Indonesia Sustainable Development News Digest

Starling Resource produces a bi-weekly Indonesia Sustainable Development News Digest email for circulation to a broader cohort of practitioners, funders, and experts. The purpose of the digest is to present readers with a brief, easily digestible summary of significant, recent news items, reports, and papers relevant to conservation, sustainable development, and the environment in Indonesia, compiled from domestic Indonesian and international media sources. The digest is produced once every two weeks throughout the year. If you are interested in receiving the digest, please let us know by email at or subscribe here

News Digest
6th Edition :  28 March 2018

Marine & Fisheries

Indonesia demonstrates that overcoming IUU fishing can kick-start fisheries recovery
— Raniel B Cabral et al., Nature Ecology & Evolution 20 March 2018
A recent paper by Reniel B. Cabral, Abdul Gofar, Steven Gaines and Christopher Costello in Nature Ecology & Evolution says the example of Indonesia demonstrates that for countries where illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is prevalent, addressing illegal fishing can kick-start fishery recovery without reducing local fishing effort, catch and profit.  Using skipjack tuna as a model, the paper showed that curtailing IUU fishing combined with capping harvest at its maximum sustainable level could increase catch by 14% and profit by 15% from current levels by 2035, compared to the business as usual scenario, projected to reduce catch by 59% and profit by 64%. Starting from late 2014, Indonesia adopted controversial policies that resulted in the sinking of 318 illegal fishing vessels, banning of all foreign-owned and foreign-made vessels, and the restriction on transfers of fish at sea.  As a result, foreign fishing dropped by more than 90% and total fishing fell by 25%.

Indonesia prepares for US Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP)
— Budiarti Utami Putri, 15 March 2018
Indonesian Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Susi Pudjiastuti, met with US fishery officials in Boston, Massachusetts to discuss implementation of the new US seafood import monitoring program (SIMP).  The program will require detailed records establishing the chain of custody of the fish or other seafood products entering the US market.  Minister Susi guaranteed the accuracy of Indonesia’s fish export record-keeping, citing efforts to crack down illegal fishing. It was originally feared that the SIMP would have negative effects on Indonesia’s shrimp and prawn export industries, which are mostly made up of small businesses. President of the National Fisheries Institute John Connelly suggested that US fishery companies should provide assistance to the exporting countries in order to increase their export capacity. John Henderschedt of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) promised that the NOAA would provide sufficient assistance to enable Indonesia to prepare.

Three seafood funds seek to establish an investment trend in sustainable fisheries
— Carol J Clouse, Impact Alpha 21 March 2018
Three fund managers committed to sustainable management of wild catch fisheries have Joined with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to develop Principles for Investment in Sustainable Wild-Caught Fisheries, to help attract capital from investors.  These include requiring that fisheries meet all national and international fishing laws, understand the environmental status of the waters they work in, analyze future environmental risks, and use transparent sourcing systems.  Participating fund managers include Encourage Capital, a New York-based impact investment firm, Rare, which runs the Meloy Fund, and Althelia Ecosphere. Other organizations which have adopted the principles include Conservation International, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, and Zoma Capital.  Sourcing investment-ready deals remains a challenge as much of the sustainable fishing industry consists of small scale artisanal and coastal fishing enterprises.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry wins OpenGov Award
—  Muhammad Razu Rahman, Antara News 26 March 2018
The Ministry Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) received an OpenGov Recognition Award during the 2018 Indonesia Leadership Forum organized by OpenGov Asia. OpenGov is a digital platform which tracks good governance in Asia and the Pacific, focusing on the use of information and communication technology. OpenGov Asia’s group managing director and editor-in-chief, Mohit Sagar said the ministry has successfully taken advantage of information and communication technology, particularly in eradicating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF). The award will hopefully encourage the ministry to take greater advantage of information and communication technology to improve performance and pursue transparency, accountability, efficiency and better public services, the ministry’s secretary general, Rifky Effendi Hardijanto said in a press statement released on Sunday.

Forestry & Land Use

UK defies EU over Indonesian palm oil trade, leaked papers show
— Arthur Nelsen, Guardian 9 March 2018
Leaked diplomatic papers show that the UK is defying EU institutions to push for a hike in nominally “sustainable” Indonesian palm oil imports which have nonetheless been linked to deforestation, the Guardian reported.  The leaked document seen by the Guardian calls for a planned EU-Indonesia trade deal known as CEPA to “boost” palm oil production. It advocates an “ambitious chapter” on sustainable trade, covering “primarily the production of palm oil”, arguing that global demand for sustainable palm would allow a doubling of supply. The UK’s new approach, which is supported by Denmark, France and the Netherlands, would increase Indonesian palm exports, according to Paul de Clerck of Friends of the Earth Europe. “Indonesia wants full market access for palm oil that complies only with weak and ineffective certification schemes… [this] will increase deforestation, conflicts with local communities and human rights violations,” de Clerck said. The report said UK officials have previously described Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) standard as having “a credibility issue.”

