New data from NASA and the World Resources Institute (WRI) show that peat fires are again burning in Sumatra, yet both leading presidential contenders are ignoring the issue of climate change, says a top official.
Yesterday WRI highlighted a return of haze-causing fires in Sumatra’s Riau Province, noting a sharp jump in hotspots in the districts of Bengkalis, Rokan Hilir and Pelalawan. The fires are concentrated in peatlands that have been drained and degraded for pulp and paper and oil palm plantations.
While the fires are a source of regional political tension as well as a major driver of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions, neither of the leading presidential candidates, Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa and Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Jusuf Kalla, have detailed plans to continuing the country’s climate change mitigation programs, according to National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) secretary Agus Purnomo.
“The presidential candidates [have] shown almost no commitment to reducing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, which had been on the government’s agenda since 2009,” wrote The Jakarta Post.
Global Forest Watch maps showing recent NASA hotspots in Riau.
Greenpeace Indonesia shared Purnomo’s sentiment.
“Neither candidate has shown an interest in improving the environment,” Longgena Ginting, head of Greenpeace Indonesia, was quoted as saying by Mongabay-Indonesia. “Both still emphasize the dependence on extractive industries as the mainstay of state revenues.”
Deforestation, forest degradation from logging, damage to peatlands, and fire account for more than three-quarters of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions. In dry el Niño years, when vast areas of forest are vulnerable to fire, these sources can catapult Indonesia into the world’s top three emitters.
With el Niño conditions currently building, there are mounting concerns that the next several months could be particularly bad for fires and haze in Indonesia.
Indonesia’s presidential election takes place July 9.