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23 February 2009 - Alarming decision to destroy Indonesias last peatswamp forests      


23 February 2009 

The Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture has issued a decree to open up peatswamp areas for the development of palm oil plantations despite policies being developed in the EU and the RSPO to exclude palmoil from carbon rich soils like peatlands and to prevent the loss of their valuable forests.

Decree ignores global attempts to save peatlands

This Ministerial Decree will lead to increased carbon emissions at a time when the world recognises the need to reverse such a path to destruction. It not only ignores the major impacts that palm oil plantations will have in terms of carbon emissions, biodiversity and increased flooding, it conflicts with attempts by the EU, the Roundtable of Sustainable Palmoil (RSPO), the UN Climate Conference and the Convention on Biological Diversity to save these areas rich in carbon and biodiversity. Moreover, it pre-empts discussions and research commissioned by the RSPO on greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands drained for palm oil production which could lead to excluding plantations from peatlands. The EU biofuel Directive under preparation explicitly excludes biofuels coming from peatlands from any support. The decree also flies in the face of negotiations for REDD, a future forest - climate scheme which would reward countries like Indonesia that reduce their emissions from deforestation.

Surprise for Indonesian provinces, donors and NGOs

The decree is a shocking surprise for the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA), an alliance of environment and social NGOs campaigning for strong, equitable and transparent incentives for avoiding the degradation of terrestrial carbon stores and for rehabilitating degraded land. It is issued at a time when many Indonesian provinces are finalising their new spatial plans, and will reconfirm many existing palm oil plantations that had been established prematurely on peat. The decree has surprised the conservation sector and created concern within the donor community that supports forest and carbon conservation initiatives in Indonesia.

No scientific foundation, big impact

Dr. Gatot Irianto, the head of Research and Development Agency of the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, defends the signed decree with statements about ‘carbon savings by oil palms’, but fails to show any scientific evidence for this. The Minister also ignores the enormous carbon dioxide emissions that peatland drainage causes - the decree recommends drainage of peatswamps for plantations to a depth of 60 to 80 centimeter. Research in 2006 by Wetlands International concluded that palm oil from peatlands will result in 3 to 10 times more carbon emissions than the use of fossil fuels as a fuel. Also the predictable and inevitable subsidence of these drained areas, making them flood prone, is ignored. Within decades, drainage for palm oil will turn the peatlands into wastelands.

Web: AndreasLustig.com