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Indonesia signals about-face on COP26 zero-deforestation pledge

by Reuters
Thursday, 4 November 2021 10:20 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: An aerial view of deforestation at Indonesia's Sumatra island, August 5, 2010. REUTERS/Beawiharta

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The agreement at the COP26 climate talks is at odds with Indonesia's development plans and the global goals should be fine-tuned, the country's environment minister says

* Indonesia among three most forested countries

* Pledge at odds with Indonesia development plans - minister

* Outrage online, among activists over COP26 U-turn

* Minister says deforestation halt was never part of pledge

* Pledge a risk for Indonesia's mining, EV sector (Adds Indonesia foreign ministry official statement on contents of pledge paragraphs 6-9)

By Fathin Ungku and Stanley Widianto

JAKARTA, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Indonesia's environment minister has dismissed as "inappropriate and unfair" a global plan to end deforestation by 2030, days after her country, home to a third of the world's rainforests, joined 127 other nations in making the deforestation pledge.

The agreement https://reut.rs/3k0k0lW late on Monday at the COP26 climate talks was at odds with Indonesia's development plans and the global goals should be fine-tuned, said minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar, who attended the summit in Glasgow.

"Forcing Indonesia to (reach) zero deforestation in 2030 is clearly inappropriate and unfair," she said on Twitter on Wednesday.

"The massive development of President Jokowi's era must not stop in the name of carbon emissions or in the name of deforestation," she said, referring to Indonesian leader, Joko Widodo by his nickname.

Her comments so soon after the pledge underline the challenges ahead over global deforestation goals, with just three countries - Indonesia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo - collectively accounting for 85% of the world's forests.

Adding to confusion over Indonesia's position, the country's vice foreign minister, Mahendra Siregar, on Thursday denied that zero deforestation by 2030 was even part of the COP26 pledge https://bit.ly/3EIGzU5.

"The declaration issued does not refer at all to the 'end deforestation by 2030'," he said in a statement.

"Although Indonesia is willing to engage on forest management at the global level to address climate change, it is important to move beyond mere narrative, rhetoric, arbitrary targets and sound bites," he added.

Spokespeople for the environment and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for clarification on Thursday and the presidential palace could not be reached. Mahendra did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.


Environment minister Siti said definitions of deforestation differed widely, so imposing European standards on to Indonesia was unfair.

Instead, she highlighted Indonesia's own, less absolute goals, where the forestry sector would absorb more greenhouse gases than it releases by 2030 by minimising deforestation and rehabilitating forests.

But the almost immediate about-face by a country central to saving the world's tropical rainforests triggered outrage on social media in Indonesia and among environmental activists.

"The statement is profoundly disappointing," said Kiki Taufik, head of Greenpeace's Indonesian forests campaign, calling it "completely at odds with the declaration".

"Friends to the environment or money? Ma'am," Instagram user Bayu Satrio Nugroho remarked under Siti's post.

Although Indonesia has plans to retire its coal-fired power plants and reach net-zero emissions before 2060, leaving forests untouched will be a challenge.

Indonesia is the world's biggest exporter of palm oil, and in 2019 alone an area of forest and other land half the size of Belgium was burned for plantations.

Authorities have, however, since 2018 suspended issue of permits for new plantations and cut deforestation by 75% last year.

Indonesia is also seeking to expand its nickel and electric vehicle (EV) industries, requiring more land.

Fitch Solutions, in a research note on the COP26 pledge, said it could pose a risk to Indonesia's EV supply chain development and establishment of new nickel mines due to pressure to stem deforestation. (Reporting by Fathin Ungku in Singapore and Stanley Widianto in Jakarta; Editing by Martin Petty and Alex Richardson)

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