* Kuntoro Mangkusubroto wants one or two year extension
* Prudent approach to $1 billion climate deal being taken
* Says palm firms can improve productivity without expansion
By Michael Taylor
JAKARTA, Jan 18 Indonesia, home to the world's
third-largest expanse of tropical forests, should resist
pressure from the powerful palm oil industry and extend a ban on
forest clearing by one or two years, an influential government
Southeast Asia's largest economy is under international
pressure to curb deforestation and destruction of its
carbon-rich peatlands, which the palm oil and mining sectors say
is hindering economic growth.
Indonesia imposed a two-year moratorium on clearing forest
in May 2011 under a $1 billion climate deal with Norway aimed at
reducing emissions from deforestation, and the government has
yet to announce what it plans to do about the ban.
"From my perspective, I've proposed to the president to
extend," said Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, a technocrat who oversees
forestry sector reform and heads a presidential delivery unit
aimed at cutting through red tape. "It is good that we can
extend for another year, maybe two."
"I'm happy with the results so far," he said in an
interview. "It is still not perfect but at least we are close.
We've achieved a lot, although I'm not totally satisfied."
The moratorium, which covers 65 million hectares or about a
third of Indonesia, is part of a climate change deal signed with
Norway in 2010, although officials said only $28-$29 million of
the $30 million disbursed so far has been used.
"I'm a fairly conservative person when it comes to utilizing
funds," he added. "I know the environment, the bureaucracy, the
problem in the areas ... I have to be very prudent."
Kuntoro is known for being able to get policy implemented in
a country where stifling bureaucracy and corruption often blunt
efforts to reform.
The former Indonesian energy and mines minister was credited
with being the architect of the rebuilding of Aceh after the
province was devastated by a tsunami in 2004.
No decision on whether to change, extend or scrap the forest
moratorium had been made, and Kuntoro said the president was
unlikely to make a final decision before May.
INCREASE PALM YIELDS, NOT ACREAGE
Indonesia in the world's biggest producer of palm oil, with
estates sprawling across around 8.5 million hectares and
expected to rise by about 200,000 hectares a year for the next
The agriculture minister says the forest ban should be
replaced with a stricter permit criteria for plantations, while
palm firms want it scrapped because they say it casts
Indonesia's management of plantations in a bad light.
"If the objective is to increase the production of palm oil,
you can easily reach that without extension of the acreage,"
Kuntoro, who also heads a taskforce on Reducing Emissions from
Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) said. "You can improve
Earlier this week, the Indonesian forestry ministry said the
moratorium should be extended, and urged palm firms to instead
expand on the almost 24 million hectares of degraded forest
Green groups see the moratorium as a positive step, but some
activists are critical of the concessions to the palm industry.
Norway has said Indonesia's progress in reforming its
forestry sector will not be sufficient to meet its pledge to
reduce carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020.
"(Norway) are very enthusiastic -- they understand the
complexity of having this programme in Indonesia," Kuntoro said,
ruling out any chance of the deal Norway falling through.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Thatcher and Rieka Rahadiana;
Editing by Ed Davies)