President Joko Widodo’s peatland ban ‘sets the bar’ for action on climate change

President Joko Widodo’s peatland ban ‘sets the bar’ for action on climate change

Greenpeace welcomes a new Indonesian government policy immediately banning clearance and exploitation of peatland across Indonesia, and requiring drainage canals to be blocked to raise groundwater levels close to the peat surface, to avoid peat fires. The new policy also bans new planting in burned areas, instead requiring restoration and where appropriate, criminal investigations into fires.
Greenpeace calls on pulp and palm oil companies to implement the new government instructions, warning that the landmark initiative will fail without support from all levels of government and industry.

Decades of deforestation and peatland development are the root causes of Indonesia’s forest and peatland fire crisis, which has created devastating health and environmental impacts across the region. On 24 October, President Joko Widodo issued instructions to tackle forest fires by banning further development on peatland.[1]  On November 3 and 5, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry published formal instructions to all plantation companies ordering them to end any further expansion into peatlands.[2]

Yuyun Indradi, forests political campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, said: “President Jokowi is right to seek to prevent next year’s fires by banning further expansion into peatlands, and requiring peat drainage canals be blocked. It is also just that the government has declared burned areas must be rehabilitated rather than planted. But this will only succeed if all levels of government across Indonesia are willing to play their part. The policy must be made practical with a clear timeline for implementation, and given teeth through sanctions for non-compliance. And unless palm oil and pulp companies release data and maps showing the land they control, how can we hold them to account if they ignore the President by continuing to destroy peatlands?”

This comprehensive ban on expansion into peatland builds on the existing moratorium which bans new plantation permits in peatlands. The ban now covers:

All new land clearing on peatlands, even within existing plantation concession areas
All new land clearing including the use of fire for plantations[3]
Any new plantation establishment on areas that have been burnt during the recent fires, earmarking these areas for forest restoration
The Indonesian government has already agreed a moratorium on new concession licences on peatland. But this is often ignored by local government, especially at the district level, where land allocation is often linked with corruption. Publicly accessible land tenure maps are therefore critical to allow civil society and the public to monitor how the President’s peatland ban is implemented.

Over the last two months, emissions from Indonesia’s peatland fires have surpassed those of the entire US economy on many days.

Yuyun continued: “President Jokowi’s landmark decision to ban peatland development is a first step toward a cleaner, brighter future for Indonesia’s people and environment. It sets the bar for meaningful commitments from world leaders to tackle the root causes of climate change at the Paris climate summit. Companies must work together with the Indonesian government to implement these decrees and ensure they stop doing business with any company that continues forest and peatland destruction.”

Greenpeace is calling on companies and government to support President Jokowi’s bold initiative by taking five simple steps:

Stop the destruction: Companies must insist that their suppliers protect forests and peatlands in Indonesia (including through rapid interventions to prevent fires).
Ensure transparency and accountability: Land tenure and forest cover maps must be published, and companies must work together to ensure that suppliers are properly monitored.
Clean up trade: Traders must collaborate through industry-wide action to ensure that any company that continues to create the conditions for fires and haze by draining peatlands and destroying forest is locked out of the market.
Clean up the mess: Any forest lost to the fires must be restored. Further restoration efforts must prioritise the vulnerable forest peatland areas that have borne the brunt of the fires.
Start the solution: Incentives and benefits must be provided for communities to develop livelihoods that support forest conservation and restoration. These include improved yields within existing plantation areas and support for the establishment of cooperative schemes.

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