FRANCE24 TV : Paris Climate Summit

02 December 2015

FRANCE24 TV interview with Wimar Witoelar. Condensed transcript.


FRANCE24: Welcome to Wimar Witoelar, spokesperson for Indonesia's Minister for the  Environment and Forestry. In terms of deforestation it's often a blame game. Who is responsible ? 

Wimar: Well I will not take part in the blame game. Now tahere is consensus that we should take part in the solution. Part of that has been put in place in the President's speech yesterday when he announced firm measures to minimize the risk of fires originating in peatland. He put  severe restrictions on the use of peatland. No permits are now given for the use of peatland, and no activities are allowed on land where issues have been permitted. In other words, a moratorium is in effect immediately. As we know most of the fires start in peatland, and that is because the peat has been allowed to dry up. Peat and water have to go together. When peat is dry it becomes volatile and facilitates burning. Legal prosecution is underway of companies which are alleged to be complicit in deliberate starting of fires. Some of these companies start the fires intentionally as part of their annual practice of land clearing to make way for new plantations.The third action is very important. This is the launch of an Agency for the Restoration of Peat Ecosystem. With these three measures it is clear that we are not talking about blame but about concerted action. 

FRANCE24: There is a lot of talking about palm oil plantations. But there is a lot of criticism that the government has no teeth in enforcing these regulations.

Wimar: The criticism is valid because this has been going on in several governments starting with the Suharto government back in 2006 which started the trouble by the project to dry up a million hectares of peatland for the purpose of making rice fields. Ever since then successive governments have looked the other way. But this government is only one year old and ever since Day One it has focused on better management of peatlands and forests. You can hardly blame them for the crimes of past governments. In fact they were elected to fix the problem. Now we are giving them a chance to make good on their promises.

FRANCE24: I understand that there is to be a 29 percent reduction in carbon emissions or 41 percent with international assistance. How would Indonesia use financial assistance in combating deforestation?

Wimar: Well, this has already started with Norway support of our REDD+ project . But that has gone slowly because it's done by just one agency. Now the whole government is making the effort by integrating the Ministries of Environment and Forestry. There used to be two Ministries which were more or less acting in confrontation.

FRANCE24: In terms of economic management it is a difficult balance in Indonesia between the money coming in from palm oil exports and forest conservation. There is a lot of corruption inside the government. How do you solve the problem when it is inside the government?

Wimar: By doing what the government is doing now. By prosecuting companies that are alleged to have started the fires, which they could not have done without bribing government officials. In fact some local officials have already been sentenced to jail. President Jokowi is not just fighting fires. He is fighting corruption. He is fighting the fires by fighting corruption.

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