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Indonesian president calls on successor to continue moratorium on forest concessions

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made the remarks opening the 2014 Forests Asia Summit.
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Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono delivers his opening remarks during Forests Asia Summit 2014 at ShangriLa Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, May 5, 2014. (CIFOR)
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono delivers his opening remarks during Forests Asia Summit 2014 at ShangriLa Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, May 5, 2014. (CIFOR)

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Editor’s Note: President Yudhoyono’s speech can be watched above. His speech begins at the 9:00 mark. Check in at forestasia.org to see news updates from the Forests Asia Summit. Videos of all presentations and speeches at the Summit will be posted here.

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The outgoing President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, called upon his successor to continue the country’s moratorium on forest concessions.

Speaking to nearly 2,000 people at the Forests Asia Summit in Jakarta, President Yudhoyono spoke about the actions taken under his administration to protect his country’s forests. Indonesia has the third-largest area of tropical forest in the world.

In 2011, President Yudhoyono issued a nationwide moratorium on the issuance of new licenses for logging and other land uses in primary natural forests and peat lands. He extended the moratorium in 2013.

A transcript of his speech follows.

President Yudhoyono’s speech:

Bismillahirrahmannirrahim,

Assalamu’alaikum Warrahmatullahi Wabarakatuh,

Peace Be Upon Us All,

Your Honor Mr. Peter Holmgren,

Your Excellency U Win Tun [:u wihn tun], Union Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry, Myanmar,

Your Excellency Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Singapore,

Your Excellency Pehin Dato Yahya Bakar, Minister of Industry & Primary Resources, Brunei,

Excellencies Ministers and Ambassadors,

Heads of International Organizations,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me express my appreciation to CIFOR—the Center for International Forestry Research—and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry for organizing this important summit.

I am particularly pleased to learn that more than one hundred youths are participating in this auspicious occasion. YOUR participation shows that we do share similar dedication to preserve our natural environment. This is a testament of your readiness to shoulder the noble goal of safe-guarding our tropical forests.

As I look around this room, I am glad to see the comprehensiveness of participants. I notice that over the years, from one conference to another—that I have the opportunity to address—the numbers of participants continue to grow. I can see ministers and senior officials responsible for forestry. I also see development specialists, researchers, and academics. And we have among us community representatives, and the private sector. Truly, what brings us together is our passion and enthusiasm to protect our environment.

I am pleased that this enthusiasm is also shared by peoples in Southeast Asia. More countries in the region are adopting sustainable development and green investment practices. Pro-environment policies are increasingly visible in governments’ development strategy and private sector’s plans.

In fact, pro-environment policies are part of Indonesia’s four-pronged development strategy that includes pro-growth, pro-jobs, and pro-poor. With this strategy, we are striving to achieve sustainable growth in line with a vision of a green economy.

And one of the new green policies in Indonesia is a nationwide program to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and to enhance our carbon stock. To that end, we are reforming our forest manage-ment to a higher level of sustainability. We are also increasing the number of planted trees and pro-hibiting the clearing of primary forests and lands. As a result, trees are taking root. And forests are gaining more footholds.

In 2011, I signed a moratorium of new utili-zation and conversion licenses to protect more than 63 million hectares of primary forests and peat lands. This is an area larger than the landmass of Malaysia and the Philippines combined. Last year, I extended the policy until 2015. I hope my successor  can prolong this moratorium. Through this, we have lowered our deforestation rate from one point two million hectares per year between 2003 and 2006, into 450 and 600 thousand hectares per year during the moratorium period in 2011 until 2013. And therefore, we managed to reduce 211 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year from the business as usual projection.

In the last four years, we have planted more than FOUR BILLION trees. If you have any doubt, I welcome you to start counting them, just don’t loose your counting track, so that you wouldn’t have to start from the beginning again.

A success story in adopting a pro-environment  policy can also be seen in the village of Lonca, Central Sulawesi. For generations, Lonca villagers practiced slash-and-burn land clearing. For many decades, this was the only method they know. This practice stopped after the introduction of a community based program to manage forest and watershed area.

The community is now aware of the dangers of slash-and-burn techniques. Besides releasing carbon into the atmosphere, it also destroys habitats and threatens ecosystems. Furthermore, this technique may expose the villagers to greater risk of starvation. And now, Lonca farmers plant on a permanent plot of land. They know how to alternate between crops to ensure land fertility.

Similar stories can also be found throughout Indonesia. After joining a farmers union and obtaining a community forest permit, hundreds of farmers from Gunung Kidul regency, in Yogyakarta, are now managing 115 hectares of land in a sustainable manner. Among giant teak trees, they plant medicinal plants and crops for animal feed. In Konawe Selatan, Southeast Sulawesi, villagers formed a partnership with a global NGO to deliver internationally certified forestry products. And they do this from plots of land they own and manage.

These communities and many other similar community-based organizations are now at the forefront of sustainable forest management efforts. They are planting tree seedlings instead of cutting trees down. They work on a plot of land instead of the unsustainable practices of recent past: slash-and-burn-and-move. Alhamdulillah, these practices have been weeded out from those communities and sustainable land use has now taken root.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Despite those heartening achievements, more remains to be done. There are still many cases of unsustainable land-use practices. Forests and peat lands of Southeast Asia continue to decline and degrade. In Riau Province, Sumatera, for instance, despite all preventive measures by the provincial stakeholders over the years, forests fires still occur from time to time. I personally witnessed the forest fires there and the devastating effects to the local people and neighboring provinces.

