Indonesian official didn’t say COP26 deforestation pledge was unfair

The forestry and environment minister didn’t say that the COP26 declaration on forests and land use was unfair. The nuance lies in the difference between deforestation and net zero deforestation. But neither the statement nor Indonesia is without any ambiguity.

A road in the Indonesian forest
A road in the middle of Indonesian forest on the island of Pulau Bintan in Indonesia. | © akudui

On November 3, the forestry and environment minister of Indonesia, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, published a post on facebook and on her personal website.

But the message created confusion and could be considered as a statement that Indonesia thought the COP26 declaration on forests and land use was “unfair“.

Few days earlier and along with 132 other countries, Indonesia had yet signed the declaration and committed to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030“.

Minister Nurbaya, in the first sentence of her Facebook post, wrote that the pledge “should not be interpreted as zero deforestation. This needs to be understood by all parties“.

However, she also considered that “forcing Indonesia to zero deforestation in 2030 is clearly inappropriate and unfair“.

The nuance lies between the definitions of zero deforestation and net zero deforestation. Zero deforestation means not cutting down tress while net zero deforestation would mean compensating any loss of forest.

The minister defends the right to be able to cut down trees for the development of the country and compares the situation of Indonesia with developed nations where their infrastructure is mostly completed.

For Indonesia, net zero is different from no deforestation

She gave the example of 34,000 villages isolated in the forest and the consequences of no deforestation. Not being able to cut a single tree would prevent from building roads through forest areas, connect these villages and offer opportunities of development to the population.

On November 2, she spoke at the University of Glasgow by the Indonesian Student Association. According to her personal website, she defended a vision where “Indonesia cannot embrace zero deforestation. […] Indonesia is actively building following sustainability values. This is not the same as saying it is not possible to build because we are not allowed to touch the forest“.

For Indonesia, it committed to a net zero goal. In August, Oxfam considered net zero climate targets were dangerous distractions.

For a spokesperson of the UK Prime Minister, the statement would be consistent with the pledge, The Guardian reports. “What countries have committed to is to end net deforestation, ensuring that any forest lost is replaced sustainably.

Siti Nurbaya Bakar, forestry and environment minister of Indonesia
Siti Nurbaya Bakar, forestry and environment minister of Indonesia, in 2018 at the International Tropical Peatland Center | © CIFOR

Indonesia is home to one of the world’s largest rainforests. As one of the largest carbon emitters as well, it has been criticized for clearing its forest in profits of palm oil plantations. Indonesia is the largest exporter of palm oil.

On Facebook, the minister also wrote on a more ambiguous tone that “the massive ongoing development […] must not stop for the sake of carbon emissions or in the name of deforestation“.

In October, an analysis from Greenpeace Indonesia showed that at least “600 plantation companies have at illegal operations set up inside the forest estate” despite being designated as off-limit areas for plantations. For the organization, the results, shared before COP26 were “a clear indication that the Indonesian government is not willing to enforce laws to stop deforestation on public lands or follow through on its climate commitments“.

During COP26, 28 governments also committed to remove deforestation from the global trade of food, which could affect Indonesian palm oil products.

Read more about Indonesia

Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Facebook, November 2021, Free accessCOP26: Indonesia criticises 'unfair' deal to end deforestation, BBC, November 2021, Free accessGLASGOW LEADERS’ DECLARATION ON FORESTS AND LAND USE, UK COP26, November 2021, Free accessNet Zero Climate Targets, Dangerous Distractions for Oxfam, Newsendip, August 2021, Free accessIndonesia says Cop26 zero-deforestation pledge it signed ‘unfair’, The Guardian, November 2021, Free accessInaction over illegal palm oil in Indonesia’s megadiverse forest estate jeopardises people and planet, Greenpeace, October 2021, Free access

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