JAKARTA, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says he will dedicate the final three years of his presidency to protect his country's rainforest.
Indonesia has the world's third largest area of tropical forest after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo but it is losing about 1.1 million hectares of forest a year, mostly due to logging for the conversion of forests to plantations for palm oil and to supply the pulp and paper industry. Since 1950 Indonesia has lost more than 46 percent of its forests.
Illegal logging costs the country an estimated $4 billion a year.
While globally deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, in Indonesia that figure is up to 85 percent, making it one of the highest emitters in the world.
Speaking at the Forests Indonesia Conference this week, Yudhoyono said that Indonesia remained steadfast in its 2009 pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 41 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2020.
"I call upon our business leaders, particularly those in the palm oil, pulp wood and mining sectors, to partner with us by enhancing the environmental sustainability of their operations," Yudhoyono said.
As a developing country, Indonesia must find a balance between economic growth and conservation, he said.
"We must change the way we treat our forests so that they are conserved even as we drive hard to accelerate our economic growth."
In May, Yudhoyono issued a two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions. Government initiatives also include a campaign to plant at least 1 billion new trees each year and programs to boost agricultural productivity.
And last year Norway committed up to $1 billion in assistance funds in 2014 should Indonesia be successful in reducing levels of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions under REDD+, an internationally agreed mechanism for compensating countries that reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
"We strongly encourage other countries to support the work that President Yudhoyono and the government of Indonesia is doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," said Erik Solheim, Norway's minister for the Environment and International Development at the conference.
But environmentalists are doubtful that Indonesia will be able to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.
"Although the Indonesian government listed forestry as pivotal to the efforts of reducing emissions…the forest conditions have not gotten better," said Yuyun Indradi, forest campaigner from South East Asia Greenpeace, the Jakarta Globe reports.