As the local government failed to mitigate the dire situation caused by the fires, I took immediate steps. I deployed disaster relief mission in Riau, coupled by strong law enforcement actions. The mission itself involved military and civilian personnel and assets. Following these measures, over a hundred individuals and a dozen corporations are facing court trials for forestry-related crimes. Crimes that cause HUMANITARIAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTERS.

This legal measure sends a firm message. Burning land and forests, logging illegally, and farming on illegal plantations either by individuals or companies will not be tolerated nor left unpunished.

Riau forest fires give us many lessons. It was a man-made disaster that disrupted the lives and damaged the health of ordinary law-abiding villagers, town-folks and communities. The haze paralyzed transportation and communications vital to daily lives and services that businesses depend on. And it prevented children access to schools and education.

The two contrasting cases of the Lonca community and the Riau province, further convinced us that forestry governance must be strengthened. This involves accurate forests mapping for conservation and sustainable land use. Through this initiative, we will have a unified map for Indonesia to help settle competing claims to land. At the same time, we will be able to better reduce deforestation and improve the productivity of our natural landscapes. Another effort to strengthen forestry governance is the recent establishment of the REDD+ Agency.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Forest management is a cross-cutting issue, and not only about keeping the trees. It is about striking a balance between the need for conserving the environment, and guaranteeing the rights of local communities over their customary forests. By doing so, we provide them with the means to improve their welfare and economic progress. And this is indeed, in line with Indonesia’s development strategy of sustainable growth with equity.

The central tenet of this strategy is about creating prosperity for everyone, in a way that does not harm the natural environment upon which we all depend.

I am also pleased that the idea of ‘sustainable growth with equity’ has been reflected in the final outcome document of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. I do hope that upon the acceptance of the report by the UN General Assembly, the idea will become part of development policies of UN member countries.

Starting next year, we will begin the discussion of the post-Kyoto Protocol process. We will also see the beginning of the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda. I believe sustainable forestry will become a critical part of these two processes.

Many hope that the post-Kyoto process will recognize the true value and contribution of forest landscapes—their economic, social and environ-mental values. In this regard, Indonesia and other Asian countries must ensure that the upcoming climate negotiations in Lima, Peru, give particular attention to this matter.

With this in mind, I am convinced that our gathering today is pertinent. As the theme makes it clear, we do need “Sustainable landscapes for green growth in Southeast Asia”. History has recorded sad stories of environmental destructions from excessive exploitations of natural resources. Even some island countries have lost a part of their territories due to unsustainable mining practices.

We must be mindful that in the rush to develop and to quickly reduce poverty, we often give fewer considerations on sustainable development. It is no coincidence that in the drive for industrializations, countries produced greenhouse gas emissions at a higher rate.

Even today, according to the recent Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), emissions of greenhouse gases are continuing to rise to an unprecedented level. The report also underlines that the world has not done sufficient efforts to curb emissions. In a broader context, we already see the adverse impact of climate change on our life. From the killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in Australia, deadly floods in Pakistan, to fatal typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

In the case of Indonesia, more than two-thirds of the country’s GHG emissions come from deforestation, peat land fires and degradation. And therefore, our commitment to fight deforestation and peat degradation is our significant contribution to the global efforts in mitigating climate change.

Forests protect us against climate change. Indonesia has the world’s second-longest expanse of mangroves, and the largest area of tropical peat land that store enormous amounts of carbon. Keeping them intact is essential for averting the worst impact of climate change. But Indonesia cannot do it alone.

This is also the reason why Indonesia seeks international support, including to ensure that we only trade certified forest products.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Within the next fifteen years, the population of ASEAN member countries is projected to increase by 84 million people. This means that there will be more demands for housings, transportations, and of course foods, and energy. If left unchecked, this will put more pressure on the environment.

I believe, the citizens of ASEAN do not wish to follow that self-destructing path of development. Therefore, I also call upon governments in Southeast Asia to continue developing a regional strategy. A strategy to increase their adaptive capacity and to promote a low-carbon economy.

I also urge businesses across the ASEAN region to commit to sustainable land-use and investment practices. This is the same call that I made three years ago to Indonesian business leaders. At that time, I urged them to partner with the government in enhancing environmental sustain-ability.

I call on the citizens, civil society organizations, research centers, think-tanks and academia to strengthen and develop their partnership. A partnership to achieve a more sustainable forests management practices.

I invite our partner countries to continue supporting Indonesia’s REDD+ programs and go beyond carbon.

And to the youths, who will inherit our planet, let us continue working together. Let us ensure that your generation as well as future generations enjoy a green and sustainable environment.

Before I conclude, I wish to leave you with a parting thought. What we do today is not for our own benefit. It is more for the billions of people who will inherit our earth.  Therefore, the responsibility is upon us who live today, to protect and save our forests for our children’s children.

Thank you.

Wassalamu’alaikumwarahmatullahiwabarakatuh

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Topic(s) :   Wetlands Fire & haze