Jakarta Globe, Ulma Haryanto & Arti Ekawati
Save the environment or lose up to $7 billion a year in revenue — as well as tens of thousands of jobs — from the forestry sector?
For environmental group Greenpeace, the answer is simple: Implement a moratorium on logging this year to allow the government time to clean up its act, and give the environment a breather from rampant deforestation. But the Forestry Ministry says the country cannot afford to do so.
“A logging moratorium means taking a break from logging activities, and by this we mean all logging activities,” Bustar Maitar, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner, told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday. “While the country is taking a break from logging activities, the government should check any overlapping laws between central regulations and regional application, which conflict most of the time.”
During the hiatus, Bustar said the government could also look for nonforest areas in which plantations and production forests (HPI) could be developed.
Peatland forest conversion for development contributed 40 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, he said. “So why don’t they use empty areas for these plantations and HPI?”
According to Bustar, other deforestation activities, such as logging, contributed an additional 40 percent to the country’s carbon emissions.
“A logging moratorium and putting a stop to peatland [conversion] and deforestation should be included in the 2010 national roadmap to reach the country’s emission reduction targets,” he said, referring to the government’s commitment to a 26 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.
But Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said Greenpeace’s call for a moratorium was impossible.
“What should we do with our industry? Can [Greenpeace] provide any solutions for the logging industry and people who make their living from forestry sector?” the minister said on Wednesday.
According to Zulkifli, the moratorium would cause economic stagnation. Besides, he said, the country already had programs in place for sustainable forestry management.
“If we want to blame somebody because of deforestation, blame the illegal loggers and their buyers,” he added.
Nanang Roffandi Ahmad, executive director of the Indonesian Forest Concessionaires Association (APHI), said the logging moratorium was not the right solution to reduce carbon emissions because it would have a negative multiplier effect if there was not any proper forestry management activity.
“The forestry sector contributed about $7 billion a year to the state income, with pulp industries contributing some 50 percent,” he has said previously. “If it was stopped, the country would lose significant income.”
Nanang said the government should also think about the workers who earned their livings from forestry activities, right down to those who transported the logged products.
“On average, there are more than 40,000 employees at forestry companies and we pay them about $3 a day. If there was a logging moratorium, how would these employee live?” he said.
Greenomics Indonesia, a nongovernmental organization that assesses the economic impact of the environment, had previously released data showing that a moratorium would cost the country at least Rp 75.24 trillion ($8.13 billion) from economic losses over the next eight years.
Elfian Effendi, executive director of Greenomics, said a moratorium needed to be supported by developed countries in the form of funds to compensate for the restrictions on the forestry sector.
At present, there are 187 companies holding forestry concessions. Of those, 110 firms have rights to log natural-growth forests, which have a potential value of Rp 65.96 trillion to 2018; and 77 companies have rights to log HPIs, which have a potential value of Rp 9.28 trillion to 2018.
“In total, the country needs to cover Rp 75.24 trillion, which must be paid by [international] donors and other developed countries as compensation for protecting our forest from exploitation,” Elfian said.