Indonesia President Vows to Protect Forests
Arientha Primanita & Fidelis Sastriastanti
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday stated his commitment to ensure sustainable development of the country’s environment and forests.
“I will continue my work and dedicate the last three years of my term as president to deliver enduring results that will sustain and enhance the environment and forests of Indonesia,” Yudhoyono said in a speech in his opening address at the Forests Indonesia Conference.
The president said the country’s people, economy, environment and way of life are tightly intertwined with its forests.
“Our success in managing our forests will determine our future and the opportunities that will be available to our children,” Yudhoyono said.
But he will need to work hard to convince the nation’s environmental groups, who have previously accused the government of making grand statements on conservation but failing to deliver results.
The conference was hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research and was attended by 900 participants from the government, the business community and civil society as well as foreign donors.
Its purpose was to discuss the future of forests in Indonesia, which has the third-largest amount of tropical forest in the world.
While many now recognize the importance of safeguarding the country’s many forests, however, they remain under “tremendous” pressure, Yudhoyono said.
“As a developing country, we are prioritizing economic growth and poverty eradication. But we will not reach those aims by sacrificing our forests,” Yudhoyono said.
Indonesia should be able to find a balance, he said.
“We must change the way we treat our forests so that they are conserved even as we drive hard to accelerate our economic growth,” he said.
Yudhoyono said he did not want to have to tell his granddaughter someday that the country failed to save its forests.
To alleviate the pressure on forests, Yudhoyono said the government had set up programs to enhance agricultural productivity as well as ensure an adequate stock of staple food, including rice.
The government has also launched a tree-planting campaign that will aim for at least one billion new trees annually, Yudhoyono said.
“It is said that ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ I would like to say: ‘A billion trees a year shields the world’s lungs from decay,’ ” he said.
Yudhoyono also said that Indonesia remained steadfast in its pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-41 percent by 2020.
Globally, deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In Indonesia, however, that figure is 85 percent, making the country one of the highest emitters in the world, the president said.
“A long journey still awaits us. We know we must do more to address the primary sources of our greenhouse emissions, such as illegal logging, forest encroachment, forest and land fires and peat land drainage,” Yudhoyono said. “And indeed we are working hard and comprehensively to overcome these challenges.”
Yudhoyono emphasized the long-term importance of caring for the country’s forests while continuing to pursue a path of development.
Cifor director general Frances Seymour said that leadership was needed not only from the government but also from business and civil society to chart the best way forward for Indonesia .
“While there are some win-win opportunities to reconcile forest management to meet both global and domestic objectives, there will also be some trade-offs that will require leadership,” Seymour said.