Indonesia wins appeal against EU over anti-dumping duties on biodiesel
— Rachmadea Aisyah and Viriya P. Singgih, The Jakarta Post 22 March 2018
Indonesian palm oil producers could start exporting biodiesel to European countries again after Jakarta won an appeal against the EU over the bloc’s anti-dumping duty.  The European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court, ruled that the anti-dumping duties of between 8.8% to 23.3% on imports of Indonesian biofuel products in place since 2013 must be removed.  The EU court ruling reinforces a previous decision by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which said the EU needed to bring its trade measures into conformity with WTO agreements.  Indonesia also plans to challenge new US anti-subsidy duties on Indonesian biofuels in the US courts and at the WTO.

Environmental damage, social conflicts overshadow future of Indonesia’s palm oil sector
— Ratri M. Siniwi and Muhammad Al Azhari, Jakarta Globe, 21 March 2018
Palm oil accounts for 12% ($17.8 billion) of Indonesia’s total export revenues, however the industry has been accused of causing deforestation, environmental degradation, and human rights violations such as land disputes and child labor. “This is a real black campaign, involving conflicts of interests, and deriving from trade competition,” said Bayu Krisnamurthi, former Deputy Minister of Trade and Agriculture, who now heads the Indonesian Society of Agricultural Economics.  Petrus Gunarso, a member of the Indonesian Forestry Scholars Association (Persaki), argues that most palm oil plantations were previously rubber plantations – degraded forest which is not part of the country’s Forest Estate (kawasan hutan) – and is therefore not characterized as deforestation under Indonesian law. A report, commissioned by the Indonesian Business Council for Sustainable Development (IBCSD) and published by Daemeter, concluded that social conflicts’ tangible costs ranged from US$70,000 to US$2.5 million, often driven by supply disruptions, while intangible costs can range from US$600,000 to US$9 million, often due to reputational losses.

Will the EU call the palm oil nations bluff?
— William Todts, Transport & Environment  1 March 2018
The European Parliament vote to cap food-based biofuels and end support for palm oil biofuel enraged palm oil exporting nations.  Led by Indonesia and Malaysia, producers have launched a well-funded campaign denouncing Europe’s “crop apartheid.”  Palm oil producers claim their crops are certified sustainable and support smallholder farmers and ‘sustainable development’. But a recent report shows that the main certification schemes (RSPO and ISPO) are inadequate and there are multiple reports of small farmers suffering at the hands of large plantations.  The palm oil exporting nations are threatening WTO complaints, trade retaliation, and adjustments military cooperation. Europe’s leaders should recognize this as a well-orchestrated bluff.  The EU is the world’s largest single market, third biggest economy, and most Europeans are firmly opposed to being forced to burn food, especially palm oil, in their tanks.  Citizens across Europe will be watching closely to see whether the EU calls the palm oil nations’ bluff.

Indonesia to expand domestic biodiesel use
— The Jakarta Post, 21 March 2018
The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources plans to expand the use of biodiesel to 3.5 million kiloliters annually by encouraging the mining sector and state-owned railway operator KAI to use the fuel. Heavy equipment use in the mining sector is expected to absorb 90% of the 400,000 kiloliters of additional biodiesel, while the remaining 10% would be used by locomotives operated by KAI. The government is currently conducting tests on the use of 5% biodiesel blended fuel for train locomotive.

Agreement signed to protect the world’s largest tropical peatland
— United Nations Environment Program Press Release, 23 March 2018
On 23 March the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo and the Republic of Indonesia jointly signed the Brazzaville Declaration to protect the Cuvette Centrale Region of the Congo Basin, the world’s largest tropical peatlands, from drainage and degradation. The equivalent of three years of global green gas emissions would be released if the Congo Basin peatlands are degraded or its natural wetlands drained.  The agreement signing took place on the sidelines of the 3rd Partners Meeting of the Global Peatlands Initiative.  Having deep experience in peatland management, Indonesia has stepped up as a valuable partner in South-South development cooperation. “Indonesia has extensive experience in managing tropical peatlands, both in positive and negative terms. We are keen to share our experience with the Congo Basin and other countries through South-South Cooperation” said Siti Nurbaya, Minister of Environment of Forests of the Republic of Indonesia. “The main peatland management principle is to keep the peatlands wet,” she stated.

