Indonesia’s President has signed a moratorium, (a temporary prohibition of an activity) on all new oil palm plantation development, an official said on Thursday (Sept 20), in a move initiated by environmentalists.
The moratorium pauses any new land being made available for plantations in the world’s top producer of the edible vegetable oil, a key ingredient in many everyday goods, from biscuits, cakes, shampoo and cosmetics.
President Joko Widodo signed the instruction, which will last a minimum of three years, on Wednesday.
“The moratorium is to improve the governance of sustainable oil palm plantations, provide legal certainty, increase the productivity of smallholder oil palm plantations, maintain environmental sustainability and contribute to the reduction in greenhouse gases,” he told AFP in a WhatsApp message.
Plantations on the Indonesian Sumatra island, Papua and the Indonesian part of Borneo have expanded in recent years as demand for palm oil has skyrocketed, bringing huge profits to companies and tax revenues to the government.
The palm oil growth has been blamed for the destruction of tropical forests that are home to many endangered species, and forest fires that occur every year during the dry season due to illegal slash-and-burn clearance.
The moratorium was first proposed in 2015, following devastating fires that covered large stretches of South-east Asia in toxic smog for weeks.
A moratorium on conversions of new peat lands was established in 2011 to improve management and reduce fires, but campaigners say this is sometimes ignored when local governments grant concessions.
In 2015, the government banned new development on all peat lands after swathes of carbon-rich peat were drained for use as plantations in recent years, creating highly flammable areas.
The decision comes as Indonesia and Malaysia battle a move by the European Parliament to ban the use of palm oil in biofuels.
The EU Parliament voted earlier this year in favour of a draft law on renewable energy which calls for the banning of palm oil in biofuels from 2030, due to the accumulating concerns about its impact on the environment.
Indonesia and Malaysia will be hard hit economically as they are the world’s top exporters of palm oil.
Can Thailand follow in Indonesia’s footsteps, and stop the burning of their crops?
View the original article here