JAKARTA, INDONESIA — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently acknowledged Indonesia’s effort to curb deforestation in the country.
In FAO’s “State of Indonesia’s Forests” publication for 2020, it was said that Indonesia had successfully combined national and international commitments, strong regulations, and innovative digital solutions, leading to evidence-based policy and decision-making process with regards to managing its forestry sector.
Previous report shows decrease in Indonesia’s deforestation rate — but still the second world’s fastest
Based on data from the National Forest Monitoring System (SIMONTANA) released in early 2019, the deforestation during the 2014-2015 period reached 1.09 million hectares.
Then it dropped to 0.63 million hectares from 2015 to 2016 and down to 0.48 million hectares during the 2016-2017 period.
However, the Green Growth Policy Review (GGPR) — a review body under the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation Development (OECD) — in 2019 revealed that Indonesia’s deforestation rate is still the second-fastest globally despite the domestic development.
From 2005 to 2015, Indonesia lost 7 per cent of its forest, the review described. The Ministry of Environment report showed that the remaining primary forest in Java, Borneo, and Sumatera shrank 40 per cent in 2009.
The FAO only focuses on items in the report
Arie Rompas, Head of Forest Campaign at Greenpeace Indonesia, said that while the government’s efforts to halt deforestation in the country is appreciated, the FAO only focuses on the deforestation rate without paying attention to some of the recent policies that may put Indonesia’s forests at risk in the future.
“The report does not include cross-emissions from the forest fires in 2015 and 2019. Also, several policies such as the much-debated omnibus law will likely harm the environment and forest areas, as they will likely be utilised for food estate programmes by law. This will likely worsen our forests’ condition,” he stated.
The government claims that food estates are important in maintaining food security during the COVID-19 pandemic. Food estates are meant for growing crops such as shallots, rice, and garlic, The Jakarta Post wrote.
Companies have adopted policies to ban products that contribute to deforestation
Arie also said that companies’ policies to stop using products that contribute to rapid deforestation is also linked with the decline in the rate of deforestation.
Most are companies under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a certification body set up in 2004 to promote the growth and the use of eco-friendly palm oil products.
Arie said, however, that “there should be transparency of information on the global supply chain”.
“We must know how those companies produce their products by not cutting down our forests. What are the raw materials they are using and how do they obtain them? Transparent data is needed,” he stressed.
Why does the omnibus law matter?
Green activists raise concern over the introduction of the job creation law commonly known as omnibus law, claiming that the regulation only benefits investors and ruin the environment.
Also, the new law lifts companies’ obligations to provide an environmental impact study as stipulated in Article 36.
However, Article 37 explains the sanctions on any business entities that violate a simpler environmental assessment in the form of an Environmental Management/Environmental Monitoring Program.
“Law enforcement on companies involved in deforestation has been weakened in the new law,” Arie stated.
Now, the government is in the middle of formulating government regulations for the Omnibus Law and is seeking to invite community organizations to have a dialogue — which might be too late, said Arie.
“The government should have involved us from the beginning. The process is not constitutional,” the activist wrapped up the interview, hoping that there will be no business expansion that harms forests.