Indonesia cracks down on deforestation at last

Indonesia is the planet’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, with only China and the USA emitting more. And the country has a particularly shameful record as regards its rainforests. It lost more than 6 million hectares of beautiful primary forest between the millennium and 2012 alone, a deforestation rate that was even more dramatic than Brazil’s, and the world’s most acute.

Fresh legal framework set to boost rainforest conservation

Sadly, Indonesia’s attempts at saving their forests so far have been at best patchy, at worst lamentable. On the bright side, it appears things are about to change for the better as the country reveals its latest plans for slowing its deforestation rates, currently the fastest in the world. At long last they’re about to start cracking down on concessions licensing for agricultural companies operating on peat land and in rainforests.

Indonesia’s Agency for Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation is already looking closely at 18 companies to check they have the right licenses. But the call for change goes much deeper. According to Heru Prasetyo, the head of the REDD+ office in Jakarta, the nation’s legal system and famously weak enforcement culture must also change.

The Indonesian environment ministry is currently investigating 29 cases against 26 companies accused of using fire to clear land, a huge hike compared to 2013, when just 7 criminal cases involving forest fires were filed.

Stronger political willingness to change

The new president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, took over in October 2013 and he’s already making environmental waves. He says the lack of a single national forestry map means companies enjoy overlapping permits, and there might be as many as 1000 medium sized palm oil companies sitting happily below the radar. As he admits, his country’s law enforcement track record has been very poor and as a result the state of Indonesia’s rainforests is “not pretty”.

The new law has teeth

Now, local companies can be tried by law unless they carry out mandatory environmental assessments, and can be prosecuted for using bribery to win licenses. And the new legal framework has teeth: PT Kalista Alam was fined 31 million UD dollars earlier this year and one of its officials jailed for three years for starting forest fires.


Posted on behalf of the Rainforest Foundation. Image by  Hadi Zaher.

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