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Open letter to the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the occasion of his visit to the United Kingdom

London, 31st of October 2012

Conservation of the rainforest

Dear President Yudhoyono,

SBY_JoergMeier

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

photo: Jörg Meier

On the occasion of your visit to Europe, we write this open letter appealing to you to support the conservation of the rainforest with all your power and to protect the inhabitants of forested lands as well as their rights.

Industrial logging, the establishment of palm-oil plantations, and the planting of fast-growing species of trees such as acacia for the wood and paper industries are the major causes of rainforest destruction in Indonesia. Your country is already the largest producer of palm oil in the world and one of the largest exporters of wood, cellulose, and paper products. Oil palm monocultures already cover 9,000,000 hectares of land. Additional millions of hectares have already been logged in preparation for future plantations. And it doesn’t stop there. The industry wants to expand the palm plantations even further to cover a grand total of 20,000,000 hectares of land.

Due to the clearcutting of rainforest and peat forests in Indonesia, the country has become the world’s third-largest CO2 emitter in recent years, making it one of the largest global polluters. A recent study conducted at Yale University found that the Indonesian oil palm industry alone — as a consequence of the encroachment of the plantations into forested areas and the resulting destruction of natural carbon sinks — puts more environmentally damaging CO2 into the atmosphere each year than the entire nation of Canada.

Indonesia is thus negating efforts to lower the global emission of carbon, an endeavour your country supported in its role as host to the UN’s Bali Climate Change Conference in 2007. You yourself signed a moratorium on clearcutting in May 2011 covering all of Indonesia’s territories. But without regular monitoring of the forest and strict criminal enforcement in the event of environmental destruction, these efforts are nothing more than a paper tiger without the teeth that are needed to prevent the continued destruction of the Indonesian rainforest.

The consequence is a grave threat to the diversity of wildlife on the planet. Indonesia’s ecosystems are unique and contain rare and endangered species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has named the spreading of palm oil monocultures in Indonesia as the most serious threat to the survival of rare species such as orang-utans and the last remaining Sumatran tigers. At the Bali Conference in 2007, you remarked: “If we wish to protect the orang-utans, we must protect the forests.” We implore you to back up your words with the necessary action. The fate of many of the world’s endangered species lies in your hands, Mr. President.

The destruction of the rainforest and expansion of industrial plantations in Indonesia is also disturbing the peace in your country. As an environmental organization, we are in direct contact with civil organizations, indigenous minorities, and representatives of small farming communities in Indonesia. Their human and property rights are being violated in the most egregious manner. This includes access to water and the ability of the impacted communities to obtain adequate nourishment. Hundreds of incidents of social unrest have been documented in connection with the palm oil industry.

Therefore we wish to appeal to your national and global responsibility as the President of the Republic of Indonesia. We call on you to immediately and thoroughly enforce the ban on clearcutting you have signed to save the earth’s climate, Indonesia’s wilderness, and the very social fabric of your nation. Stop the expansion of the oil palm monoculture and industrial tree plantations now, before it is too late!

Respectfully,

- Biofuel Watch, United Kingdom
- BOS Deutschland e.V., Berlin, Germany
- Borus Jarosch und Maik Schäffer, The Environmentalists e.V., Berlin, Germany
- Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF), Basel, Schweiz
- Center for Encounter and active Non-Violence, Bad Ischl, Austria
- Dritte-Welt-Kreis Panama e.V., Herdecke, Germany
- ecodevelop. Aktion für ökologische Entwicklung, Berlin, Germany
- Freunde der Naturvölker e.V., Lüneburg, Germany
- Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV) – Society of Threatened People, Göttingen, Germany
- Pro Wildlife e.V., München, Germany
- Regenwald-Institut e.V. – Institut für angewandten Regenwaldschutz, Freiburg, Germany
- Rettet den Regenwald e.V. (Rainforest Rescue), Hamburg, Germany
- Robin Wood e.V., Hamburg, Germany
- Save Wildlife Conservation Fund, Germany
- Watch Indonesia!, Berlin, Germany

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