April 5, 2019

Norway’s special envoy talks about EU delegated act

JAKARTA ( - Stig Ingemar Traavik, the special envoy for Norway’s international climate and forest initiative, recently spoke with (Mar 29) about Indonesia’s progress in climate and forest issues, including the consequences of the EU delegated act which seeks to phase out the use of palm oil in biofuels.   

“We have to recognize that Indonesia is a huge and complex country. We are basically talking about ending a land rush, a long era of economic growth based on converting forests into plantations,” the former Norwegian ambassador to Indonesia explained.  

President Joko Widodo’s administration, in his view, “has done a remarkable job, most notably by imposing the peat moratorium and palm oil expansion moratorium as well as ending forest fires. This has been a Herculean challenge.”

“We are proud to have been partners of the Indonesian government in this. We do of course realize that a lot remains to be done but we have a lot of faith and trust in Indonesian leaders, and believe the good trend will continue,” Traavik added.    

The following photos show remaining Sumatran orangutan-inhabited peat forests covering an area equal to 5,000 soccer fields in a palm oil concession (PT SPS-2) in part of the Leuser Ecosystem, which are being protected by the company concerned following law enforcement action by the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

In April 2016, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya and Acehnese leaders declared a moratorium on palm oil and mining expansion within the Leuser Ecosystem. 

The Leuser Ecosystem is the only place on earth where critically-endangered wildlife co-exists in an area spanning the equivalent of more than 2.6 million football fields.  

EU delegated act: All concerns valid

When asked about the EU delegated act, Traavik stated that “this is an issue we take very seriously” - although, according to him, this issue goes beyond his responsibilities as a special envoy.  

“I think it is unfortunate that the topic has become so contentious, as I believe the concerns of both parties are valid,” he asserted. 

He elaborated on this, saying “from the European side, I believe a key concern is to avoid renewable biofuels having unintended consequences in terms of deforestation.”

“Avoiding deforestation is also a key concern for European consumers. The objective of the proposed legislation is to avoid using high deforestation risk inputs in biofuels. Furthermore, the regulations will encompass all kinds of oils,” he pointed out. 

Traavik then presented the other side of the coin, explaining “from the producer side, there are also very valid concerns in terms of predictability, to ensure that sustainably produced palm oil has market access. And, of course, there are social concerns about the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of smallholders." 

“The concerns of both sides in themselves are not mutually exclusive. However, as usual, the devil is in the details. I believe we will be able to find solutions that take care of the concerns of all sides,” the special envoy said before cautioning that finding these solutions will require time to discuss the issues in depth.

“Technical regulations are not sexy but at times it is necessary to take time to really study the issues before we can move to solutions,” he emphasized. 

The photos below demonstrate that almost all the Bornean orangutan-inhabited peat forests, carpeting an area equivalent to 37 thousand football fields in a forestry concession (PT MPK) in Sungai Putri landscaperemain relatively intact. This has been achieved thanks to law enforcement measures taken by the ministry.

In early December 2016, President Joko Widodo revised a government regulation resulting in a total ban on the clearing and draining of peatlands.  

This move was in response to the 2015’s widespread peat fires which caused huge damage and losses, adversely impacting Indonesia’s economic growth in that year. 

The Norwegian perspective  

As for Norway, Traavik said “we will do what we can to contribute to good regulations that avoid contributing to deforestation and that are fair to all involved.” 

As an example, he recounted how Norwegian Trade and Industry Minister Torbjørn Rød Isaksen recently visited palm oil plantations in Malaysia to better understand the issue.   

Furthermore, the special envoy also explained that Norway is exploring ways to finance improved yields for palm oil smallholders who commit to legal and sustainable production in Indonesia.  

“We will continue to work hard to strike the right balance on this issue,” the Norwegian special envoy said in conclusion.