UN praises Indonesia's peatland management efforts
— Francis Chan, The Strait Times, 24 March 2018
Indonesia's efforts in restoring peatland destroyed by fires can serve as an example to other countries facing similar issues, according to Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). Praising Indonesia for its success in peatland governance, Solheim said that the international community is paying close attention to how Indonesia manages its more than 15 million ha of peatland.  President Joko Widodo has also made the issue of illegal forest fires and peatland management a national priority. In 2006, Widodo established the Peatland Restoration Agency to restore damaged peatland. Following the forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan in 2015 "Indonesia managed to reduce fires as much as 93.6 per cent," Minister of Environment and Forests Siti Nurbaya said. "This is a testament to the seriousness of President Joko Widodo to make common land and forest fire prevention in peatlands a national priority."

Despite government pledges, ravaging of Indonesia’s forests continues
— Nithin Coca, Yale Environment 360 22 March 2018
Seven years in, Indonesia’s moratorium on new logging concessions in undisturbed tropical forests and peatlands has failed to stem the loss of forests and peatlands. Satellite monitoring shows that palm oil and paper plantations continue to expand, with at least 10,000 square miles of primary forest and peatland disappearing since 2011—the equivalent of five islands the size of Bali.  Fires in 2015 emitted an estimated 1.75 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, nearly twice the total annual emissions of Germany. These failures are due in part to the weakness of the moratorium, a Presidential Instruction rather than a statute, which means that it lacks strong enforcement mechanisms. Moreover, the moratorium only applies to new concessions, not existing concessions that had not yet been cut down or burned. Compounding the ineffectiveness of the moratorium have been ongoing problems with corruption, and the drive to rapidly expand the economy following the election of Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to the presidency in 2014.

Energy, Pollution & Climate Change

Indonesia braces for bigger energy subsidies
— Krithika Varagur, VOA, 19 March 2018
In compliance with Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo’s instruction, the government will provide additional subsidies to the state-owned fuel and electricity providers to enable current prices to be held stable until 2019.  Meanwhile, the rupiah continues to sink in global markets, due in part to the country’s widening current account deficit.  "Ostensibly, this subsidization aims to preserve consumer purchasing power; in reality, Widodo clearly hopes to avoid sacrificing popularity ahead of his re-election bid,” according to political analyst Kevin O’Rourke.  "Jokowi’s massive infrastructure development actually was started with a fuel subsidy reduction back in 2014, which freed some fiscal space needed to fund the infrastructure projects,” Jakarta-based energy policy researcher Lucky Lontoh said. “More subsidies mean the government will have less money to fund other development activities." Fossil fuel subsidies have been used in Indonesia since its independence in 1949, accounting for nearly 20% of fiscal expenditure by the 1960s.

Micro-plastic pollution in world’s oceans poses major threat to filter-feeding megafauna
— Mike Gaworecki, Asian Correspondent, 26 March 2018
A new study published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution last month is shedding light on how detrimental plastic pollution is to marine wildlife. Filter-feeding marine animals like baleen whales, manta rays, and whale sharks face exceptionally high risks from exposure to micro-plastics and plastic marine pollution because many are frequently found in some of the most polluted waters in the world, such as the Bay of Bengal and the Coral Triangle waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. A 2016 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that more than 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the oceans every year. “It has become clear … that micro-plastic contamination has the potential to further reduce the population numbers of [filter-feeding megafauna], many of which are long-lived and have few offspring throughout their lives,” said Elitza Germanov, lead author of the study.

Taiwan announces ban on all single-use plastic bags, straws and utensils
— Kris Cheung, Hong Kong Free Press, 22 February 2018
In a move that could stimulate matching initiatives in other Southeast Asian countries, Taiwan has announced a plan to ban single-use plastic bags, drinking straws and disposable utensils by 2030, the Environmental Protection Administration announced. The ban will be phased in over multiple years, starting with plastic drinking straws next year.  From 2020, free plastic straws will be banned from all food and beverage outlets.  From 2025, the public will have to pay for takeaway plastic straws, and a blanket ban will be imposed in 2030.  Free shopping bags, disposable food containers and disposable utensils will also be banned from all retail stores issuing uniform invoices from 2020.  Yen Ning, a campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, said she hoped bans on paper utensils and single-use chopsticks could be implemented soon.

Seven-year battle to clean Citarum River
— Haryo Damardono, Kompas, 26 March 2018
President Jokowi has set seven years as the target for restoring Citarum River, one of the most polluted places on Earth.  Since January 2018, thousands of soldiers from the Indonesian Military (TNI), along with local government officials and residents, have worked to clean up the river. Special boats to transport garbage have been assembled and the law prohibiting the contamination of the Citarum River is also being enforced. The West Java Police have closed down the operations of three companies for allegedly dumping untreated toxic and hazardous waste directly into the river. Yet cleaning the river can seem to be a waste of time.  The areas previously cleaned have quickly become dirty again. The participation of all members of society is critical to maintain the river, but a long-term effort to educate the younger generation to cherish the Citarum may be needed as well.

