obligations

Allowing the destruction of more peatland areas is a disaster for the fight against climate change and will cement Indonesia's position as the third biggest climate polluter on the planet. With elections around the corner, the Ministries' plans look suspiciously like an attempt to satisfy the country's powerful paper and palm oil industries at the expense of the environment.

Climate change is a global problem, and it requires global action to solve it. That means deep emission cuts for developed countries like the US, and a global fund to stop deforestation in developing countries like Indonesia.

Also, Indonesia's economic development need not come at the expense of its future and its forests. Standing forests are a tremendous carbon storehouse and offer many more economic opportunities standing than cleared and burnt.

Greenpeace is calling on industrialised nations, like the US, to provide the funding to support efforts to halt deforestation in developing countries, like Indonesia, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Only by all nations taking immediate action can we avoid catastrophic climate change. Secretary Clinton and President Yudhoyono must show this global leadership. President Yudhoyono must control his Ministries and declare an immediate moratorium on conversion of Indonesia's forests and peatlands. Only then will Indonesia benefit from international assistance in terms of funding and expertise for the effective implementation of the moratorium.

Act Now!

Write to the Indonesian president, demanding an end to the destruction