Indonesian govt imposes moratorium on land clearing of peatland

Antara 6 Dec 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia, through its new government regulation (PP) No. 57/2016 on the revision of PP No. 71/2014 on Peat Ecosystem Management and Protection, has imposed a moratorium on land clearing in peatland areas.

The revision ruled that there should be no land clearing and no issuance of new licenses in peatland areas, especially for deep peatland, Secretary General of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry Bambang Hendroyono said here, Tuesday.

PP 57/2016 also states that no drainage should be performed as it causes the peat to dry out, and no fires can be set in peatland areas.

Even traditional communities have been barred from setting fires in peatland areas.

The new PP was signed by President Joko Widodo on Dec 2 and will go into effect in the very near future.

The new PP places a permanent moratorium on peatland exploitation, stating that everyone is prohibited from clearing new land until a zoning system for the protection and cultivation of the peatland ecosystem is in place.

"PP No. 57/2016 shows the solid commitment of President Joko Widodo to peatland ecosystem protection," stated San Afri Awang, who works with the Forestry Planology and Environmental Management section of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry.

Natural succession, rehabilitation, and restoration are ways of improving the peatland ecosystem.

"Natural succession means restoration without any human intervention," he explained.

In addition to the regulation, the government will also intensively monitor peatland restoration efforts.
(Uu.F001/INE/KR-BSR/H-YH)


Govt revises regulation on peatland protection
Antara 6 Dec 16;

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Indonesian government has issued Government Regulation (PP) No. 57/2016 as a revision of PP No. 71/2014 on peatland ecosystem management and protection.

"President Joko Widodo signed PP No. 57/2016 on December 2, 2016," Secretary General of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry Bambang Hendroyono said here, Tuesday.

The process of revising the government regulation had started in February 2016 with the support of other ministries.

The new PP places a permanent moratorium on peatland exploitation, stating that everyone is prohibited from clearing new land until a zoning system for the protection and cultivation of the peatland ecosystem is in place.

"PP No. 57/2016 shows the solid commitment of President Joko Widodo to peatland ecosystem protection," stated San Afri Awang, who works with the Forestry Planology and Environmental Management section of the Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry.

Natural succession, rehabilitation, and restoration are ways of improving the peatland ecosystem.

"Natural succession means restoration without any human intervention," he explained.

In addition to the regulation, the government will also intensively monitor peatland restoration efforts.

Environmental Affairs and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has issued an assignment letter to San Afri, placing him in charge of a monitoring team for a peatland restoration operation.

"The government is very serious (about this). We will monitor it continuously and impose sanctions against violators. This is proof of the governments serious commitment to peatland restoration," he added.(*)


Indonesia pledges to protect peatlands to fight climate change, haze
Coco Liu Reuters 6 Dec 16;

HONG KONG (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Environmental activists hailed on Tuesday Indonesia's ban on converting peatlands into plantations but said enforcement was critical to reducing annual fires that shroud parts of Southeast Asia in choking haze.

Indonesia announced on Monday that companies were banned from turning peatlands into palm oil and other types of plantations, and must restore peatlands they have degraded.

Peat soils contain huge quantities of carbon in the form of organic matter, which accumulates over hundreds of years and provides nutrients for plant growth.

When peatlands are drained or cleared by fire to make way for plantations, the carbon is released into the atmosphere.

Environmental experts welcomed Indonesia's ban in light of a global accord signed in Paris last year to lower carbon emissions blamed for a warming planet.

"This regulation will be a major contribution to the Paris climate agreement and a relief to millions of Indonesians who suffer the effects of toxic haze from peat fires," said Nirarta Samadhi, Indonesia country director for the World Resources Institute think tank, in a statement.

Indonesia, the world's 6th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, according to the country's Peatlands Restoration Agency, has more than 15 million hectares of peatlands, an area twice the size of Ireland.

WRI estimates by 2030, the new ban could help Indonesia cut up to 7.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to roughly all the annual greenhouse gases emitted by the United States.

Peaty soil, found in many parts of Indonesia, is particularly flammable when dry, often causing fires to spread beyond their intended areas.

Every year smoke from fires used to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations in Indonesia clouds the skies over much of the region, raising concerns about public health.

Indonesia has been criticized by neighbors and green groups for failing to end the annual fires, which were estimated to cost Southeast Asia's largest economy $16 billion in 2015, and left more than 500,000 Indonesians suffering from respiratory ailments.

Yuyun Indradi, a forest policy researcher at the Jakarta office of international campaign group Greenpeace, said Indonesia's ban was a "good move".

However, Indradi said Indonesia had introduced several moratoria aimed at protecting the environment before.

"A key problem has been enforcement and lack of transparency," Indradi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that previous environmental policies - such as requiring companies to protect carbon-rich deep peatlands - had been widely ignored.

"The big question will be how to get the new regulation enforced," he said.

(Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories)


Indonesia expands protection for peatlands
CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN AFP 6 Dec 16;

Indonesia has extended legal protection for its wetlands and peat bogs by expanding a ban on the conversion of these carbon-rich swamps into plantations.

The move, if properly enforced, could drastically reduce Indonesia's sizeable carbon footprint and prevent a repeat of the annual forest fires that plague the region, conservationists say.

A moratorium on new conversions of certain peatland areas has been in place since 2011 in Indonesia.

But this latest revision -- signed into law by President Joko Widodo, and issued Monday -- clarifies and expands the law, ensuring that all peatlands are covered and that companies must restore areas they have degraded.

