Some Industries Are Not Happy

Conservationists from around the world have concluded their meeting in Bali with a declaration of support for Indonesia’s limited logging moratorium, which they said must be implemented immediately.

The 2010 International Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation ended its five-day conference by adopting the Bali Declaration, which lauds Indonesia’s recent bilateral agreement with Norway, signed in May.

Under that deal, Norway has pledged to fund $1 billion projects to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation in Indonesian forests.

As part of the deal, Indonesia pledged a moratorium on new logging permits in peat forests.

The Bali Declaration urges the government to go a step further and restrict the expansion of plantations to areas without standing forests.

The declaration “is written [with] positive [intentions],” ATBC Conservation Committee co-chair William Laurance told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.

“We really try to emphasize a lot of positive issues in Indonesia and consider many challenges in Indonesia and in other tropical countries.”

A conservation project as ambitious as Indonesia’s would face many challenges, he said.

“Obviously, there’s going to be some industries that are not going to be happy about itsome industries that are not going to be happy about itsome industries that are not going to be happy about it,” he said.

“There has already been opposition to the proposed moratorium on concessions for oil palm and wood and pulp plantations. We’re arguing that the moratorium was absolutely crucial and also that the government should resist” the opposition.

The Bali Declaration also calls for a re-evaluation of all logging permits issued before the moratorium was put into place.

“The numbers are a little unclear, but we’re talking at least 10 million hectares of existing concessions. We’re hoping [the government will re-evaluate the concessions] sooner rather than later.”

He also said the Norway deal’s financial aspect could add impetus to the wider conservation effort.

“But the money will be clearly linked to outcomes, and my understanding is that Norway will not pay that money unless there’s clear progress,” Laurance said.

The money is “on the table, but there has to be this clear demonstration of progress in terms of reducing deforestation and having a transparent forestry monitoring system.”

John Kress, the ATBC’s executive director and chairman of the Department of Botany at the Smithsonian Institution, said the Bali Declaration carried more weight than similar statements by environmental NGOs because it was based on expert studies.

“I think that the difference here … [is that] this is a group of objective scientists,” he said.

“We are trying to do the most objective work, what needs to be done to maintain the environment. We have already tried to translate science in the most understandable statements for the general public, based on what we do as scientific investigators, and that’s the big difference.

“We are scientists and our greatest strength is our credibility,” Kress added.

“We spent a lot of time doing the research that eventually led to this declaration. All of these points were drawn up from scientific research.”

Meanwhile, Frans Bongers, the ATBC president, highlighted two presentations at the conference as being pertinent to Indonesia’s challenge.

First, he pointed to research that found that draining peat lands ruins them, but that the process could be reversed by blocking drainage systems people have put in place.

“Whether they do it, that’s another thing,” he said.

Another presentation showed that degraded areas could be restored by planting them with specific trees rather than clearing them for agriculture, Bongers said.

“That’s a practical thing. That’s not the level of politics, but rather of working people in the field making the difference, and that comes from 50 years [of research] across Southeast Asia,” he said.


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