Conservation Report: Indonesia Pushes for Sustainable Development in Mining, Palm and Forestry Sectors

Indonesia’s mining, plantation and forestry sectors said they were committed to implementing sustainable development practices at a stage-setting seminar on environmentally-conscious development on Wednesday.

The seminar, titled “Good Practices in Land-Based Industries: Palm Oil, Mining and Forestry,” was meant to start a dialogue between industries that have historically been accused of damaging the environment and the governments REDD+ taskforce, said taskforce chief Kuntoro Mangkusubroto. These industries need to implement green concepts and increase both regulation and interaction with local residents to ensure that future developments are not environmentally damaging.

“Each sector should have the same obligation to apply good practices,” Kuntoro said. “The private sector should not wait for the government [to push for] change. We should all push together for critical mass.”

According to the press release, Golden Agri Resources’s subsidiary Smart has been working with the Forest Trust to develop sustainable palm oil production methods.

“This method is taking us closer to efforts to eliminate deforestation in palm oil production activities,” Smart president Director Daud Dharsono said.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) said that such collaborations are needed to make agri-business conservation efforts credible.

“The business sector needs to consider a credible and transparent method that can be widely adopted,” Daniel Mudiyarso, a senior scientist with CIFOR, said.

The palm oil industry has instituted measures to reduce carbon emissions since the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was set up in 2001. The organization set out to establish a set of standards for ecological palm oil production. The efforts were heralded as an example that other industries should strive to meet in the REDD+ taskforce press release.

But the RSPO is not without its detractors. Greenpeace alleged that deforestation for palm oil plantations has continued unabated since 2001. And many of the RSPO’s signatories continue to rely on palm oil growers who slash-and-burn forests, convert peatlands to plantations and seize land for poor landowners, Greenpeace said.

The watchdog organization said that the RSPO “risks creating the illusion of sustainable palm oil, justifying the expansion of the palm oil industry.”

A moratorium on deforestation and peatland conversion — one that is actually enforced — is needed to give the Indonesian government time to develop long-term solutions, Greenpeace said. Restoring degraded peatlands and deforested areas could make a substantial impact in Indonesia’s carbon footprint, the group said.

The taskforce will hold an additional meeting in three months to hash-out more concrete solutions, Kuntoro said.

This article was published June 6, 2012 and is courtesy of The Jakarta Globe. Photo from the Orangutan Conservancy files.

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