Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has extended the moratorium on new forest concessions for a further two years. Despite the flaws in the moratorium an extension is better than a return to business as usual. But the President has missed out on a chance to strengthen the moratorium.
The two-year moratorium was set up under the US$1 billion Indonesia-Norway REDD deal. It covers a total area of more than 65 million hectares. But the vast majority of this area is already protected. Nevertheless, the moratorium (in theory at least) protects an additional 14.5 million hectares of forest for another two years.
However, the Presidential Instruction extending the moratorium repeats the loopholes from the previous moratorium. In addition to the fact that the moratorium only applies to primary forest and not to secondary forests, it specifically does not apply to:
- Existing concessions or concessions that already “received approval in principle” from the Minister of Forestry.
- “National development” projects including: geothermal, oil and gas, electricity, land for rice and sugar cane.
- The extension of existing permits.
In April 2013, Greenpeace held a demonstration in the centre of Jakarta in support of an extension of the moratorium:
Equally predictably, the palm oil industry opposed the extension of the moratorium. Last week, Topan, a spokesman for the Association of Indonesian Palm Oil Producers (GAPSI), told the Jakarta Post that,
“We firmly reject any proposal to extend this moratorium because we stand to lose more than we gain from it…. Our hope is that there’s no extension and that the moratorium is allowed to end on May 20.”
Another part of the Indonesia-Norway deal was to set up a REDD+ Agency, by the end of 2012. The Agency is supposed to take over from the REDD+ Task Force, but this has been delayed. The Agency’s role is crucial. In an interview with REDD-Monitor last year, the head of the REDD+ Task Force, Kuntoro Mankusubroto, explained that issues such as reviewing forest legislation are outside the mandate of the Task Force:
[W]hen it comes to systemic things, the law, for the time-being it’s not part of our work. But we do identify those things that will be very important once the REDD Agency is established. So our homework for the new agency is to highlight these things that should be reviewed once the REDD Agency is set up. But for us, as the REDD+ Task Force, it’s beyond our scope for the time-being.
Another serious problem with Indonesia’s moratorium is that a Presidential Instruction is a non-legislative document. In other words, there are no legal consequences if the moratorium is not implemented. Greenpeace criticised the government’s failure to strengthen the moratorium. “That is what’s really needed if we want to save Indonesia’s remaining tigers and orangutans, which are under threat from relentless palm oil, and pulp and paper expansion,” Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace forests campaigner, told AFP.
UPDATE – 18 May 2013: Daemeter has produced an unofficial translation of the 2nd moratorium, available here.