The moratorium was supposed to start in January 2011. The president was given a choice of two decrees to sign. One covered all forests, including peatlands. The other covered only primary forests and peatlands. Yudhoyono chose the latter.
The decree is available here (in Indonesian): “Instruksi Presiden Republik Indonesia Nomor 10 Tahun 2011 Tentang Penundaan Pemberian Izin Baru Dan Penyempurnaan Tata Kelola Hutan Alam Primer Dan Lahan Gambut” (pdf file 92.9 KB).
The lead implementer of the moratorium will be the Ministry of Forestry. The decree includes several gaping loopholes. It specifically does not apply to:
- Existing concessions or concessions that already “received approval in principle” from the Minister of Forestry.
- “National development” projects including: geothermal, oil and gas, electricity, land for rice and sugar cane.
- The extension of existing permits.
The reasons for the weak moratorium were outlined by a representative of a Malaysian oil palm company with plantations in Indonesia, who told Reuters that,
“There were lots of pressure on the Indonesian government from the palm oil industry about this ban since we bring in significant investments. Today’s final details show that agreeable concessions have been made.”
Agus Purnomo, President Yudhoyono’s special advisor on climate change, seems keen to reassure the oil palm industry. At a press conference today, reported by Reuters, he said that,
“There is no limitation for those who want to develop business-based plantations. We are not banning firms for palm oil expansion. We are just advising them to do so on secondary forests.”
Yesterday, Purnomo told Reuters that,
“We mean business when we say we would like to reform our forest and peatland management. There will be no new permits on 64 million hectares… We mean business in the sense that we are continuing to grow our economy, because we allocate 35 million hectares of degraded forest for agriculture, mining and other development uses.”
Not surprisingly, share prices in most oil palm companies rose after the decree was announced.
The announcement of the decree has been criticised by NGOs. Nils Hermann Ranum, head of policy at Rainforest Foundation Norway told Reuters that the moratorium would protect only an additional 16 million hectares. “It looks like Indonesia is now making a serious limitation of the scope of the moratorium,” he said.
Paul Winn of Greenpeace Australia-Pacific said,
“This is a bitter disappointment. It will do little to protect Indonesia’s forests and peatlands. Seventy-five percent of the forests purportedly protected by this moratorium are already protected under existing Indonesian law, and the numerous exemptions further erode any environmental benefits.”
Teguh Surya of Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) told the Jakarta Post that,
“The President ignored input from civil society who care about conserving forests and threw its support to big businesses, such as palm oil plantations.”
The fact that the decree is late is probably not too important in the long run. It will run for two years from today. Whether two years is long enough is, of course, another question. However, the fact that the decree is too little is a disaster for Indonesia’s forests, indigenous peoples and local communities.