Deforestation Ban To Begin Small, Grow Later

As part of $1 billion deal with Norway to fight carbon emissions through a partial deforestation ban, Indonesia plans to initially protect less than half its remaining forest cover.

The two-year ban on clearing natural forest, which begins in 2011, has spooked palm oil and mining firms who fear it would stifle expansion and earnings. In a nation noted for corruption and the power of its resources firms, the move will test resolve to use donor cash transparently.

“If we surrender to the negative forces, there is no solution,” Agus Purnomo, the president’s special adviser on climate change, recently told Reuters.

“But if we go with concrete action, step by step, if we go with the very minimum level of commitment and then expanding the commitment in the future, we will be able to do it,” he said. He also sought to reassure investors that firms holding licenses to clear forested land would be exempted from the ban.

For the program to succeed, it was crucial to start off small and then expand later, Agus said from Jakarta.

An exact definition of “natural” forest was not crucial, he said, but the aim of the deal is to initially protect much of the 40 million hectares of primary forest that remain in Indonesia. The country has 100 million hectares of total forest area, according to Ministry of Forest data.

Many details of the $1 billion deal have yet to be worked out, officials say, including how to handle the Norwegian funds earmarked for a special agency and pilot projects. Agus said the goal was to finalize the financial situation by next month, and have the initial funding of $30 million ready by October.

Indonesia faces heavy international pressure to slow deforestation and the destruction of peatlands, which release vast amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gases when cleared or burned.

The country is now destroying about one million hectares of forest a year. Government-controlled forest estate makes up 71 percent of Indonesia’s total land area.

Primary forests cover a third of that area, with over-logged areas sprawling over another third and other vegetation covering the rest, the Center for International Forestry Research says.

Agus said the government would issue a map before next year showing protected areas.

“The map will be the delineation of the area under the moratorium,” he said, adding that companies with valid licences could still clear natural forests.

“What’s important is we will not issue the new licenses. That’s the spirit of the moratorium. And if those companies are afraid their existing licences will be affected, I would like to assure them that they will not be.”

Project head Kuntoro Mangkusubroto told Reuters on Wednesday that some firms’ existing permits could be revoked, a claim Agus denied.


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