Indonesia’s Forests in Flames as Jokowi and Obama Meet in Advance of Paris Climate Talks

22 October 2015

With haze dominating news, Indonesian President heads to US to highlight nation’s efforts to stem destruction of world’s third-largest stretch of tropical forests

Indonesia’s president—the country’s third democratically elected leader—hopes to make climate protection part of his legacy, much like U.S. President Barak Obama. Though Jokowi has taken steps to protect forests and peatlands under threat from palm oil growers, miners and pulp and paper producers, massive forest fires spewing smoke and unleashing carbon pollution across the country threaten to tarnish his reputation on climate. Soon after the fires started in September, Jokowi arrested seven palm oil executives responsible for starting the flames, a tactic they use to clear forests for new crops. He has also made moves to protect the rights of millions of the country’s indigenous people, many of whom are locked in conflict with commodities companies to protect the forests they rely on for food and incomes. Jokowi and Obama are expected to discuss Indonesia’s climate crisis during their visit on October 26.   

When:     23 October, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Where:    The Embassy Row Hotel, 2015 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC
                Roosevelt Room
Who:       Wimar Witoelar, Leading commentator on Indonesian environmental and policy issues, and former presidential spokesman under past president Abdurrahman Wahid (1999-2001)

The event will address the following questions:

  • Do Obama and Jokowi see eye to eye on the climate? How do their climate policies and approaches differ? How are these similar?
  • What does the roll back of palm oil companies’ zero deforestation policies mean for Indonesia’s climate efforts? How does this affect the country’s ability to stem deforestation?
  • How does Indonesia’s climate pledge (INDC) measure up? What does Jokowi want out of the Paris talks?
  • Why are Indonesia’s indigenous people locked in a battle with palm oil producers, miners and pulp and paper companies over forests?
  • Indonesia has good example of Sungai Tohor communities in re-wetting peatland and sago farming. This would be an excellent initiative to prevent future fire and haze problems. How could international communities support this?
  • What is the state of Indonesia’s forests?


About Wimar Witoelar
Wimar Witoelar started out in teaching and research at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). He is now adjunct professor at Deakin University (Australia). With three university degrees including an MBA in finance and investments, he became a management consultant, serving clients ranging from the Asian Development Bank to Indonesian government agencies and private sector companies. He is best known as a media personality. Wimar is pioneering citizen tv with the series 'tvTWO' on YouTube, He started a public affairs interview program on radio, 'Perspektif Baru' (new perspectives) which has grown into a nationally syndicated talk show with about 150 member stations and full-page transcripts in 13 newspapers. He has written numerous articles and is frequently quoted in prominent international publications, as well as several published books. Wimar is an avid blogger and active in social media, with over 350,000 followers on Twitter and the maximum 5000 on Facebook.

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