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Degraded peatland in Pulang Pisau

Impressed by fast progress in peatland conservation

In 2017, journalist Asle Olav Rønning from the Norwegian publication «Bistandsaktuelt» visited Indonesia to cover the work carried out on peatlands. Following Mr. Rønning's visit, the Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta had three of his articles translated into English. This is the second of them. The article was published in September 2017.

– A reduction in the number of fires in the forest and in peatlands is absolutely essential if Indonesia is to succeed in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, says Norway’s climate and environment minister Vidar Helgesen. He is impressed by fast progress in peatland conservation.

By Asle Olav Rønning

Indonesia ranks with countries like Brazil and The Democratic Republic of Congo as important partners in Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative. Mr. Helgesen praises the Indonesian authorities for carrying out immediate measures after the catastrophic fires in 2015. He highlights the work done to conserve the peatlands.

– Considering that the Indonesian peatland agency was only established last year, I am impressed by what Indonesia has already achieved in many of the priority provinces, Mr. Helgesen says in an email to Bistandsaktuelt.

He points out that the Indonesian authorities, in addition to planning measures for peatland conservation on a large scale, also have strengthened the general preparedness to handle forest fires.

– We will only see how well they have succeeded in prioritising and follow-through when the next extreme drought period sets in. However, there is no doubt that this work is a high priority for the authorities, says Mr. Helgesen.

Support to peatland conservation Norwegian aid money has contributed quite significantly to financing the initial steps. Peatland conservation measures have rapidly become the most tangible part of the climate and forest partnership between Indonesia and Norway. In 2017, Norway provided USD 45 million (NOK 375 million) to forest and peatland conservation efforts in Indonesia, including support to the Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG).

Additionaly, several NGOs working in Indonesia benefits from Norwegian support to peatland conservation.

Painful economic shift

The Norwegian climate minster has an optimistic view when it comes to the future of Indonesia’s tropical rainforest, which is the third largest in the world. Forests are among Indonesia’s most valuable natural resources.

Mr. Helgesen points out that it is no doubt a challenge for Indonesia to shift towards a more sustainable use of forest resources, with less carbon emissions.

– Not all parts of Indonesian agriculture and forestry are equally sustainable, and it is no secret that many might wish to continue as in the past, Mr. Helgesen says.

However, he underscores that several governors in forest rich provinces are now making sustainable development more of a priority than before. He also commends the political will of Ms. Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry.