President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised on Tuesday to dedicate the last three years of his administration to safeguarding Indonesia’s rainforests — a pledge that received broad support at a major conference in Jakarta.
Hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the conference provided a platform for 1,000 leaders of Indonesia’s government, business community and civil society, as well as foreign donors, to discuss the future of the forests, the third-largest tropical forest in the world.
“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 at the conference. “If it weren’t for the benefits that our forests provide, then our way of life, our people, our economy, our environment and our society would be so much the poorer.
“Our success in managing our forests will determine our future and the opportunities that will be available to our children.”
A CIFOR news release says Indonesia is losing about 1.1 million hectares of its forests each year. Most of it is due to unsustainable logging that includes the conversion of forests to plantations for palm oil and the pulp and paper industry. It is also partly due to large-scale illegal logging, which is estimated to cost Indonesia about $4 billion annually.
“We must change the way we treat our forests so that they are conserved even as we drive hard to accelerate our economic growth,” Yudhoyono said. “I do not want to later explain to my granddaughter, Almira that we, in our time, could not save the forests and the people that depend on it. I do not want to tell her the sad news that tigers, rhinoceroses and orangutans vanished like the dinosaurs.”
In his speech, the president reiterated a 2009 pledge to cut Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 41 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2020 — a vow only achievable if the forests are safeguarded.
Globally, deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In Indonesia, however that figure is up to 85 percent, Yudhoyono said. This makes the country one of the highest emitters in the world.
Norway has committed up to $1 billion to help Indonesia meet its emissions reduction target, and in May this year the Indonesian government issued a two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions.
“Norway is proud of the partnership with Indonesia,” Erik Solheim, Norway’s minister for the environment and international development, said at the conference.
“We strongly encourage other countries to support the work that President Yudhoyono and the government of Indonesia is doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. President Yudhoyono is now one of the foremost statesmen leading the international fight to combat climate change.”
It is predicted that up to $30 billion could flow from developed to developing countries each year to help facilitate significant reductions in deforestation, and Indonesia could potentially claim a significant share of these funds through REDD+, a global mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, as well as the conservation and sustainable management of forests, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Indonesia is one of the countries with the most REDD+ demonstration activities in various stages of development, and Indonesia has been an early participant in various bilateral and multilateral initiatives to prepare for REDD+ implementation at the national level.
In addition to potential funding opportunities through REDD+ in coming years, Indonesia has a range of options available to reduce the pace of deforestation, while at the same time expanding agricultural production to guarantee food security targets and promote economic growth.
This includes focusing future agricultural development on so-called degraded land, rather than clearing rainforest to make way for plantations or developing carbon-rich peatland. The government could also support a push for agricultural intensification – increasing yields per hectare, which are currently relatively low.
“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 from government, business, and civil society to determine the best way forward for Indonesia in a manner that is transparent and fair,” said Frances Seymour, CIFOR director general.
As part of his push to safeguard the forests, Yudhoyono called on Indonesia’s captains of industry to adopt more sustainable forests management practices.
“I call upon our business leaders, particularly those in the palm oil, pulp wood and mining sectors, to partner with us by enhancing the environmental sustainability of their operations,” he said. “I ask you to join me in pledging to safeguard this national treasure for the sake of our children.”
The President’s pledge received widespread support from conference attendees.
“I am pleased to be here at the Forests Indonesia Conference because the UK recognizes the importance of climate change in Indonesia. We are pleased to be supporting the government of Indonesia’s work to meet its internationals climate change commitments,” said Jim Paice, UK Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.