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Indonesia rejects, delays 1.3m ha of concessions due to moratorium

Area of permits denied under Indonesia's forest moratorium.Background image courtesy of Bing Maps.

The Indonesian government has rejected nearly 932,000 hectares (2.3 million acres) of oil palm, timber, and logging concessions due to its moratorium on new permits across millions of hectares of peatlands and rainforests, reports Mongabay-Indonesia.

According to data released by Indonesia’s new REDD+ Agency and the Ministry of Forestry, permits for an additional 409,000 hectares (1 million acres) are held up pending review.

Of the permits denied under the enforcement of the country’s moratorium, 25 percent of the area belonged to a single company — PT Usaha Tani Lestari — operating in Nabire in Indonesian New Guinea. Sulawesi accounted for half the area of rejected permits.

Just under half the area of rejected permits was off-limits under the moratorium, but because companies applied for single operating units that included moratorium areas, their concessions were denied in whole.

Permits covering 255,000 hectares in Papua and 154,000 ha in North Kalimantan, Indonesia’s newest province, were delayed.

The moratorium is the centerpiece of the Indonesian government’s push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, more than 80 percent of which result from deforestation and degradation of carbon-dense peatlands. The moratorium was signed after Norway pledged a billion dollars toward Indonesia’s deforestation-reduction plan. Norway’s payment is contingent on Indonesia’s success in reducing forest loss.

The moratorium, which put some 14.5 million hectares of previously unprotected forests off-limits to conversion, was fiercely opposed by interests in the forestry sector, especially Indonesia’s powerful palm oil industry. Lobbying by plantation and logging companies led to the moratorium being heavily watered down from what was originally envisioned by Norway. The moratorium includes significant carve-outs for mining and agroindustrial projects. It also exempts concessions granted prior to May 2011, when the moratorium went into effect.

Nonetheless, the moratorium represents an important development in efforts to protect Indonesia’s forests which have in recent decades suffered from large-scale conversion for oil palm estates, timber plantations, and industrial agriculture. The country lost nearly half of its forest cover since 1950.

Editor’s note: the original version referred to “Indonesia’s new REDD+ Task Force” instead of “Indonesia’s new REDD+ Agency”.

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