Medan, Indonesia – As the COP26 climate change conference continues into its second and final week in Glasgow, a pact signed by more than 100 countries to end deforestation by the end of 2030 has become increasingly popular.
Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia and Indonesia, which together make up 85 percent of the world’s forests, are among the signatories to the agreement, which comes back with a $ 19bn pledge of funding.
But although British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is chairing the summit, called the agreement “unprecedented”, not everyone is celebrating.
“In our opinion, the initial commitment to reduce deforestation is good, but it should be accompanied by real action,” said Arta Siagian, a campaigner for forestry and land use at WALHI (Indonesian Forum for the Environment), told Al Jazeera.
The problem is that this commitment is at odds with what Indonesian government officials are doing.
Forests cover approximately 920,000sq km (355,214sq miles) across islands in Southeast Asia and have long been under pressure to cut down illegal logs, especially in agricultural fields that produce palm oil as well as inputs and paper. About 10 percent of original forests have been lost since 2001, according to Global Forest Watch.
Opponents say government officials have disregarded house laws and have failed to act on those found to be deforesting as promised to protect the forest.
Last week, as part of the COP26 logging talks, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, said Indonesia, one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots, “was committed to protecting … natural resources. future generations ”.
Kiki Taufik, the global leader of Greenpeace Southeast Asia to fight for the Indonesian forests in Indonesia, denies the allegations that they are “not new and ambitious,” he said.
Taufik also said that Indonesia was one of the first signatories New York Declaration on Forests, which coincided with the United Nations Climate Summit in 2014 and gave Indonesia and other signatories “a clear cut-off of deforestation by mid-2020, and efforts to end it by 2030”.
Commodity companies have also committed to tackling deforestation by producing agricultural products such as palm oil, soybeans, paper and beef by 2020.
But Taufik says despite Indonesia’s commitment to forest protection, it has failed to achieve its goals.
A Greenpeace report compiled by conservation map makers TheTreeMap, released before COP26, also found that one-fifth of the country’s palm gardens are located in areas such as high-risk areas, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves. called the ‘National Forest Estate. ‘where such activities are not permitted. Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of palm oil, which is used in a wide range of products from detergents to chocolate.
“Sustainable legislation is needed to protect the environment,” Taufik said in a statement, criticizing governments for preparing “more logging talks in COP26”.
Healthy forests, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, have been identified as essential to keep global temperatures below 1.5C (2.7F) and to cope with climate change.
Deforestation not only increases CO2 emissions but also causes floods and fires, as well as the loss of plants and animals, including tigers and endangered monkeys, as trees are cut down to make way for larger crops.
Lack of rules
The Greenpeace report also highlighted a pardon scheme that will allow other Indonesian farms to re-register their activities as part of the Omnibus Job Creation Law (UU Cipta Kerja), which was enacted in 2020 and replaces the 2013 Law on the Prevention and Combating of Deforestation.
“The introduction of the Labor Law will increase the price of Indonesia,” said SALIAN of WALHI. “The law also does not stipulate that 40 percent of deforestation must be maintained. Not to mention Section 110 A and B, which provides for an amnesty. This is further exacerbated by the increase in palm oil suspension. ”
The Employment Law Act replaced a ban on the development of a new date palm, which was introduced by Jokowi in 2019 to prevent deforestation and loss of employment in September.
Under the controversial new law, companies that have been operating illegally have three years to comply with the law and will not be penalized if they are found to be violating the law.
WALHI of Siagian says the result could be more land clearing and deforestation.
Greenpeace’s Taufik acknowledges that the key to controlling deforestation in Indonesia lies in tightening climate control laws and clearing trade routes so that retailers do not buy from fields deforested.
“We want an immediate end to deforestation, supported by domestic water laws and policies that recognize the indigenous rights of indigenous peoples and Indians, to properly protect forests; [and] to end deforestation, ”he said.
There were also doubts about Indonesia’s commitment to deforestation COP26 when the Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, took to Twitter on November 3 to call the agreement “unfair” and added that “significant growth of President Jokowi’s term should not be stopped.” the name of carbon emissions or deforestation “.
The remarks, which were part of Indonesia’s 18 development and environmental tweets, sparked protests in Jakarta on Friday and were widely criticized by environmentalists.
Bakar party members, the National Democrats (NasDem), however, have defended the comments, saying they are committed to protecting the environment.
“These words need to be taken seriously,” Ahmad SH, a NasDem member based in West Nusa Tenggara who previously worked at WALHI, told Al Jazeera. “As far as I can see, it did not mean neglect to protect the environment. In fact, she is extremely dedicated. He is not only concerned with the development of the environment but also his striving to integrate it all. ”
He also said that progress, the government’s commitment to development and the environment “should be seen as a collaborative effort” involving all political parties and civil society organizations.
The big problem
Jokowi’s recent commitment comes as the President prepares for the country’s new capital in East Kalimantan province in Indonesian Borneo, where Indians have been fighting for a long time to protect their territories and curb the spread of land.
The city should be 25.6sq km (10sq miles) of rural area east of the island and provide housing for 1.5 million people.
Construction of a large reservoir to supply water to the new capital has already begun. Similar projects such as power installation in the city are expected to begin soon after the $ 32bn project is suspended due to the coronavirus epidemic.
“He announced that the idea of a new capital would be ‘Green City’, but how can you have ‘Green City’ when you are building walls everywhere?” Abdallah Naem, a local activist and a member of JATAM (Indonesian Mining Advocacy Network) based in Balikpapan in East Kalimantan, told Al Jazeera.
Jokowi wants the government to leave Jakarta, the modern capital, before the end of its second term in 2024. The low-lying city is prone to flooding and is plagued by environmental problems from polluted rivers to smoke.
In solving the Jakarta crisis, however, Naem says the people of East Kalimantan are worried that they will face new developments and a new capital that is accelerating environmental degradation in an area where deforestation has already blocked rivers and caused flooding.
“Years ago there was no problem with water here. People drew water from rivers that were never too dry and too clean. But when the companies started operating here, the rivers changed shape and became so damaged that they could no longer drink or bathe, ”he said.
According to a Greenpeace report, more than 730sq km (282sq miles) of oil palm – a region as small as Singapore – is planted in the Indonesian jungle in East Kalimantan.
“The president should focus on repatriating Kalimantan to its former state but the new capital is only adding to the situation,” Naem said.
“Jokowi speaks all the best when he is at an international conference, but it is not the same as what we see in the field.”