Indonesia turns corner in fight against deforestation

Despite having a deforestation rate that now outpaces that of the Brazilian Amazon, Indonesia is beginning to undertake critical reforms necessary to curb destruction of its carbon-dense rainforests and peatlands, says a top Norwegian official.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Elekhh

Photo: Wikimedia Commons by Elekhh

Speaking with mongabay.com in Jakarta on October 6, Stig Traavik, Norway’s ambassador to Indonesia, drew parallels between recent developments in Indonesia and initiatives launched in Brazil a decade ago, when deforestation was nearly five times higher than it is today.

“Fundamentally, I’m still optimistic. If you look at the trajectory in Indonesian and compare it with Brazil of ten years ago, there are similarities,” Ambassador Traavik said. “Ten years ago, things looked pretty hopeless with deforestation impacting many places in the Amazon. But now Brazil has moved to a state where there is more solid enforcement, stronger land management rules, improved monitoring, and better engagement between a range of stakeholders. Indonesia has embarked on some of the same measures.”

Those measures include a push to reform the bureaucracy that governs land use across the archipelago, improved forest monitoring systems, and stepped-up environmental law enforcement, including recent prosecutions of companies found to be illegally clearing protected forests and setting fires that drive polluting haze.

Norway has played a role in these efforts, committing up to a billion dollars in aid money to Indonesia for success in reducing deforestation. That commitment led to a 2011 moratorium on new forestry concessions across more than 14 million hectares of previously unprotected peatlands and forests. While the moratorium wasn’t as strong as originally expected—it didn’t apply to existing concessions and included loopholes for mining and energy crops—Traavik said it has nonetheless been an important development.

Read more: Eco-Business

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