Indonesia has made notable strides in reducing deforestation in recent years. As of 2022, its annual defrorestation rate had been reduced 64 per cent between 2015 and 2022 – making it the leader in terms of reducing its deforestation rates. In 2022 its primary forest loss was the lowest on record. T

he significant changes indicate a positive trend towards achieving the forestry sector’s goals under the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Climate Agreement.

There have been a three key initiatives that have reduced Indonesia’s deforestation over the past decade.

The Forest Moratorium

The forest moratorium, established in 2011, aimed to protect primary natural forests and peat lands from new concessions. It introduced policy reforms to improve forest management, including land classification, logging permits, and palm oil development. Initially set for two years, the moratorium has been extended several times, with the most recent extension announced by President Joko Widodo, making it an indefinite policy.

The moratorium has contributed to a significant decrease in the rate of deforestation in Indonesia. The policy has been effective in protecting primary forests and peatlands, crucial for biodiversity and carbon storage. By preserving forested areas, the moratorium plays a vital role in reducing carbon emissions, contributing to Indonesia’s commitments under international climate agreements.

The Palm Oil Moratorium

Indonesia’s palm oil moratorium, introduced by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi), is a significant policy aimed at curbing deforestation linked to palm oil plantation expansion. It was first implemented in 2018 and prohibited the issuance of new permits for palm oil plantations on both state and peatlands. The policy is part of Indonesia’s broader efforts to manage its natural resources more sustainably and to address environmental concerns associated with palm oil production, such as deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The impact of the palm oil moratorium has been notable. It has helped slow down the rate of deforestation in Indonesia, contributing to the country’s overall reduction in forest loss. By halting the expansion of palm oil plantations, the moratorium has also played a role in preserving Indonesia’s peatlands, which are crucial carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots.

Peatland Restoration

Indonesia’s peatland restoration efforts, spearheaded by the government, involve a comprehensive approach that integrates regulatory policies, agency involvement, and specific project areas. These efforts are pivotal in mitigating the environmental impact of peatland degradation and preventing catastrophic forest fires. Central to these are:

– Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG): Established in 2016, the BRG is tasked with coordinating and facilitating peatland restoration across Indonesia. The agency plays a crucial role in the strategic planning and implementation of restoration activities.

– Peatland Protection Policy: Enforced through Ministerial Decree No. P.71/2014 by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, this policy imposes stricter controls on peatland utilization, including the requirement for companies to maintain water tables at specific levels and restrictions on new peatland conversion for agriculture.

– Presidential Regulation No. 1/2016: This regulation was enacted to enhance peatland protection and management, emphasizing sustainable peatland use and the legal framework for restoration activities.

An International Comparison

Indonesia’s experience contrasts heavily with the experience in other countries. Brazil for example continues to lead in tropical primary forest loss, accounting for a staggering 43% of the global total in 2022. The country witnessed the loss of 1.8 million hectares of primary forest, leading to approximately 1.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions. This amount is more than double Brazil’s annual emissions from fossil fuels. The deforestation in the Amazon not only has severe carbon implications but also critically affects regional rainfall patterns. There is growing concern that continued forest loss could push the Amazon ecosystem past a “tipping point,” potentially transforming much of it into savanna.

In Brazil, the Western Amazon regions, particularly the states of Amazonas and Acre, experienced a significant acceleration in primary forest loss in 2022. Amazonas, which harbors over half of Brazil’s remaining intact forests, reported a near doubling of its primary forest loss rate within a three-year span.

Indonesia’s efforts in reducing deforestation, particularly through the forest moratorium and peatland restoration, are commendable and reflect a commitment to environmental sustainability. Continuing these efforts, alongside addressing challenges in implementation and enforcement, is vital for the country’s continued progress in forest conservation and climate action.