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Activists want Indonesian forest moratorium extension

Government under fire for 'not enforcing' existing one aimed at protecting environment signed 7 years ago

Activists want Indonesian forest moratorium extension

This picture taken on May 7, 2017 shows a team of Indonesian forest rangers making their way along the Alas River, as signs of deforestation from illegal logging are seen in the background, in the Leuser ecosystem rainforest, located mostly within the province of Aceh on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. (Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)

Church officials and activists have criticized the Indonesian government for not extending the duration of a moratorium to protect forests and peatlands, it signed seven years ago.

The moratorium began because of massive deforestation but church members and activists claim it hasn’t been effective because land clearing has continued and new permits have been issued.

The groups point out that the moratorium has to be renewed every two years and called on the government to review and expand the moratorium to 50 years, to achieve better results in protecting forests and peatlands. 

"The Indonesian government needs to extend and strengthen the moratorium," Divine Word Father Frans Sani Lake, director of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Kalimantan, told ucanews.com.

Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono published a presidential instruction on May 20, 2011 to suspend new licenses and improve the governance of primary natural forest and peatlands.

According to Father Lake, President Joko Widodo must discuss with world leaders his country’s efforts to protect forests and peatland during the G20 Summit in Germany on July 7-8.

The priest said the extension of the moratorium to 50 years should to be sounded out at the summit because some foreign companies, including palm oil and mining firms, operate in Indonesia and belong to G20 countries.

The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forests said that Indonesia has 20.6 million hectares of peatlands and some 4 million hectares had been used for palm oil and rubber plantations and other uses.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Indonesia originally had 165 million hectares of forests but in the past several years has lost about 684,000 hectares a year from illegal logging, fires and other forms of encroachment.

Sacred Heart Father Anselmus Amo, who heads Merauke Archdiocese's Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission, said it was unbelievable that despite the moratorium the government continued to give new permits to companies.

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"The moratorium becomes nonsense because the government ignores it," Father Amo said.


Climate protection

The G20 Summit aims to strengthen the collective commitment of member countries to protect the environment and implement the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Father Amo said Widodo should use the summit to protect the environment. "The government must be firm in protecting the climate so that people will not become victims of climate change," he said.

Franciscan Father Peter C Aman, director of the Franciscan Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission, said Indonesia could push G20 members to become more serious about implementing the Paris agreement.

"Indonesia can take the momentum of the G20 Summit to implement the agreement," he said. "It’s an opportunity to increase Indonesia’s role and contribution to save the planet from global warming," he told ucanews.com.

Greenpeace Indonesia also urged President Widodo to follow the direction of other G20 countries and adopt stronger policies to combat the negative effects of climate change.

"We are certain that strengthening global and regional cooperation is the best possible solution to secure the well-being of Indonesians, within the context of addressing the root issues of climate change," Greenpeace Indonesia country director Leonard Simanjuntak said in a statement.

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