COP26

Explainer: Indonesia says wants to reduce deforestation, not completely end it

3 minute read

Trees are seen on the top of an abandoned coal mine near Samarinda, East Kalimantan province, Indonesia, March 2, 2016. Picture taken March 2, 2016. REUTERS/Beawiharta

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SINGAPORE, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Indonesia, home to a third of the world's rainforests, has backtracked from a global pledge to end deforestation by 2030, calling for a gradual approach that will allow for the country to continue with its development plans.

Officials in the world's fourth most populous country said that they have a less absolute interpretation of a clause in an agreement signed on Monday at the COP26 climate talks calling for a "halt and reversal" of forest loss.

Here is Indonesia's interpretation of the clause and its existing goals on dealing with deforestation:

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DIFFERENT INTERPRETATION

Indonesian ministers said that the pledge to stop deforestation at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow was "inappropriate and unfair", and the characterisation of the agreement by UK ministers was misleading. read more

The government said that it never agreed to a complete stop to deforestation by 2030, and that a zero-deforestation target is against its development plans.

Officials say more land is needed for the fast-developing country to build infrastructure, food security and industry development.

"There must be a balance," environment minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said.

WHAT ARE INDONESIA'S PLANS?

Indonesia is the top producer of palm oil, which has been linked to land clearing. Its pulp and paper industry has also been linked to deforestation and its up-and-coming nickel and electric vehicle sectors are likely to use up more land.

In a low-carbon and climate resilience plan submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in April, Indonesia proposed strategies for emissions reduction until 2050.

This included a "carbon net sink" in its forestry sector by 2030, meaning that the sector will absorb more greenhouse gas emissions than it emits by the end of the decade.

Under this plan, Indonesia is aiming to reduce deforestation and increase the rehabilitation of peatland and abandoned land, alongside with "sustainable forest management" practices to prevent fires that have wiped out swathes of forests.

By 2050, Indonesia is targeting for its forest sector to absorb as much as 540 million CO2 equivalent, the environment ministry said in a statement in August. It did not say how it compared to current levels of carbon capture in the forestry industry.

"AVOIDING", NOT HALTING DEFORESTATION

Deforestation control is part of Indonesia's commitments in the global Paris accord to combat climate change. It had previously aimed to limit deforestation to between 325,000 and 450,000 hectares (800,000-1.1 million acres) a year, a level it believes will still allow economic development.

The new plan submitted to the UNFCC did not specify a new deforestation limit, but did say that Indonesia had expanded the area for protected forests by 26.1%, from 51.8 million hectares to 65.3 million hectares in the country's National Medium-Term development Plan for 2020-2024.

The country also proposed to double its reforestation goal, by rehabilitating abandoned and degraded land, from 5.3 million hectares.

In 2018, president Joko Widodo issued a moratorium on palm oil permits, which was a response to devastating forest fires in 2015, when approximately 2.6 million hectares were burned.

The deforestation rate has since fallen, with last year's size of burnt forests at the lowest in 20 years of 115,500 hectares, officials said.

The moratorium was not extended when it lapsed in September this year, although top officials have said that they would not approve new palm permits. read more

Despite the gains, Indonesia is still expecting to lose millions of hectares of forests within the decade, the environment ministry said in a report.

Even by reaching net carbon sink by 2030, Indonesia's future deforestation will be at 6.8 million hectares at the very least.

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Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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