Green group, analysts slam Indonesia logging plan

Stephen Coates

JAKARTA, May 20 (AFP) — Environmentalists said Friday a long-awaited moratorium on logging in Indonesia, part of a $1 billion climate deal with Norway, is a “disaster” for forests and will do little to fight global warming.

Indonesia banned logging in primary forests and peatlands for two years on Thursday under a deal announced in Oslo in 2010 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation while protecting rich biodiversity.

But environmentalists doubted whether the long-awaited moratorium would save any significant forests that were not already protected, or make any reductions to the massive archipelago’s carbon footprint.

“We are very disappointed. We’re concerned because it only covers primary forests and peatlands,” Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Bustar Maitar said.

He said the moratorium should also protect woodlands defined as “natural forests”, but these had been left at the mercy of the logging companies.

Chris Lang, author of the REDD-monitor blog which tracks efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, said the moratorium was a “disaster for Indonesia’s forests, indigenous peoples and local communities”.

He said the moratorium decree announced by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono late Thursday — five months after it was due to be in place — contained “gaping loopholes”.

There were exemptions for existing logging concessions and those that only had in-principle approval, as well as for “national development” projects such as geothermal power plants and key food crops.

Green groups say forests covered by such concessions store vast amounts of carbon and contain habitats of endangered species such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers.

The moratorium applies to about 88 million hectares (217.5 million acres) of primary forest and peatland, but Maitar said that according to Greenpeace’s maps such areas actually covered 104 million hectares.

Elfian Effendi, executive director of forestry policy analysis group Greenomics, said the moratorium “still creates potential for Indonesia to destroy its natural forests”.

The regulations have been the subject of intense lobbying from the pulp, paper and palm oil industries, which tried to limit the reach of the moratorium while protecting their vast logging concessions.

Presidential advisor on climate change Agus Purnomo told reporters logging would be banned in “forests that haven’t been touched by humans and where there has been no concession activity before”.

“Indonesia has been on the right track, heading into a prosperous and sustainable future, and will not return to past development practices that damage the environment at the expense of future generations,” he said.

The moratorium is part of a national effort to combat climate change through a UN-backed scheme known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

REDD promises to slow the release of greenhouse gases from the destruction of forests and carbon-dense peatlands by having rich nations pay emerging countries to preserve their jungles and woods.

Rampant deforestation is one of the main reasons Indonesia is the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter behind the United States and China.

The Indonesian government has set goals to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent while at the same time doubling palm oil production by 2020. It is already the world’s biggest palm oil exporter.

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