Jakarta - The destruction of Indonesia's peatland forests is continuing unstopped despite the government's pledge to halt it, according to a report by environmental group Greenpeace's issued Monday. Greenpeace claims an unregulated industry and "toothless government rules" are to blame.
A Greenpeace team last month revisited an area of Sumatra's Riau province where it had monitored palm oil expansion in 2007 to find that further large tracts of peatland forest had been destroyed inside concession areas which had not been granted permits.
In a letter to provincial governors in Indonesia at December's Bali Climate Change Conference, the country's minister for agriculture called for a stop to any new permits for palm oil in the peatland ecosystem.
Greenpeace said in its report that peatland forest destruction was continuing as the Indonesian government was sending out mixed messages.
Hapsoro, a Greenpeace campaigner, said an investigation into a Duta Palma had found the company was still clearing, draining and burning peatland.
He called on the Indonesian government to "give teeth to their Bali commitment to save the forests and tackle climate change by urgently putting in place measures to regulate the palm oil industry."
Indonesia's peatlands are some of the richest stores of carbon in the world, and their destruction is one of the most reckless and avoidable contributions to global warming, Hapsoro said.
Greenpeace's report, entitled Cooking the Climate, shows how companies including Unilever, Nestle and Procter & Gamble are driving the destruction of Indonesia's peatlands to satisfy growing demand for palm oil used in food, cosmetics and fuel.
The group said forest destruction is responsible for approximately 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while destruction of Indonesia's peatland forests alone accounts for 4 per cent of global annual emissions, placing the country third in the global rankings behind the US and China.
Hapsoro said the Indonesian government and the palm oil industry should heed the growing European rejection of Indonesian palm oil.
"Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Italy have all recently taken measures to limit destructively sourced Indonesian palm oil from getting onto their markets," he said, adding that only in the last few weeks Belgium's Antwerp province has refused to grant environmental permits for the construction of two palm oil power plants on grounds that they would be "unsustainable."
"Now is the time to put in place a real moratorium on logging, conversion and drainage of the peatlands. This is the first simple step the government can take to stop the rampant destruction of Indonesia's forests and tackle climate change," Hapsoro said.