Big Business Welcomes Deforestation Ban

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Timber destined for pulp production inside an Asia Pulp and Paper pulpwood operation, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo courtesy of David Gilbert/RAN

BOGOR, Indonesia (22 May, 2011)_Producers of palm oil and pulp and paper products welcomed on Friday the finalisation of a two-year deforestation ban in Indonesia worth $1 billion.

The presidential decree needed to implement the ban was finally signed after a five-month delay, in which conservationists and the corporate lobby debated what types of forest should be protected and what types should be used for commercial use.

The government announced that the ban will  protect 64 million hectares of primary forest and carbon-rich peatland, but that it would exclude secondary forest — forest that has been disturbed either naturally or unnaturally. In Indonesia, much secondary forest has been selectively logged and can hold substantial carbon stocks.

The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki), one of the major players in the corporate lobby, was satisfied that the conversion of secondary forest would be allowed to continue under the ban.

“From what I’ve read, I think it is the best possible thing that the president could have signed,” said Fadhil Hasan, Gapki’s executive director.

“From  our perspective, all the things we wanted to be included were not fully accommodated, but we understand that. We are happy that secondary forests were excluded.”

Paper giant, Asia Pulp & Paper, which has been accused of rampant forest destruction in Indonesia, also welcomed the exclusion of secondary forests from the ban.

While APP has been accused of spearheading the campaign to exclude secondary forests from the ban, the company clams it has always supported the moratorium.

Aida Greenbury said that as managing director of APP, she had only been invited to discuss the moratorium twice.

“We have always supported the moratorium, but we think the private sector could play a bigger role in forestry. We are the ones on the ground, we have the expertise and we are a big part of the solution,” she said.

Environmental groups have also welcomed the moratorium as a step forward, but criticise the government for going soft on big business.

Bustar Maitar, a forest campaigner from Greenpeace, said that the moratorium should include all natural forests — as Indonesia had agreed to in the Letter of Intent with Norway — and that there was almost twice as much Indonesian forest in need of protection.

“We welcome the moratorium and think it’s a step forward, but we would like to see the maps that outline the areas. The 64 million figure is not official, so we will wait until the maps come out to see how much is protected,” he said.

Senior CIFOR scientist Louis Verchot said that while the moratorium might not slow deforestation in the short-term, it would give Indonesia a chance to design its longer-term strategy.

“This is just setting the stage for Indonesia over the next two years. It’s a chance for the country to decide how it’s going to meet its commitments to cutting carbon emission. It allows Indonesia to see the bigger picture,” Verchot said.

Indonesia has committed to a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, or 41 percent with international help.

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