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Inaction over illegal palm oil in Indonesia’s megadiverse forest estate jeopardises people and planet

Christian Fernsby |
Indonesia’s national forest estate is riddled with illegal palm oil plantations, according to an analysis by Greenpeace Indonesia and Treemap.

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Despite the designated area being off limits to plantations, the analysis has found at least 600 plantation companies have illegal operations set up inside the forest estate, which includes National Parks, Ramsar Convention wetlands and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

These land areas represent some of the highest levels of biodiversity and are critical in tackling the climate crisis.

“This is a clear indication that the Indonesian government is not willing to enforce laws to stop deforestation on public lands or follow through on its climate commitments. Instead it is governing in the interest of corporate elites. Laws and amendments introduced in the last 12 months aim to legalize the plantation sector’s illegal use of Indonesia’s forests and seizing Indigenous Peoples lands.” said Kiki Taufik, the Global Head of Greenpeace’s Indonesian forests campaign.

Greenpeace Indonesia analysis indicates that, as of 2019, oil palm plantings in Indonesia’s forest estate occupied a total of 3.12 million ha, including 183,687 ha of land previously mapped as orangutan habitat, and 148,839 ha of Sumatran tiger habitat.

In addition to these unlawful operations, Greenpeace found 100 Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) member companies are among those operating in the forest estate, some holding up to 10,000 ha each of illegal plantations.

The level of exposure expands to the government-led certification scheme known as Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO),[2] where a quarter of its member companies hold a total of 252,000 ha of plantings in the forest estate an area almost 4 times the size of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta.

ISPO has shown to be no different from the RSPO. Both have allowed member companies to openly operate outside of national laws and regulations. The implications of ISPO inadequacies are severely concerning as the ineffective certification further illustrates the vacuum of governance that exists across permitting agencies.

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