The Palm Scribe

Indonesia Needs Extension of Oil Palm Moratorium to Reach Its Climate Commitments: Activists 

Indonesia needed to extend its oil palm moratorium so that it can lead to a positive impact in the form of global market support for Indonesian palm oil products, productivity boost, the settlement of land overlaps and conflicts and a contribution to the attainment of Indonesia’s climate commitments, environmental activists said.

“There are still about 5.7 million hectares of natural forests within Conversion Production Forest (HPK) areas which could be released for plantations. If the Oil Palm Moratorium is not extended and strengthened, the deforestation rate will pick up again and Indonesia could fail to meet its climate commitments,” said Trias Fetra, Program Officer for Palm Oil Management with the Madani Berkelanjutan foundation.

Indonesia has committed to reduce its glasshouse gas emission by 29 percent if on its own by 2030 or up to 41 percent if it received international assistance. The forestry and land sectors are the two main contributors to the emission reduction with an estimated contribution of emission reduction of between 17.2 percent to 38 percent by 2030. 

The extension of the oil palm moratorium would help the attainment of those ambitious climate commitments by restraining the expansion of oil palm plantation into forest areas and protecting natural forests which have been included in oil palm concessions, Trias said in a written statement of the Coalition for Oil Palm Moratorium received by The Palm Scribe on Monday (26/7).

President Instruction Number 8 of 2018 on the Postponement and Evaluation of Oil Palm Plantation Permits and improving the Productivity of Oil Palm Plantations, or better known as the oil palm moratorium, was issued in 2018 and will expire on September 19, 2021.

Trias said that among the six types of permits and concessions, those for oil palm plantation accounted for the deforestation of 19,940 hectares, or most of the deforestation that took place in the 2019-2020 period. 

“The surface of natural forest within oil palm concessions is quite significant. Based on the 2019 land cover data, 3,58 million hectares of natural forests were registered as being within oil palm concessions and one million hectares of that were primary forests. From that amount, about 1.,43 million hectares are within forest areas that are considered for release and are the subject of permit evaluations in the oil palm moratorium policy,” Trias said, adding with the extension of the moratorium there was hope that permits of the concessions that had natural forest in it would be reviewed and the forest returned into the forest area category.

The results of an analysis conducted by Madani showed that there were at least 24.2 million hectares of peat ecosystem in Indonesia and 6.2 million of that was within oil palm concessions. Of that amount, 3.8 million hectares were peat soil. Trias said that the evaluation instruments and the review of permits contained in the oil palm moratorium could save those peatlands. Peat land should be protected and restored, considering that 99.3 percent of Indonesia’s peat soil had already experienced various degrees of destruction and were prone to catch fires in the dry season.

The results of our analysis show that by saving these 3.8 million hectares of peat land and returning them to their natural functions, a total of 11.5 million tons of carbon emission from land burning activities or land conversion, would be prevented and thus contribute to Indonesia’s climate commitment,” Trias said.

Adrianus Eryan, Head of the Forest and Land Division at the Indonesian Center for Environmental Laws (ICEL) noted that there were still problems of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the oil palm moratorium and the government should have no reservation in opening up data and their achievements in its implementation. He took the examples of data on oil palm planted surfaces in forest areas that have been consolidated and verified, the number of oil palm plantation permits that had been reviewed, and up to the number of violations that have been addressed and issued with sanctions.

“Transparency such as this will of course open up the door to wider participation and collaboration, not only with civil society organizations but also with regional administrations that already have the good initiative to implement the Presidential Instruction. If there were still homework stipulated in the Presidential Instruction which have not yet been done, then it goes without saying that the Presidential Instruction should be extended,” Adrianus said.

Meanwhile, Agung Ady Setiawan, A campaigner for Forest Watch Indonesia, said that in the past three years, the government had only managed to harmonize data on oil palm plantation cover and concession areas, The government and other parties, he said, should realize that the indicator for success was not only the absence of new permits during the specified period but also that problems of productivity, market acceptance, deforestation, legal certainty for oil palm growers and land overlap and conflict be settled.

“The government must show its seriousness in extending the moratorium as a follow up of efforts to put order into the management of the oil palm plantation industry comprehensively,” Agung said.

Indonesia’s appointment as COP 26 Co Chair along with the United Kingdom was an indication that world positively trusted the implementation of Indonesia’s climate change mitigation and adaptation despite of the ongoing pandemic and climate change. 

This momentum should be maintained through a series of moves to strengthen regulations and management in the Forestry and Other Land Use (FOLU) sector, including oil palm plantations, said Ramadha, Campaigner on Palm Oil for Kaoem Telapak. “The extension and strengthening of the Oil Palm Moratorium is very important to prevent the opening of forest areas for oil palm plantations and thus allow the attainment of the neutral emission targets in 2030,” Ramadha said.

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