Two days ago, REDD-Monitor wrote a post about a trip to Indonesia by Norway’s climate and environment minister, Vidar Helgesen. The trip took place in early February 2016, and Pilita Clark, a Financial Times journalist, accompanied Helgesen on his trip. In her article, Clark quoted Helgesen as saying, “We would obviously have hoped things would have progressed more quickly. We haven’t seen actual progress in reducing deforestation.”
The press release also responds to an article by Hans Nicholas Jong and Ina Parlina, published in the Jakarta Post on 4 February 2016, under the headline, “Norway slams slow REDD+ project progress”.
In a press conference after a meeting with President Joko Widowo, Helgesen praised Jokowi’s proposal for a ban on clearing clearing and draining undisturbed peatland. He also praised Jokowi for setting up the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG). But Helgesen also spoke about the slow progress on reducing deforestation in Indonesia:
“Six years into the partnership, we are now impatient to see more results on the ground.”
[ . . . ]
“We are very satisfied with the dialogue we have had [and] with the groundwork that has been put in place but I don’t think anyone can be satisfied when we see the fires last year, when we see continued deforestation [and] when we see continued peat conversion.”
[ . . . ]
“[Indonesia has implemented] the partial moratorium, which is good, but it’s not possible at this stage to declare success because deforestation is continuing. We all know what happened to the peatland last year.”
Here is a translation of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry press release (hat tip to Elfian Effendi, founder of the website foresthints.news):
The Minister of Environment and Forestry’s response to the statement of the Norwegian Minister of Environment
PRESS RELEASE Number: S. 163 / PR / PP / HMS.3 / 3/2016
Jakarta, Bureau of Public Relations of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Friday, 4 March 2016. The Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya regrets a recent statement by Norwegian Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen, which discredits the Government of Indonesia. Helgesen expressed dissatisfaction with the perceived slow progress of the Norway-Indonesia partnership in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Helgesen’s comments were carried by the Jakarta Post Friday, 4 February 2016, and the article published on the REDD-Monitor website dated 3 March 2016.
Minister Siti Nurbaya is regretful that the Norwegian minister had failed to fully explain to the public what he meant by “slow progress” in the implementation of the partnership between the two countries, given that the Government of Joko Widodo was still in the process of conducting a review as to how the partnership could be made more effective going ahead. The partnership agreement was signed in late May, 2010.
Minister Siti Nurbaya says that the Norwegian Government has apologised for its environment minister’s statement to the Joko Widodo administration.
It needs to be made clear to the public that the Norwegian minister has also apologised for his remarks. Thus, there is no need for a prolonged and unproductive polemic on the issue that could damage bilateral collaboration between Indonesia and Norway.
As the Norway-Indonesia partnership is a partnership of equals, if “slow progress” had been made on the implementation of the partnership, the responsibility for this could not be entirely blamed on the Government of Indonesia.
It is most assuredly not the case that the perceived “slow progress” has taken place during the term of the current administration, especially as regards the consolidation of the institutions responsible for responding to climate change. In reality, such consolidation resulted in greater focus in the development of policies and climate change response programs. It has been clearly shown that such consolidation was intended to strengthen the response to the high rates of deforestation that had occurred during the terms of the previous administration
This requires the sorting out of concessions granted on peatland, a process that is currently being undertaken by the present administration. Among other things, the government has imposed a new licensing moratorium policy in peatland areas and has retaken control of burned concessions. This is part of the government’s policy for the more sustainable allocation of land and forest areas in the future, and the reorientation of forestry policy towards ecosystem restoration so as to support sustainable development.
The government is also focussing on promoting renewable energy by imposing ever increasing levels of mandatory biodiesel use, despite the fact that world oil prices had fallen sharply. This reflects a clear commitment on the part of the present government to ensuring a future sustainable energy for Indonesia.
Greater balance between conservation and development was also being promoted through the acceleration of the one map policy (scale of 1:50.000), which was supported by a Presidential Decree. The commitments contained in the Mid-Term National Development Plan (RPJMN) on climate change and sustainable development are also very clear. Much of the progress to date in this respect had been made by the current administration.
All of of the changes currently taking place reflect the firm commitment of the government. Consequently, the use of the expression “slow progress” by the Norwegian Environment Minister does not reflect his views on the work of the current administration.
Cooperation between equals involves mutual respect and appreciation, such as in the case of the partnership between Norway and Indonesia. Consequently bilateral cooperation between Norway and Indonesia must be truly based on such mutual respect going forward.