Thursday, December 2, 2021

Asia’s deforestation leaders withdraw from global deforestation pact

Asian countries with some of the world’s largest annual rainforest losses have either not joined a new global pact to end deforestation by the end of the decade or have raised doubts about their post-signing commitments.

More than 120 countries joined the Glasgow Declaration of Leaders on Forests and Land Management on November 2 at the UN Climate Conference COP26 in Scotland.

The non-binding agreement commits them to “work together to stop and reverse forest loss and land degradation” – the main cause of global warming – by 2030, with about $ 19 billion in public and private funding is in the works to help developing countries to complete the work. …

Collectively, Southeast Asia is home to nearly 15% of the world’s rainforest, which climate activists value for the amount of global warming carbon they can store. But most countries in the region have yet to join the COP26 pact, including Laos and Malaysia; both countries were ranked in the top ten countries in the world for extinction of primeval rainforests last year, according to a US research group from the World Resources Institute. Cambodia, which ranks 11 on the WRI list, also did not sign.

Signals Malaysia

After being rebuked by local opposition parties and human rights groups for her lack of promise, Malaysia announced Friday it would join the deal, but did not say when.

After the November 3 announcement was made without Malaysia, local MP Charles Santiago called the country’s absence “a tragedy” on his Twitter account. Speaking with Voice of America, he said it is imperative that the government fulfills its pledge to sign, blaming growing forest loss in the country for increased damage from recent floods and looting of endangered wildlife from their habitats.

Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia are the two largest producers of palm oil in the world, a cash crop that spans vast tracts of land often outside deforested forests and peatlands, another rich carbon sink. WRI data show they lost a total of 343,000 hectares in 2020, more than double the area of ​​greater London.

Santiago said Malaysia’s influential business interests will almost certainly prevent the country from meeting its 2030 target if it does join. But he argued that Malaysia must register, no matter what, to give the country something to strive for and access the international funding it can unblock.

“As a country, we have to make a decision … should we continue the way we do it, or [whether] we need to really take control of deforestation, especially oil palm [and] construction, ”he said.

Indonesia hesitates

Environmental groups fear business interests could ultimately undermine the declaration in Indonesia as well.

The vast archipelago is also in the top 10 of the WRI list, and has cut more virgin rainforest in 2020 than Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia combined.

President Joko Widodo signed the COP26 agreement in Glasgow on November 2. However, a day later, Indonesia’s Environment Minister, City Nurbaya Bakar, called the commitment to zero deforestation by 2030 “inappropriate and unfair,” which called into question the country’s capabilities. intentions to comply with the terms of the transaction.

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“Forcing Indonesia to achieve zero deforestation in 2030 is clearly inappropriate and unfair,” she said in a Facebook post.

“The massive development of President Djokovi’s era should not stop because of carbon emissions or in the name of deforestation,” she added, referring to the president by his usual nickname.

In a statement the next day, conservation organization Greenpeace called the minister’s remarks “deeply disappointing.”

“For Indonesia, it is a shame to have an Environment Minister who supports large-scale development with a clear potential for environmental destruction. Rather than ensuring that we are protecting the planet for future generations, we are doing the opposite, ”said Kiki Taufik, head of the group’s forestry campaign in Indonesia.

On Friday, however, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told the Guardian that Indonesia’s stated goal of zero net forest loss by 2030 – replacing annual deforestation with as much or more new forests – is effectively in line with the COP26 pact.

Indonesian Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar explained the country’s goal of zero forest loss in a statement Thursday.

Mixed messages

Arif Vijaya, WRI’s senior manager for Indonesia, told VOA that all this talk creates some confusion as to what the declaration actually obliges countries.

He said the Long-Term Climate Strategy, which Indonesia presented to the United Nations in July, commits the country not to clean up zero forest loss, but net zero emissions from forests and land use by 2030. This will cut down more forests and peatlands than it replaces or rebuilds by the end of the decade, if what it replaces and rebuilds captures at least as much carbon as it emits.

Arif said Indonesia will be required to drastically reduce forest loss in the coming years and at least steer the country “towards the COP26 promise” and put it on a “trajectory towards zero deforestation.”

Indonesia and Malaysia have been reducing annual forest loss over the past few years. This does not apply to all of Southeast Asia. Cambodia’s losses in 2020 remained roughly stable after rising a year earlier. Losses in Laos have been on the rise for the past two years and peaked in 2020 since WRI began tracking them in 2001.

Research shows that the rainforests of Southeast Asia as a whole are the main source of carbon, Arif added, and each country has a role to play.

“If we believe that continental Southeast Asia … is in fact a belt of rainforest, and this is important for the global climate, temperature, etc., then any country must commit to and contribute to reducing deforestation and sustainable management of their forests, ”he said. said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Laos and the Ministry of the Environment of Cambodia did not respond to VOA’s requests for comment.

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