Indonesian decree to halt primary forest loss

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Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has signed a presidential decree that bans logging of 64 million hectares of carbon-rich primary forests and peatlands and suspends the granting of new permits for clearing these lands for two years.

The moratorium signed late last week, which goes into effect immediately, is part of an agreement worth US$1 billion between Indonesia and Norway aimed at reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Indonesia has vowed to cut its emissions by 26 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2020, or by 41 percent with sufficient international support.

"WWF recognizes the two-year ban on logging and clearing of primary forests and peatlands as a foundation for Indonesia's ambitious shift towards a low carbon economy," said Dr. Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia.

President Yudhoyono announced plans to reduce forest loss by moving economic development practices, such as pulp and palm oil plantations, onto degraded lands at the Business for the Environment Global Summit in April of this year. "The government can now shift its focus to the bolder steps necessary to protect high carbon stocks found in secondary forests, as well as their biodiversity and cultural values."

According to a WWF analysis, the moratorium will extend protection to only an additional 14 per cent of primary forests, as the majority of Indonesia's primary forests are already protected by law. The potential emissions reductions from land use, land-use change and forestry could be far greater under this decree if the moratorium was extended beyond primary forests to include secondary forests as well, said WWF.

"Because concessions can continue being awarded in secondary forests, the moratorium's impact will be limited as it will reduce deforestation and cut carbon emissions by only about 4 percent," said Nazir Foead, Director of WWF-Indonesia. "There is clearly much more that must be done if Indonesia is to achieve its ambitious emissions reduction targets."

Still, the moratorium could be an opportunity to help put in place effective forest governance and sound ecosystem-based spatial planning, particularly in settling overlapping land-uses. WWF is calling on Ministries and other government agencies to use the two-year period of the moratorium to review and improve governance on issuing licenses to industrial timber plantations, agro-industrial plantations and mining in secondary forests and other land uses. Strengthening the analysis of ecological and cultural values in these forests could contribute to this, said WWF.

"We must absolutely make the most of these two years to strengthen this commitment from Indonesia, so that it indeed catalyses the international community to address deforestation," said Rasmus Hansson, CEO of WWF Norway and chair of WWF's global Forest and Climate Initiative. "The Norwegian government and other donor countries must step forward and support Indonesia's efforts to advance the conservation, sustainable management and enhancement of these globally significant forests."

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