Indonesia is now leading the world in terms of reducing deforestation rates. The World Resources Institute’s most recent data on global deforestation shows that Indonesia has reduced its deforestation rate in primary forests by 65 per cent since 2015. That is more than any other country over the same period.

The dramatic lowering of the deforestation rate is a result of years of commitment by two successive Indonesian Presidents, as well as the plantation sector, that together have implemented policies to reduce deforestation across the country.

The result from the WRI report are a strong endorsement of these policy decisions taken by the Indonesian government on deforestation.

The WRI report states:

“Government policies and corrective actions have contributed to this reduction, in line with reaching Indonesia’s target of Net Sink (meaning negative CO2 emissions) from the forestry and other land use sectors by 2030. Increased fire prevention and monitoring efforts, termination of granting new licenses on primary forest or peatland (moratorium), law enforcement, and a renewed commitment not only to protect and restore peatlands but also to rehabilitate mangroves have led to fewer fires and less primary forest loss.

Relatively wet conditions and cloud-seeding efforts from the government and private sector may have helped with the fire suppression in Indonesia. On-the-ground community efforts to suppress fire have also contributed.

Mandatory and voluntary corporate commitments also appear to be working.”

The WRI data are in line with official government estimates on deforestation in the country, which also show that Indonesia’s deforestation rates are the lowest on record.

Core to the approach has been the Presidential moratoria. Just to recap:

President Yudhoyono introduced at moratorium on the issuance of new permits for logging in primary forests and peatlands in 2011. It was set for two years but was extended twice under his administration. It restricted new oil palm plantation development and logging in specified forest areas.

President Jokowi continued and extended the moratorium and further strengthened enforcement and compliance. In 2019, the moratorium on new licenses in primary forests and peatlands was made permanent.

Jokowi also introduced a three-year moratorium on new oil palm plantation permits, halted new permits for plantations, and commenced a review of existing licenses.

In addition to these measures, the Jokowi administration introduced the Rencana Aksi Nasional Kelapa Sawit Berkelanjutan (RAN-KSB) or National Action Plan for Sustainable Palm Oil. Among its chief objectives is to strengthen regulation and enforcement to prevent illegal deforestation and protect primary forests and peatlands.

Many countries, whether it is Brazil or Bolivia, should be learning lessons from Indonesia in terms of forest governance and policy reform. This should extend to Western nations seeking to assist other developing countries to reduce deforestation. Policies introduced from the outside, focused on whatever might be the priorities in Brussels or Oslo, are unlikely to work.

A core lesson of the WRI data, and the success of Indonesia, is that local leadership and local knowledge, whether it’s top-down reforms or on-ground efforts are the key to success. A lesson for European governments and NGOs when dealing with southeast Asia: support the local initiatives, and don’t assume you know better.

The WRI data will undoubtedly contribute to the implementation of the EUDR, and specifically the risk classification of Indonesia going forward. Simply, it adds to the case that Indonesia is simply not a ‘high risk’ country for deforestation. The first Indonesia, Malaysia and EU Task Force on the EUDR has been announced for August. Indonesia will be asking the question: if these efforts aren’t good enough to avoid a ‘high risk’ rating, what is?