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Breathing space for Indonesia’s peat forests under moratorium


Friday, 20 May 2011. Today, a two year moratorium between Norway and Indonesia to freeze Indonesia’s forest and peatland clearing has been agreed. The moratorium blocks new concessions in Indonesia’s peatlands and remaining forests; but also leaves many exemptions.

In the light of the rapid devastation of the remaining natural areas of Indonesia, Wetlands International welcomes this decision, seeing the moratorium as a first step and hopes that the moratorium will give Indonesia the time and momentum to improve the nation’s laws for a permanent ban on the loss of these carbon rich natural areas.


A breathing space for carbon rich ecosystems

The moratorium is part of a deal between Indonesia and Norway to battle climate change by reducing emissions from forest and peatland loss. It blocks for the development of new oil palm and pulp plantation, logging and mining concessions for the conversion of carbon rich forests and peatswamps that do not yet have the principle approval by the Ministry of Forestry.. It is supported with one billion US dollar support from Norway. In total the moratorium project involves an area of about 95 million hectares (Ministry of Forestry, 2010).including primary forests and peatlands (forested and non-forested peatlands). The 95 million hectares under the moratorium also strengthens the protection of 35 million ha of already existing protected areas.


Still many areas unprotected

The moratorium will, however, not protect forest and peatswamp areas already given in concession by the Ministry of Forestry. Millions of hectares have already been granted, to log and develop in the near future into for instance palm oil or pulp wood plantations. Revoking these existing plantation concessions on natural forest and peatlands could not be agreed. Unfortunately, secondary forest (outside peatlands) can still be given into concessions. Most of the remaining forest areas in Indonesia are actually secondary forests. In addition concessions in forests that are of vital national importance for Indonesia, such as for development of rice cultures, sugar production and oil winning remain excluded from the ban. As a result; millions of hectares of the Indonesian forests may still be converted.

 Map of areas protected under  the moratorium (green forest, red, peatlands)

But a positive step

Nonetheless, Wetlands International is relieved with a two year freeze to new plantation concessions. Marcel Silvius, Wetlands International:This moratorium can now help to shift the palm oil and pulpwood sectors to degraded areas with mineral soils and strengthens the options for ecosystem restoration concessions.”


Nyoman Suryadiputra – Director of Wetlands International in Indonesia: "This moratorium brings a pause in the further loss of forests and areas with peatsoils. The two years should now be used to improve the nation’s laws for a permanent ban on the loss of these carbon rich natural areas.


Facts about forest and peatland loss

There are about 22 mln hectares of peatland in Indonesia (Hooijer et al, May 2010 in Biogeosciences). Current forest cover was around 80 mln hectares in 2007. Greenhouse gas emissions due to forest and peatsoil loss has brought Indonesia among the largest carbon dioxide emitting countries. Peatland drainage in Indonesia alone causes emissions of around 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. Peat fires (400 million tonnes) and forest cover loss add substantially to this. 


Drainage of the carbon rich organic peatsoils causes a decomposition process, leading to emissions of up to 100 t CO2/ha/year[1]. For palm oil, about 4 million hectares of peatlands have been given into concessions in Indonesia, many only on basis of licences by local authorities. In addition at least over two million hectares of drained peat forests are covered with monoculture rubber, pulp wood and coconut plantations[2] and many peat swamp forest areas are still under logging concessions.  When drained, peatlands furthermore lose their critical role for hosting – often unique - biodiversity (e.g. tiger, tapir, orang utan) and for water regulation. The moratorium is a first and long awaited positive sign to reduce the degradation of these valuable areas but can be considered as a first step only.

Wetlands International welcomes it but hopes that this two year breathing space can be used to also start addressing threats to Indonesia’s forests and peatlands.   



For more information:


Wetlands International

Alex Kaat, Communications and Advocacy Manager

Tel: +31 650601917





[2] Yumiko Uryu et al. July 2010. Sumatra’s Forests, their Wildlife and the Climate Windows in Time: 1985, 1990, 2000 and 2009. WWF-Indonesia. Jakarta, Indonesia


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