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25 October 2015

With an announcement on Thursday that he will freeze all permits on peatland development for palm oil, President Jokowi of Indonesia took dramatic steps in response to the fires that are engulfing several of the nation’s island provinces.

The embattled president, strengthened by supporters with civil society and indigenous peoples who helped elect him, seems to have committed to measures that challenge both regional authorities and palm oil industry that has been working to undermine his authority—even within the cabinet itself.

This means he will arrive in DC armed with evidence he has acted to end the causes of the fires and emissions that are set to surpass those of the US and embarrassing his administration.  In addition to freezing permits for exploiting peatlands, Jokowi ordered the adoption of a “one-map policy,” an initiative that weaves together the maps of various agencies, as well as those of indigenous peoples, establishing transparency concerning who is doing what and where. And making clear the areas claimed by indigenous groups that have been fighting concessions on their customary lands.

Wimar Witoelar imagines Jokowi would suggest to Obama that his administration’s actions show he is serious about slowing carbon emissions in the lead up to the climate change conference.  Jokowi may not commit to mitigating climate change as a target, but Witeolar argues that his commitments to indigenous supporters and smallholder farmers add up to the same.

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