Less peatlands, more palm oil, says Indonesian government

Posted by jamie — 20 February 2009 at 1:12pm - Comments

Greenpeace supporters remind Hillary Clinton during her visit to Jakarta to 'cut emissions now'

Volunteers in Jakarta get the climate message to Hillary Clinton's convoy (not pictured) © Greenpeace

Our colleagues in Indonesia have been very busy this week - with visiting foreign dignitaries and an outrageous decree from their own government following in quick succession.

Let's deal with that announcement first - the one from the Ministry of Agriculture which will open up huge areas of forests and peatlands to the palm oil industry. This reverses a previous request in December 2007 from the ministry to provincial governers, asking them to bring a temporary halt to the industry's expansion into peatland areas (although we know in some areas this has been carrying on regardless).

While there are some nods towards 'sustainable palm oil development' in this latest proclamation there is such a poor history of enforcing environmental standards around Indonesia's palm oil plantations that they're probably not worth the paper they're written on. (Besides which, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the whole concept of 'sustainable palm oil' is itself somewhat flawed.)

This decision sits at complete odds with the commitment made last year by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of Indonesia, to slash his country's emissions by half this year. With parliamentary and presidential elections coming up later this summer, it seems like a political move, and an attempt to appeal to some very powerful companies involved in palm oil.

That Hillary Clinton is in town couldn't be more timely. She's conducting a tour of various Asian capitals and one of the things on her to-do list is discuss climate change with her Indonesian counterparts. With the US and Indonesia at second and third places respectively in the global emissions charts, they have a lot to talk about.

To make sure they didn't forget about the contribution deforestation makes towards climate change, Greenpeace supporters were out on the streets of Jakarta attempting to catch up with Clinton's convoy. Blocked by pushy security guards and police at several locations, they finally caught up with her as she sped past between engagements and held up reminders to save the forests, save the climate and cut emissions.

With much of Indonesia's emissions caused by deforestation and peatland clearance, we need an international agreement to provide money from richer, developed nations to help countries like Indonesia preserve their forests. Hopefully that was on Clinton's agenda, because with Indonesia's agriculture minister pandering to the palm oil companies, there isn't much time to waste.

About Jamie

I'm a forests campaigner working mainly on Indonesia. My personal mumblings can be found @shrinkydinky.

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