Hot air: Scepticism over Indonesia’s COP26 deforestation pledges

As the COP26 climate change conference continues into its second and final week in Glasgow, a pledge signed by more than 100 countries to reverse deforestation by the end of 2030 has won widespread acclaim.


Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia and Indonesia, which together account for 85 percent of the world’s forests, are among the signatories to the agreement, which also comes with a promise of $19bn in financial assistance.


But while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is leading the summit, has called the agreement “unprecedented”, not everyone is celebrating.


“In our opinion, the initial commitment to reduce deforestation is positive, but it must be accompanied by concrete actions,” Uli Arta Siagian, a forestry and plantations campaigner at WALHI (the Indonesian Forum for the Environment), told Al Jazeera.


“The problem is that this commitment is contradictory to what is being done by state officials in Indonesia.”


Forests extend to about 920,000sq km (355,214sq miles) across the Southeast Asian archipelago and have long been under pressure from illegal logging and land clearance, primarily for agricultural plantations producing palm oil as well as pulp and paper. About 10 percent of primary forest cover has been lost since 2001, according to Global Forest Watch.


Critics say officials have watered down domestic legislation and failed to take action against those found to be contributing to deforestation, even as they have promised to protect the forests.


Last week, as part of a speech on deforestation at COP26, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, said that Indonesia, one of the world’s most biodiverse and resource-rich countries, is “committed to protecting … critical carbon sinks and our natural capital for future generations”.


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