Jakarta – Indonesia’s national forest estate is riddled with illegal palm oil plantations, according to an analysis by Greenpeace Indonesia and Treemap. Despite the designated area being off-limits to plantations, the analysis has found at least 600 plantation companies have illegal operations set up inside the forest estate, which includes National Parks, Ramsar Convention wetlands and UNESCO World Heritage sites.[1] These land areas represent some of the highest levels of biodiversity and are critical in tackling the climate crisis. 

“This is a clear indication that the Indonesian government is not willing to enforce laws to stop deforestation on public lands or follow through on its climate commitments. Instead it is governing in the interest of corporate elites. Laws and amendments introduced in the last 12 months aim to legalize the plantation sector’s illegal use of Indonesia’s forests and seizing Indigenous Peoples lands.” said Kiki Taufik, the Global Head of Greenpeace’s Indonesian forests campaign.

Greenpeace Indonesia analysis indicates that, as of 2019, oil palm plantings in Indonesia’s forest estate occupied a total of 3.12 million ha, including 183,687 ha of land previously mapped as orangutan habitat, and 148,839 ha of Sumatran tiger habitat. In addition to these unlawful operations, Greenpeace found 100 Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) member companies are among those operating in the forest estate, some holding up to 10,000 ha each of illegal plantations. The level of exposure expands to the government-led certification scheme known as Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO),[2] where a quarter of its member companies hold a total of 252,000 ha of plantings in the forest estate – an area almost 4 times the size of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta. 

ISPO has shown to be no different from the RSPO. Both have allowed member companies to openly operate outside of national laws and regulations. The implications of ISPO inadequacies are severely concerning as the ineffective certification further illustrates the vacuum of governance that exists across permitting agencies. 

The implications of Indonesia prioritizing oil palm plantation expansion over forest landscapes remain disastrous for Indigenous and traditional communities, and for addressing the global climate crisis. These findings show the catastrophic failure of law enforcement to protect forests and recognize Indigenous customary land rights located within the forest estate and beyond. It also raises a larger issue of Indonesia’s political will to follow through on its climate commitments. For the past 19 years the forest estate has been steadily occupied by corporations which have in turn cleared forest for palm oil plantations, generating close to 104 million metric tons of carbon emissions. This is equivalent to 33 times the annual carbon emissions from powering all the homes in Jakarta, or 60% of the annual emissions of international aviation.[3] 

“This government is managing critical forest landscapes in the interest of corporate elites while pushing Indigenous and rural communities towards an apocalyptic future. In areas where extensive forest clearance has been condoned, these landscapes are now subject to life threatening heat waves, frequent floodings, and during the dry season moist forest cover is now prone to annual fires,” Kiki said. “While the UN has issued a ‘code red for humanity’, Indonesia’s green light for ongoing destruction is having disastrous results for Indonesia’s forests, its people and the planet.”


[1] Indonesia’s national forest estate is a legal designation for areas intended to be managed permanently as forest, in which plantations are prohibited. It includes production forests, where limited forest product extraction can take place, and protected forests and conservation areas, including nature reserves and national parks.

[2] The RSPO is a global palm oil certification scheme that has repeatedly been accused of having weak standards that are poorly enforced. ISPO is an Indonesian national government legality certification scheme created with the palm oil industry. Similar to RSPO, ISPO has weak accreditation oversight for its certification and weak implementation of systems for compliance with its policies and standards.

[3] See calculation in report. Also equivalent to 83 million passenger vehicles driven for one year.

Media contacts

Greenpeace International Press Desk [email protected] +31207182470

Igor O’Neill, Indonesia Forest Campaign, [email protected] +61 414 288 424