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.

Indonesia has the third-largest tropical forest in the world, which stores massive amounts of carbon dioxide. By some measures, Indonesia ranks among the top five global greenhouse gas emitters, mostly due to emissions from deforestation and conversion of peat land. Indonesia has also made one of the most ambitious commitments to address climate change, pledging to cut emissions 26 percent (or 41 percent with international assistance) by 2020 compared to business-as-usual.

A key element of Indonesia’s climate strategy is a two-year moratorium on new licenses for forest clearing in primary natural forests and peat lands. As Koni explains, this moratorium is designed to provide “breathing space” for the administration to improve the governance of forest lands. Koni’s office has jump-started this process by introducing initiatives like ONE MAP Indonesia, a mapping system that standardizes disparate accounts of forest cover, land use, and administrative boundaries used by various ministries and local governments.

The Indonesian government is also stepping up monitoring efforts, using satellite data to track forest cover change in remote areas. This, combined with the availability of new tools like WRI’s Forest Cover Analyzer and Global Forest Watch 2.0 (coming in late 2013), will enable the Indonesian government to enforce the moratorium and understand where forests have been recently cleared.

Koni also acknowledges that there is more work to be done in transforming the governance of Indonesia’s forests. The two-year moratorium will expire on May 20th, and the Indonesian government may seek an extension to continue reforming the forest sector. WRI research also shows that there are significant opportunities to improve the moratorium to achieve greater impact.

The coming months will be a crucial time as Indonesia determines policies that will have lasting impacts on the nation’s forests. And one thing is certain-those forests are vitally important, both for Indonesia’s citizens and for the fight against global climate change.