September 4, 2019

Jakarta offers conditional deal to Brussels on palm oil

JAKARTA ( - The Government of Indonesia has officially offered a conditional deal to the EU whereby it will extend collaborations aimed at protecting key wildlife species and ensuring they don't go extinct while, in parallel, the EU must remove the option of implementing the EU Delegated Act which seeks to phase out the use of palm oil-based biofuels.

This offer was delivered on behalf of the Indonesian government in an official letter signed in mid-August by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan. The letter was sent to the President of the European Council and the President of the European Parliament, and forwarded to the President of the EU Commission. 

The letter represents a follow-up to a joint letter signed in early April this year by President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Muhammad, in which the two leaders expressed their strong opposition to the EU delegated act. 

As previously reported by in early May 2019, Senior Minister Luhut had promised to write to the EU about the delegated act and did so in the abovementioned letter signed and sent in mid-August. This constitutes the next official move by the Indonesian government after the joint letter. 

Only stronghold for key species 

Senior Minister Luhut firmly stated in his letter that Indonesia is the only nation on earth which is home to so many key wildlife species - such as orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos - in a variety of landscapes, and as such it is instrumental in protecting them and guaranteeing their survival.

An example of one of the landscapes mentioned by the senior minister is the Leuser Ecosystem, the majority of which lies in Sumatra's Aceh province. This is the only place on earth where these key wildlife species cohabitate in a huge ecosystem. 

The photos below show part of the peat forests in the Leuser Ecosystem, which spans in excess of 2.6 million hectares - equivalent to more than 797 times the area of ​​Brussels - and is inhabited by orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhino. 

“With this mind, we would like to reaffirm that the Indonesian government is the EU’s only global partner when it comes to ensuring that these key Sumatran wildlife species will not face extinction,” was among the statements conveyed in the letter.

The senior minister’s letter also pointed out that in addition to Indonesia having the only ecosystem on earth that plays host to these key wildlife species, it is also home to the greatest population and widest habitat of Bornean orangutans in the world.

Senior Minister Luhut explained in the letter that key Sumatran and Bornean wildlife species are not only living in conservation areas and protection forests, but also in areas set aside by forestry and palm oil companies in their concessions.

Given these facts, the letter went on to express confidence that further collaborations with the EU can take place provided that the stipulated condition is met. 

“While we remain very enthusiastic about extending our collaboration with the EU in preventing the extinction of key Sumatran and Bornean wildlife species, this requires that the EU act in parallel by removing the option of implementing the EU Delegated Act.”

In early August this year, President Joko Widodo signed a permanent moratorium on granting permits for primary forests and peatlands, covering an area greater than 66 million hectares, or equal to more than 21 times the size of Belgium.

The President's move, which has been widely praised by US-based global research organization WRI, the Norwegian government and CIFOR among others, has already had a significant impact in protecting key wildlife species ."