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Alarming decision to destroy Indonesia’s last peatswamp forests


While in the EU and the RSPO policies are being developed to exclude palmoil from carbon rich soils like peatlands and to prevent the loss of their precious forests, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture issued a decree to open up peatswamp areas for the development of palmoil plantations.

Decree ignores global attempts to save peatlands

This decree ignores the major impacts that such plantations will have in terms of carbon emissions, biodiversity and increased flooding.The Ministerial Decree foregoes discussions and research commissioned by the Round Table of Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO) on greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands drained for palm oil production which could lead to excluding plantations from peatlands. The recently presented EU biofuel directive explicitly excludes biofuels coming from peatlands from any support.

The decree makes it uncertain for Indonesia to receive support from REDD, a future forest - climate scheme to reward countries that reduce their emissions from deforestation as these emissions are now likely to increase.


Surprise for Indonesian provinces, donors and NGOs

The decree is a shocking surprise for Wetlands International, an organisation with a long track record in studying, saving and restoring Indonesia’s peatswamps. The regulation is issued at a time when many Indonesian provinces are finalising their new spatial plans, and will back up many existing palm oil plantations that had been established prematurely on peat. The Regulation 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 totally ignores the incredible carbon dioxide emissions that peatland drainage causes, while 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.


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Alex Kaat
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