Source: Jakarta Globe
May 19, 2011
By Fidelis E. Satriastanti
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has finally signed a two-year moratorium on the conversion into logging concessions of almost half of the total forest cover in Indonesia.
The moratorium is part of a bilateral agreement with Norway in which Indonesia will receive $1 billion to launch activities under the United Nations-backed Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD Plus) program.
Agus Purnomo, a presidential adviser on climate change, said the moratorium applied to all peatlands and primary forests that had not been reserved for any purpose and for which no permits had been issued.
Agus said 64 million hectares of Indonesia’s 130 million hectares of total forest cover was protected by the moratorium, which took effect after Yudhoyono signed the decree on Thursday.
The adviser said that although existing laws already protected primary forests, the decree was needed to reinforce anti-logging measures.
“This is to make [the law] stronger. Primary forests, if touched, will mean violating the decree and there will be legal consequences,” Agus said.
The moratorium had originally been expected to take effect on Jan. 1, but it was delayed pending the decree’s signing.
The plan received a push from Norway, which sent a letter to the national government saying peatland and primary forests should not be logged.
However, Agus said logging could still continue in secondary forests, those regrown after being damaged by fires or logging.
Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said in March that even before a decree was signed, a moratorium had already been in place.
“We’ve banned the clearing of peatland and primary forests since the start of the year,” Gusti said. “We’ve already stopped issuing permits. The decree is only to provide legal certainty.”
Elfian Effendi, executive director of Greenomics, a forestry advocacy group, welcomed Yudhoyono’s decision.
“At this stage, we need to look at the political attitude of the president, who has given attention to forestry issues, even though the substance of the decree may not be perfect,” he said.
“We have to admit that not all leaders of country would want to take that step.”
Bustar Maitar, the head of Greenpeace’s forests campaign, also welcomed the decree, but he said the state should prove it can fully enforce the ban.
“We expect a meaningful moratorium which will protect Indonesian forests,” Bustar said on Thursday. “This should include the protection of all remaining natural forests, full protection of peatlands and a review of existing concession permits.”