Indonesia Says U.K. Misrepresented Its COP Deforestation Pledge
(Bloomberg) -- Just a day after world leaders announced a major pledge to protect the world’s forests at the COP26 climate summit, one of the most important signatories says it didn’t actually sign up to end deforestation by the end of the decade.
Indonesia, the top producer of palm oil, has pushed back against the conference-host U.K.’s characterization of the agreement, which pledges to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.”
While a U.K. government statement said that was a commitment to end deforestation, Indonesia’s vice foreign minister said his country had only agreed to keep its forest cover steady over the period -- meaning trees could still be cut down and replaced.
The dispute kicked off after Zac Goldsmith, a minister at the U.K. environment department, tweeted on Tuesday that more than 100 countries had signed up to “end deforestation by 2030.” The next day, Indonesia’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Siregar said Goldsmith’s tweet was “false and misleading.”
“Indonesia is willing to engage on forest management at the global level to address climate change,” Siregar said in a statement. “It is important to move beyond mere narrative, rhetoric, arbitrary targets and sound bites.”
The forest pledge is one of dozens of side deals that the U.K. has urged countries to join at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. While it’s backed by $19 billion of public and private finance, it isn’t legally binding.
Indonesia Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said on Twitter that the country’s development agenda must take precedence over the need to combat deforestation, and it was “inappropriate and unfair” to interpret its addition to the pact as a zero-deforestation pledge. The U.K. environment department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Asked about the dispute at a press conference on Thursday, COP26 President Alok Sharma said he wouldn’t discuss specific countries but that all nations had joined pledges “in full understanding of what they are signing up to.”
Forests are part of Indonesia’s “natural wealth” and must be managed for its benefit, while observing principles of sustainability, Bakar said. The country aims to reach carbon neutrality in its forestry sector by 2030. In addition to the country’s behemoth palm oil industry, the government also needs to make way for infrastructure that will connect over 34,000 villages located in forested areas and surrounds.
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