Conservation & Protected Areas

First corporate sustainability bond to protect fragile forests launched in Asia
— United Nations Environment Program Press Release, 26 February 2018
A new US$95 million corporate sustainability bond has been launched in Asia to finance a sustainable rubber plantation.  PT Royal Lestari Utama (RLU), a joint-venture between France’s Michelin and Indonesia’s Barito Pacific Group, developed in collaboration with WWF has set aside roughly 45,000 ha out of a total concession area of 88,000 ha for community livelihoods and conservation.  In Jambi, two concession areas held by RLU and two WWF concessions form a continuous buffer zone protecting Bukit Tigapuluh National Park, one of the last locations where elephants, tigers and orangutans co-exist.  At maturity, the natural rubber plantations are expected to provide about 16,000 fair-wage jobs.  The bond was the first to be issued by the Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility (TLFF), an initiative launched in 2016 by the Indonesian government, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), World Agroforestry Center, BNP Paribas, and ADM Capital, to stimulate green growth and improve livelihoods.  It is also the first corporate sustainability bond launched in Asia.  Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusbroto, Chairperson of the TLFF, welcomed the project’s triple bottom-line approach.

Asia-Pacific Conservation trust fund network launched 
— Conservation Finance Alliance, 15 March 2018
Representatives from six Conservation Trust Funds (CTFs) in the Asia-Pacific regions met in Jakarta, Indonesia in early December 2017 to form the Asia-Pacific Conservation Trust Fund Network, to be known as “APNET.” The new network, modeled on other regional CTF networks such as RedLAC and CAFÉ, will serve as a collaborative and knowledge-sharing platform for CTFs in the Asia-Pacific region. APNET’s founding members are Arannayk Foundation of Bangladesh, Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation, Forest Foundation Philippines, Foundation for the Philippine Environment represented, Micronesia Conservation Trust; and Yayasan KEHATI.  The Phoenix Islands Protected Area Trust and Tasmanian Land Conservancy are also founding members, but were unable to attend the meeting in person. Farid Uddin Ahmed, Lisa Ranahan Andon, Pema Choephyel, Jane Hutchinson, and M.S. Sembiring were elected to the Executive Committee. Yayasan KEHATI was selected as the first Host Institution of the network and will serve as the base for the Secretariat.

Freeport has cost $13 billion losses in environmental damage
— Jakarta Post, 20 March 2018
Indonesia’s Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) has said that ecological damage resulting from PT Freeport Indonesia's (PTFI) mining operations in Papua had caused Rp 185 trillion (US$12.95 billion) in state losses.  BPK Commissioner Rizal Djalil said that the mining company had dumped its wastes into forests, rivers and estuaries and utilized 4,536 hectares of protected forest, which was a direct violation of Law. Rizal said the BPK had received data on the scale of the damage from the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (Lapan) which was then analysed by experts at IPB. “It has been 333 days since we issued the report, but it has not been followed up,” said Rizal, adding that the BPK had recommended sanctions for the company. Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama said the company had followed up on two BPK reports concerning violating the terms of its license on the use of protected forests and environmental impacts.

Activists eye bigger roles for local officials, businesses in Indonesia’s orangutan protection plan
— Basten Gokkon, Mongabay, 15 March 2018
Activists in Indonesia are calling for new federal guidelines on orangutan conservation to compel local authorities and companies to take a more active role in protecting the critically endangered great ape. The call comes in the wake of two recent violent killings of orangutans in Indonesian Borneo, and follows the end of a 10-year program launched by the government in 2007 to staunch the decline in the wild orangutan population by protecting their remaining habitats in Sumatra and Borneo. As the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry develops a new action plan for the coming decade, orangutan experts are calling for clearer guidelines for local governments and for the agribusiness and extractives companies that hold licenses to clear orangutan habitats for plantations and mines.


FM gets UNESCO certificate for ‘phinisi’
— The Jakarta Post 14 February 2018
The pinisi, a traditional Indonesian sailing vessel, was recognized as the world’s intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  “The recognition of the pinisi of South Sulawesi as the world’s intangible cultural heritage is a major source of pride for the people of Indonesia,” said Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, “it should be followed by a good conservation policy that includes educational efforts.”

Disused WW2 Airfield in West Papua now ready for commercial flights
— Amal Ganesha, Jakarta Globe 15 February 2018
Werur Airport in Tambrauw West Papua has opened again after six years of redevelopment.  The airport used to be a military airfield serving Allies during World War II.  Plans to redevelop the airport had been in the works since 2012, but work only kicked off in 2015 as part of Jokowi’s plans to improve access to underdeveloped regions.





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