Foreign Perspective Not Objective On Deforestation

JAKARTA – As part of the international community, Indonesia’s forest condition has been always under the spotlight. Unfortunately, foreign countries are very often not objective in seeing the deforestation. Their forest perspective, which is strongly attached to the interest of trade war, harms Indonesian palm oil industry.

Such is a conclusion derived from the webinar on “The fact of Indonesian Deforestation’s Rate”, which was organized by INAPalmoil Talkshow on Wednesday, 08 September 2021.

The European Union’s (EU) partiality has been even reflected in its policies that threaten trade. The European Green Deal (EGD) is just one example. This agreement envisions that the EU countries will reach net zero emission in 2050.

“Is it merely designed out of their dream to realize an ideal environment or discrimination and protectionism?” said Andri Hadi, Indonesian Ambassador to Belgium, Luxemburg, and EU when addressing the webinar. “Several countries whose interests threatened in EU market are set to file lawsuits at the World Trade Organizations (WTO) against the EU policies. It will be a hot issue,” he said. It is such question he often raised with the governments of EU countries.

Like many other countries, Indonesia will be also impacted by the EGD. The palm oil sector will be among the sectors to be impacted. Through the EU Forest Strategy, they set a requirement of traceability on the supply chain from upstream to downstream. So will be with their policy on “green products”, through which the EU will tighten requirements for commodities under the category of Forest and Ecosystem Risk Commodities to enter the EU market.

The issue of deforestation is also an obstacle. “Economic activities and investments in Europe must be free from the issue of deforestation, environment and human rights,” said Andri Hadi.

But despite the reality of attacks against the national palm oil industry, there is a dichotomy between palm oil as food products and energy products. They are hindering palm oil as the source of biodiesel production, while they keep importing it to fulfill their food needs. This is because the other vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, soybean, and sunflower will not be able to replace palm oil. I’m confident on this,” he said.

He asserted that despite the fact, serious efforts should be continually pursued to prevent discrimination against the Indonesia palm oil. The palm oil industry players should also continually comply with the principles of sustainability and contribute to the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations (UN).

He warmly welcomed the reports that deforestation rate in Indonesia has been sharply decreasing during the last few years, and has been promulgating the latest data from the ministry of environment and forestry (KLHK) regarding the drastic decrease of deforestation in Indonesia. It is very important to refute the accusation that the Indonesian palm oil industry has been the main cause of deforestation in the country. In reality, the palm oil industry has nothing to do with the deforestation.

The KLHK reported in 2020 that the deforestation in Indonesia decreased to the lowest rate. Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar said that during the period of 2019-2020, net deforestation inside and outside forested areas in Indonesia was only 115.5 thousand hectares.

According to her, it was the all-time low deforestation during the history of monitoring forestry in Indonesia. Based on forest monitoring in 2019, during the period of 2018-2019, the net deforestation inside and outside forested areas was 462 thousand hectares.

“It’s not correct to say that the decrease was achieved without any efforts. It is really due to the efforts of KLHK through implementation of regulations, actions on the field, weather modification, and other serious efforts,” the minister said in her keynote speech, which was read out by Planology and Environmental Management Director General Ruandha Agung Sugardiman.

The forest monitoring data from the KLHK has also drawn the interest of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) Chairman Joko Supriyono. It is not only because the deforestation is always attributed to the palm oil industry. But also because such accusation is taken as a basis of legality, which has impacted the market of palm oil in EU.

Besides RED1 and RED2, there will be a new law in EU that will be attributed to the issue of deforestation. He hopes that the deforestation data reported by the KLHK will reach the global communities. The more so, as based on monitoring data of KLHK, the sharp decrease of deforestation in Indonesia has been actually realized since the last few years.

“Not only the WRI that reported the decrease of Indonesian deforestation,” Joko Supriyono said, referring to the report of the World Resources Institute (WRI) in 2020 regarding the rate of deforestation in Indonesia that was published recently. In its report, the WRI said that the deforestation rate in Indonesia has been continually declining and for the first time Indonesia was delisted from the group of top three countries losing the most of primary forests. “We also have concrete data that proves deforestation in Indonesia has declined drastically,” he said.

Confidence on the low deforestation is strongly supported by concrete data. Director General of Planology and Environmental Management Ruandha Agung Sugardiman described how the KLHK devised a right definition based on scientific reference and developed an information system of forest monitoring since 1995 by using digital satellite. He said that their equipment has been also modern for the sake of increasing the accuracy of monitoring results. The accuracy is also more guaranteed with checking or visual identification by field technicians assigned in 22 points. “In several locations, we can guarantee the accuracy up to 92 percent so that we’re confident in presenting the data,” said Ruandha.

He noted that it is reasonable that the government and all national palm oil stakeholders have a high confidence on this. The more so, as the research and scientific assessment conducted by Prof Dr. Ir Yanto Santosa from forest resource conservation and ecotourism department of Forestry and Environment Faculty of Bogor University of Agriculture (IPB) has proven that there is no linear relationship between deforestation and oil palm plantation expansion. He said the land use is not only monopolized by the palm oil industry. All commodities, sectors and countries across the globe use the forests for expansion.

“Therefore, the policy of RED II – ILUC EU that excessively and specifically links the issue of deforestation to the palm oil-based biofuel can be categorized as crop apartheid as it discriminates palm oil,” said Prof Yanto.

He said that actually the EU countries should reflect on Indonesia. Based on the global resources assessment (FAO 2016), there is no EU country included in the top ten with the largest primary forests for conservation of global biodiversity and largest protection forests. “Indonesia is still listed in the top ten countries with the largest primary forests for conservation of global biodiversity and largest protection forests,” Prof Yanto said. (*)