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Indonesia's illegal logging pact ‘won’t save forest’

Groups back EU deal but deforestation issues remain

Indonesia's illegal logging pact ‘won’t save forest’

Concern is mounting over the rate of deforestation in Indonesia (Photo courtesy of WWF)

Environmental groups on Wednesday welcomed an agreement signed by Indonesia and the European Union to fight illegal logging, but warned more needs to be done to curb rampant deforestation in the country.

The Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade, signed in Brussels on Monday, means the EU’s 28 member states will only import timber that has been legally harvested and certified.

Technical assistance will be provided to ensure the timber has not been sourced illegally.

Concern over rapid deforestation in Indonesia is growing because of the threat to rare species and ecology.      

Indonesia’s Forestry Minister, Zulkifli Hasan, said the agreement showed that both parties have zero tolerance on illegal logging.

Environmental groups, while welcoming the move, said it was unlikely the agreement will lead to a significant reduction in deforestation.

“Indeed, [the agreement] shows the government’s commitment to protect forests from anything that creates degradation of forest functions,” Aditya Bayunanda, coordinator for the Global Forest Trade Network Program of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, told ucanews.com.

However, he said, the agreement won’t save forests since illegal logging isn’t the only major cause of deforestation.

“Plantations and mining destroy forests, too,” he said.

“The government must also make efforts to stop deforestation committed by extractive and non-environmentally friendly industries,” he added.

According to the Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi), Indonesia has already lost 56 million of its 132 million hectares of forest. About 3.5 million hectares are lost each year.

Zenzi Suhadi from Walhi said now that the government has signed the agreement with the EU it needs to ratchet up law enforcement against companies committing illegal logging, if it is to gain trust from its trading partners.

“If the government pays attention to such law enforcement, trust from importers will emerge automatically,” he said. 

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