People in Indonesia, Singapore, and parts of Malaysia are currently suffering from debilitating levels of haze resulting from forest fires. Air quality levels in Singapore have deteriorated to the worst levels ever recorded on the island, while local airports in Indonesia and some schools in Malaysia have had to close. Almost all of the recent fires (June 12-20) have occurred in Sumatra, an island in western Indonesia.
While there’s been heated debate on the location, cause, and nature of the fires, WRI has compiled some initial data that reveals that there are some patterns. Relatively few fires have occurred in protected areas and selective logging concessions. Furthermore, half of the fires are burning on timber and oil palm plantations. Although it is illegal for companies in Indonesia to start forest or land fires, several companies have used fires for land clearing in the past. It will be important to gather more detailed information about the exact location of the fires and their causes, which could have important implications for the companies and government agencies involved.
A Look Inside the Forest Fire Data
WRI gathered information from NASA’s Active Fire Data, which uses satellite data to pinpoint the location of fires in near real time, together with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry’s concession maps for oil palm, logging concessions, and timber plantation licenses. We counted the number of NASA fire alerts in each concession in Indonesia and tabulated the results.
This was a bold decision by a leader known for his commitment to sustainability. Extending the moratorium is a victory for the Indonesian people, business, and the planet.
The moratorium will directly benefit more than 80 million Indonesians who rely on forests for their livelihood. Many of these people are extremely poor and have struggled to gain recognition for their land rights. Extending the moratorium provides an opportunity to address these crucial issues.
Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a bold and courageous decision this week to extend the country’s forest moratorium. With this decision, which aims to prevent new clearing of primary forests and peat lands for another two years, the government could help protect valuable forests and drive sustainable development.
Enacted two years ago, Indonesia’s forest moratorium has already made some progress in improving forest management. However, much more can be done. The extension offers Indonesia a tremendous opportunity: a chance to reduce emissions, curb deforestation, and greatly strengthen forest governance in a country that holds some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems.
Boosting Achievements from Indonesia’s Forest Moratorium
Indonesia ranks as one of world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, largely due to the clearing of forest and peat lands. The forest moratorium aims to address this problem by prohibiting the award of new licenses to clear or convert primary natural forests and peat lands to agriculture or other uses. This will encompass an area of over 43 million hectares of land. Forest users with existing licenses are still allowed to operate in these regions, and there are several exceptions to the rule.
How can Indonesia—the world’s fourth-most populous country and an emerging economic powerhouse—reduce deforestation and promote sustainable development across its vast, rapidly changing landscape?
That was a question recently posed by Nirarta “Koni” Samadhi, Deputy for the Indonesian President's Delivery Unit on Development Monitoring and Oversight and Chair of the REDD+ Task Force Working Group on Forest Monitoring. At an informal meeting of forest and development experts at WRI’s offices in Washington, D.C., Koni explored possible answers, while reporting on the Indonesian government’s efforts to map and monitor forests and improve land use policies across the country.
Koni shared some of his insights with us in a video interview. Check it out below.
Palm oil is on a lot of people’s minds. In Indonesia, the industry is booming, with $19.7 billion of crude palm oil exports in 2011. But expanding oil palm plantations have taken their toll on remaining forests and other natural habitats in tropical regions and led to conflict over land with local people.
The world’s top scientists are also raising concerns. According to a recent study in Nature Climate Change, from 1990 to 2010, 90 percent of lands converted to oil palm plantations in Kalimantan were forested.
There need not, however, be a trade-off between palm oil, forests, and communities. It is possible to grow more crops--including oil palm--while keeping forests and cutting rural poverty.
Can the world have its palm oil and forests, too? This is an issue that my colleague and I discussed a while back. I am pleased to say that we recently moved a step toward ensuring that the answer is “yes.”
WRI co-hosted a dinner last week to honor Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for advancing sustainability, especially in the Coral Triangle. The event took place at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City, where more than 300 guests from government, business, and the non-profit sector gathered to recognize Indonesia’s president.
WRI’s president, Andrew Steer, opened the event by reminding guests that President Yudhoyono is a “different kind of leader.” Earlier in his career, Steer spent eight years in Indonesia, and he’s seen firsthand how the country has approached its economic and environmental challenges.
“We live in perilous times,” Steer said. “We need innovative thinking and we need out-of-the-box thinking. Today, we have a leader who is an out-of-the-box leader.”
This post was co-authored with Anne Rosenbarger, a POTICO Fellow at Sekala.
In Indonesia, policy-makers and industry leaders are developing policies and practices in support of low-carbon palm oil production on “degraded land.”
Such policies and practices have the potential to enable industry expansion while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. They also could contribute to poverty reduction if this expansion follows sustainable planning and management practices, including respect for local peoples’ interests and rights.
Today WRI releases a working paper that provides new information about Indonesia’s moratorium on new forest concessions. Our analysis concludes that the moratorium alone does not significantly contribute to Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of 26 percent by 2020.
Today WRI releases a working paper that provides new information about Indonesia’s moratorium on new forest concessions. Our analysis concludes that the moratorium alone does not significantly contribute to Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goal of 26 percent by 2020. However, the moratorium does support these goals in the long-term by “pausing” business-as-usual patterns to allow time for needed governance reforms.