JAKARTA, Indonesia (30 September, 2011)_Erik Solheim, Norwegian Minister for the Environment, reassured leaders in the Indonesian paper, pulp and palm oil industries that the conservation of forests would lead to greater business opportunities, and that countries like Brazil were proof of its success.
“Can Indonesia conserve the forest and continue with 6 to 7 percent economic growth? The answer is yes. Brazil has shown that you can reduce deforestation, drive business and investment, while at the same time embarking on schemes to reduce poverty.”
In his speech to over 900 representatives from leading business groups, NGOs, development agencies and government ministries at the Forests Indonesia conference hosted by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on Tuesday, Solheim discussed some of the benefits of switching to economically sustainable alternatives.
“There is no way there can be predictability in the market place while you are destroying the source of your income. Predictability relies upon conservation and sustainable use of the forest.”
According to independent sources, Indonesia is losing over one million hectares of forest each year. Most is due to unsustainable logging that includes the conversion of forests to plantations for palm oil and the pulp and paper industry. Deforestation is also partly due to large-scale illegal logging, which is estimated to cost Indonesia about $4 billion annually.
In Brazil, improved forest governance, as well as strong law enforcement has led to a 70 percent decrease in deforestation rates. It has also simultaneously increased agricultural production and lifted over 10 million people out of poverty through poverty reduction programmes.
With economic growth expected to rise by 7 percent in 2011 and with the current rates of deforestation, experts predict that Indonesia will be unable to meet demands for food, fibre and fuel. If Indonesia is to have the same success as Brazil, it will need to balance the interests of business with the long terms protection of its forests.
During his speech, Minister Solheim stressed the need for Indonesia’s businesses to align themselves more closely to the current demands for sustainable forest products in the global market place.
“Consumers in the long term will not accept products from businesses that are destroying environment. All big companies in the global market are feeling the pressure to change the way they do business”.
He also stated that funds for REDD+, part of the $1 billion dollar moratorium between Norway and Indonesia to preserve its forests, as well as funds from other international donors such as the UK and Australia, could provide incentives for Indonesian businesses to develop more environmentally friendly practices.
“These funds combined would be huge source of income for business to change their behaviours to environmentally friendly ways such as increasing agricultural productivity, using degraded lands for palm oil expansion or investing in eco-tourism initiatives”.
He concluded by encouraging Indonesia to move ahead with a sustainable development strategy that, like Brazil, could provide the blueprint for other countries making the transition to a green economy. He stressed that despite the challenges, Norway would remain a committed partner.
“Let me promise that Norway will be with Indonesia in this regard. We are not similar to Indonesia, on the contrary we are very different, but we will do our best to make certain that the president can deliver on his promise”.