February 11, 2019

IUCN report aligned with President Jokowi’s instruction

JAKARTA ( June 2018-released IUCN report titled “Oil Palm and Biodiversity” concluded that “From a biodiversity perspective, further expansion of oil palm into native forests should be prevented.” 

Prior to reaching this key conclusion, the report also mentioned that “the evidence presented in this (IUCN) report clearly indicates that oil palm development at the expense of tropical forest reduces the diversity and abundance of most native species.”

One of the chapters in the IUCN report also reviewed the past impacts of oil palm development on biodiversity, declaring that “Oil palm has been locally responsible for high deforestation rates.”  

The IUCN report tied together all this evidence by summarizing that “As much as 50% of all deforestation on the island of Borneo between 2005 and 2015 was driven by oil palm development.”

The following images constitute further evidence of the loss of peat forests inhabited by the critically-endangered Bornean orangutan for palm oil expansion, a situation ongoing at least as recently as late January this year, as previously reported by (Jan 30)

Aligned with the President’s move

In September last year, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo gave a clear instruction by signing a moratorium on the expansion of palm oil plantations involving good forest cover, both for new permits as well as for existing palm oil concessions.

In terms of substance, the essence of the 2018 IUCN report is very much aligned with the President’s instruction of prohibiting any new palm oil expansion that converts good forest cover. 

Nonetheless, a new palm oil permit has recently been granted by Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya to a Murdaya palm oil company (PT HIP), just three months after the President’s instruction was issued.

This new palm oil permit is dominated by primary and secondary forests, covering around 80% of the area concerned, as earlier exposed in a report (Jan 22) and shown in the following Google Earth images from Greenomics Indonesia.

Key concerns from Indonesian CSOs 

The issue of the controversial new palm oil permit granted by Minister Nurbaya has been raised again by an alliance of Indonesian civil society organizations (Feb 10) consisting of Sawit Watch, Madani Berkelanjutan Foundation, Telapak, Elsam, Greenpeace, Forest Watch Indonesia, ICEL and BYTRA Aceh.

The CSO alliance has asked the Indonesian government to pay attention to important points relating to deforestation as well as the necessity of ending this practice, along with peat destruction, issues highlighted in last year’s IUCN report too.

Among other things, most notably a call for the improvement of forest and palm oil plantation governance, the CSO alliance has also requested that the government reinforce the implementation of the President’s palm oil expansion moratorium.

The CSO alliance has essentially appealed for Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for the Economy not to merely partially heed the IUCN report, but instead to consider it in full, in terms of both its context and substance, so as not to be misguided in making key conclusions.

Demand/supply side polices 

The IUCN report also concluded that the prevention of further expansion of palm oil plantations involving native forests “can be achieved through demand-side policies (e.g. the new European Union policies on the use of palm oil for biofuel).”

Furthermore, as another option, the IUCN report went on to emphasize the need for “supply-side policies (e.g. strengthening environmental governance to protect forests and other ecosystems in producer countries).”

The IUCN report also recommended the need for a study that not only addresses the issue of environmental and biodiversity objectives to be achieved in the palm oil sector, but also how to attain social and economic goals as well.