Greenpeace has been actively campaigning against rapid deforestation in Indonesia.

Greenpeace has been actively campaigning against rapid deforestation in Indonesia.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was in danger of humiliating both himself and his country on the international stage because of his ongoing failure to curb the devastating level of deforestation in Indonesia, Greenpeace said on Saturday.

Bustar Maistar, a forest campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said Yudhoyono would only “bring shame” on Indonesia at the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen that begins on Dec. 7.

“SBY will embarrass Indonesia in Copenhagen,” Bustar said. “Arriving wearing the makeup of an eco-savior, SBY cannot even ensure that state officials have the ability to prevent the massive environmental devastation that is happening here.”

Speaking during a discussion on land-use permits and the need for an environmental impact analysis, Bustar said the country’s commitment to reduce carbon emission by 26 percent by 2020 was questionable, as was the goal to reduce emissions by 41 percent with the support of foreign nations.

He said the claims lacked credibility because the commitment was half-hearted.

“SBY’s commitment will be seen as a big lie if [he] does not stop the opening of peatland [forests] in Kampar Peninsula,” he said. “Indonesia’s commitment to climate change can start here in Kampar Peninsula.”

Bustar added that if taking action over the environment was a priority during Yudhoyono’s first 100 days, then it had been a total failure, as demonstrated by the ongoing illegal logging and opening up of peatland in the region.

“The illegal logging continues a week after maintaining the status quo [against harvesting peatland forests] was declared by Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan. At least 1,000 hectares have been cut down, causing state losses of about Rp 90 billion [$9.54 million] [in carbon trades],” Bustar said.

Based on Greenpeace data, peatlands with a depth of less than one meter in Kampar Peninsula were estimated to contain around 823 tons of carbon per hectare, while vegetation on the surface could store around 150 to 200 tons per hectare.

At least 180 countries will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the 15th UN Climate Change Conference in an effort to reach crucial decisions in the fight against climate change, including financial mechanisms, adaptation and mitigation efforts, technology transfer and new targets for emissions cuts.

Meanwhile, Susanto Kurniawan, the coordinator of Forest Rescue Network Riau (Jikalahari), said law enforcement in the forestry sector was particularly weak.

“From 2002 to 2007, the deforestation rate in Sumatra alone reached 135,438 hectares per year, of which 75 percent occurred in peatlands that contained a total of around 22.3 million metric tons of carbon,” Susanto said. “That’s why the government needs to take these issues seriously and start to deal with corruption in the forestry sector because most of the cases [of deforestation] were linked to bribery practices at ministry and local governments levels.”

Meanwhile, Adnan Kasry, an environmental expert at Riau University, claimed the Riau government’s recommendation for concession permits for several companies could be legally flawed and might have involved corruption.

“The recommendation for permits issued by Riau Governor Rusli Zainal is legally flawed,” Kasry said. “The permits did not have an [environmental impact assessment] approval from the district chiefs of Siak and Bengkalis.”

Kasry, who was at the time one of the experts from Riau’s Environmental Impact Controlling Agency (Bapedal), said that these permits were sent directly to the then-Minister of Forestry MS Kaban, who “issued the principle permits that are now a problem.” — JG