More Indonesian rainforest to be razed for EU palm oil

Stealthily the Indonesian agriculture ministry on 16 February lifted the moratorium that had banned the clear-felling of peat forests for oil palm plantations since December 2007. Covered by rainforest, the moors are a vast repository of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Measured by its emission of greenhouse gases Indonesia is the third-biggest climate aggressor worldwide. The main drivers are clear-felling of rainforest and forest and peat fires, less the burning of fossil fuels. At the 2007 UN climate conference in Bali und the 2008 G7 summit in Japan the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, promised to halve the forest-related CO2 emissions in 2009.


"Shortly after the European Union gave the green light for agrofuel from palm oil, the Indonesian government drops its mask," states Klaus Schenck of the German organization Rainforest Rescue (Rettet den Regenwald). "Encouraged by the agrofuel targets of the EU the Indonesian government is banking on the expansion of oil palm plantations at the expense of the peat moors in the rainforest."


On 17 December the European Parliament passed a Renewable Energies Directive that provides for massive imports of palm oil into the EU. With that the EU creates incentives to turn peat moors into monocultures. The EU commission has even declared as invalid German limits on counting palm oil in agrofuel quotas and on subsidies.


"When peat moors are destroyed for oil palm plantations it is a catastrophe for the climate," says Marianne Klute of Watch Indonesia!. "The lifting of the moratorium shows how little Indonesia cares about its pledges to protect the climate."


Conversion of a hectare of Indonesian peat moor rainforest into an oil plantation emits up to 6,000 tonnes of CO2. It would take up to 840 years for palm oil diesel produced on this area to have any climate-benefitting effect. Clear-felling and burn-off of peat moor areas emits two billion tones of CO2 per year. Compared with that, the EU aims to avoid about 850 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually up to 2020, based on the 1990 figures.


Rettet den Regenwald and Watch Indonesia! demand that the Indonesian government reverse its decision immediately and to effectively protect the remaining peat moor and rainforest areas. "An EU policy that provides for clear-felling rainforests and destroying the CO2-storing peat does not deserve the label ‘climate protection'," they charge.


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