Indonesia: Greenpeace urge Obama to support forests


As Barack Obama makes a return to Indonesia, where he spent four years of his childhood, Greenpeace today challenged the United States to dramatically increase the financial support it gives Indonesia to reduce deforestation and cut its substantial greenhouse gas emissions.

The challenge followed the announcement at a press conference in Jakarta with Presidents Obama and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that the US will provide only limited funds to help protect Indonesia's rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands.

The funding, part of the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, includes US$7 million for the establishment of a Climate Change Center and $10 million initial funding for projects to protect peatlands. The agreement also includes $119 million for the SOLUSI (Science, Oceans, Land Use, Society and Innovation) partnership, which includes a variety of environmental initiatives, including a second Tropical Forest Conservation Act agreement, and the Forestry and Climate Support Project (IFACS).

Greenpeace say while they welcome greater cooperation between the US and Indonesia to tackle deforestation, these funds are inadequate when compared with the scale and impact of deforestation in Indonesia. "In addition to increasing this funding, the US must ensure the money is spent wisely, prioritising protection of natural forests, peatlands and the welfare of communities that depend on them," said Rolf Skar, senior campaigner for Greenpeace USA..

At the upcoming United Nations climate talks in Cancun, Indonesia is expected to announce details of the deal it is negotiating with Norway, which offered US$1 billion in forest protection funds earlier this year. Central to the deal is a two-year moratorium on new concessions to destroy forests and peatlands, expected to start 1 January 2011.

"To be effective, the upcoming two-year moratorium must be extended include the millions of hectares of forests already slated for destruction by palm oil and paper companies and in addition, full protection must be given to carbon-rich peatlands," said Bustar Maitar, forest campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia. "As a result companies would have to significantly increase their productivity and only grow plantations on land that has already been deforested. This would be good for the Indonesian economy, its people and the environment."

Millions of hectares of Indonesian rainforests and peatlands have been destroyed since President Obama lived in Indonesia as a child. Driven largely by expansion of plantations for palm oil and pulp and paper, this has made Indonesia the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter, after the US and China.

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