"We want to avoid any misinterpretation of the existing regulation, which gives the impression that land-clearing is still allowed," environment ministry spokesman Djati Witjaksono Hadi told AFP Tuesday.

Peatlands take thousands of years to form as layers of dense wet plant material compact into dense carbon stores.

When these ancient swamps are drained or cleared by fire to make way for commercial plantations -- such as for palm oil or pulp wood -- that carbon is released into the atmosphere.

Conservationists hailed the strengthened moratorium as a win for climate change.

"This regulation will be a major contribution to the Paris climate agreement," said the World Resources Institute's Nirarta Samadhi, referring to a binding agreement on reducing emissions.

Norway -- which pledged in 2010 to pay Indonesia up to $1 billion if it preserved its rain forests -- committed $25 million to restore peatlands in the wake of the announcement.

The moratorium could also help prevent the outbreak of deadly smog from forest fires that shrouds the region every year, causing widespread illness.

Peatlands are moist and unlikely to ignite unless drained.

Hadi said the new regulation provided clearer guidance, ensuring no burning or draining was permitted.

Fires deliberately lit in 2015 across Indonesia's forests and peatlands were the worst in nearly two decades.

Research from Harvard and Columbia universities in the US estimate the crisis caused more than 100,000 premature deaths in Indonesia and neighbouring countries.

The World Bank put the economic impact at $16 billion -- twice Indonesia's clean-up bill in the wake of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.


New initiative to protect peatland
The Jakarta Post 8 Dec 16;

The biggest question looming over all the laws and regulations the government has enacted so far to protect the environment and reduce carbon emissions is how strong and consistent their enforcement will be.

Likewise, the effectiveness of the latest regulation on peatland ecosystem management and protection will rest on the government’s ability to enforce all the elaborate provisions, which in effect impose a permanent moratorium on the conversion of peatland into plantations.

Under the new regulation, any conversion of peatland into plantations such as palm oil is prohibited, until a zoning system for the protection and cultivation of the peatland ecosystem is in place.

The new policy demonstrates the government’s serious commitment to protecting carbon-rich peatlands from exploitation, which has led not only to damage of the peat areas, but also caused massive annual forest fires in many parts of the country, particularly in the northern and southern parts of Sumatra.

Peatland has become the main target for agricultural expansion, such as oil palm plantations, as fertile land becomes increasingly scarce. In order to be able to use peatland for plantations, the underlying peat needs to be drained, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. When dried, the peaty soil is flammable, which often causes fires that spread to forest areas.

The new peatland protection initiative should be supported, not only because it would make a major contribution to the Paris climate agreement, but also it would be able to help reduce peatland fires more effectively. The thick haze caused by vast forest fires in the country last year, which also affected other parts of Southeast Asia, reportedly led to more than 100,000 deaths.

Indonesia, the world’s sixth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has more than 15 million hectares of peatland, according to Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG). Global research institution World Resources Institute estimates that by 2030, total emission reductions from the revised regulation could equal approximately 5.5-7.8 gigatons of CO2, depending on whether the hydrology of peat within existing plantations is restored.

The revised regulation builds on a set of existing policies including a two-year moratorium on the issuance of new permits to clear rain forests and peatland, which has been strongly opposed by the country’s palm oil producers.

We do understand that Indonesia, now the largest palm oil producer in the world, needs to further increase its palm oil production to meet the global demand for vegetable oil, but this development should be conducted through environmentally sustainable practices.

The government should improve the business climate for more intensive research to develop new high-yield oil palm seedlings so that we can steadily and significantly increase our production without encroaching into peatland.

Major palm oil producers should also be given incentives to help smallholders, who account for 40 percent of the total plantations, to replant their crops with high-yield seedlings. The use of genetic engineering in propagating high-quality seedlings could also contribute significantly to increasing output.


Enforcement critical in haze fight
If successful, Indonesia can reduce carbon emissions by up to 1 gigaton a year
Francis Chan, Indonesia Bureau Chief In Jakarta The New Paper 12 Dec 16;

Indonesia's latest move to institute an immediate and total ban on the cultivation of peatland has been lauded as a big win in the global fight against climate change.

For South-east Asia, it may signal the beginning of an end to mass forest fires, often in Kalimantan and Sumatra, which cause the toxic haze that engulfs much of the region each year.

The ban, declared by President Joko Widodo on Dec 1, has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to one gigaton annually, according to Indonesia's Peatland Restoration Agency chief Nazir Foead.

Conserving peatlands can also ensure that endangered species such as the orang utan can continue to live in their natural habitats.

Peatland in Indonesia has been under threat for decades, mainly as a result of demands from palm oil and pulpwood industry giants.

World Resources Institute president Andrew Steer said Indonesia's leaders have a unique opportunity to slow the country's emissions through the conservation and restoration of peatland.

Indonesia, however, must follow through in its efforts by rigorously enforcing the blanket ban under the latest presidential decree, to ensure it is not toothless legislation that looks good only on paper.
The decree by Mr Joko is not the first time an Indonesian president has introduced a moratorium to protect primary forests and peatland.

A two-year moratorium was declared by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2011, and extended for the second time last year.

But observers said that despite that moratorium, protected forests were still being cleared using the slash-and-burn method because of weak enforcement.

Mr Joko has been tough on those who clear land illegally since he was elected president in 2014 - having taken individuals and plantation firms to task for using fire to prime land for cultivation.

Indonesia, however, must follow through in its efforts by rigorously enforcing the blanket ban under the latest presidential decree, to ensure it is not toothless legislation that looks good only on paper.

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