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
11th Edition :  27 June 2018

EU adopts compromise position to phase out palm oil in biofuel by 2030
Following an all-night session on 13 June, the European Parliament and European Union (EU) member states adopted a EU-wide target of 14% for renewables in transport while freezing use <>  palm oil in biofuels at current levels until 2023 and phasing them out completely in 2030 <> . Last January, the European Parliament had issued a directive to phase out palm oil in transport fuel by 2021, <>  drawing outrage and resistance from the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Green activists attacked the June deal as a dangerous retreat from the earlier target for phasing out palm oil in biofuel. <>  “The EU has given itself 12 years to phase out this destructive fuel, which is totally unacceptable,” a Rainforest Foundation Norway spokesman said. The foundation estimates that 4.5 million ha of rainforest and peatland might be destroyed to make room for new oil palm plantations to feed demand through 2030, causing the release of 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next two decades.
In April, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had appointed Coordinating Minister for Marine Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan as a special envoy to lobby EU countries on palm oil. Luhut visited Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany, and presented a letter from Jokowi to Pope Francis. In his letter to Pope Francis, the Indonesian president explained that the palm oil industry provides livelihoods for 5.5 million plantation workers and 21 million other workers in Indonesia, Tempo reported. <>
In 2017, Indonesia’s palm oil exports were worth US$18.5 billion, second only to coal in export value. Palm oil exports to the EU were US$2.7 billion or 14.6% of the total. One third of 2017 palm oil exports to the EU were destined for use as biofuel. India is the biggest importer of Indonesian palm oil, accounting for US$4.9 billion last year, while China, Pakistan and Bangladesh together accounted for US$4.7 billion. A 2015 study funded by the European Commission found that palm oil and soy oil had the highest indirect greenhouse gas emissions as a result of deforestation and drainage of peat lands <> .
Jokowi accused the EU Parliament of discriminating against Indonesian palm oil while accepting vegetable oils produced in European countries in biofuel. Meanwhile, prior to the decision to postpone the phase-out of palm oil until 2030, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita had raised the threat of trade war with the EU, warning that “we can also switch airplane purchases from Airbus to Boeing.”
The root of the conflict over palm oil lies in the fact that the EU and Indonesia have a strikingly different understanding of deforestation, an EU official explained. The EU sees any clearing of forest land for agriculture as forest encroachment, while the Indonesian government does not treat forest use as deforestation provided the proper permits and licenses are obtained.
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Marine & Fisheries

Next Trump seafood trade threat: tariffs on frozen Indonesian crab
− Jason Huffman, Undercurrent News 5 June 2018
The next trade policy threat for the US seafood industry soon could cost companies which import certain blue swimming crab products a combined $1.4 million in new annual tariffs, on top of the already high price tag on the crab itself. The threat is due to an out-of-cycle, stepped-up enforcement review of the generalized system of preferences (GSP) for Indonesia, India and Kazakhstan by the Office of the US Trade Representatives (USTR). If these three countries were kicked out of the program, many importers could see the special 0% GSP tariff rates replaced by the rates charged under “most favored nation” (MFN) treatment. That could mean frozen Indonesian crab facing an import tariff of 5%. The US imported $27.4 million worth of frozen blue swimming crab from Indonesia in 2017, based on trade data provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Balikpapan fishermen gripe about sea pollution
− N Andri, The Jakarta Post 11 June 2018
Fishermen in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, claim that the loading and unloading of coal at sea is polluting their fishing grounds and that they “no longer catch fish or shrimp, only coal”. In the protest, some 400 fishers blockaded the shipping lane used by tongkang (coal-carrying barges). “We want the activity of loading coal in the middle of the sea to stop, because it not only pollutes the sea, but it is also killing our jobs,” Sakirang, coordinator of the protest, said. The practice of loading coal at sea started in 2017 and had become more common since then, especially after the oil spill in April that prompted the closure of Balikpapan for unloading activities, the fishermen said. They further claimed coal transported by the barges often spilled into the ocean, and that every time they went fishing, coal would get caught up in their fishing nets and even tear them.

Japanese Foreign Minister visit focuses on fisheries cooperation
− Agnes Anya, The Jakarta Post, 26 June 2018
Japan has agreed to help Indonesia boost its fisheries industry, pledging Yen 6 billion (US$55 million) to help develop fisheries centers in outlying islands. The deal was inked during the visit of Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono to Jakarta on 25 June. Kono announced the deal with his Indonesian counterpart Retro Marsudi after the concluded their 6th Strategic Dialogue ministerial meeting with an exchange of notes on integrated marine and fisheries centers and markets. When Japanese Special Envoy Hiroto Izumi met with Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti last year, they agreed to cooperate in developing six of Indonesia’s outlying islands: Sabang, Natuna, Morotai, Saumlaki, Moa and Biak. During the visit, Kono also raised the importance of a demilitarized South China Sea. Japan’s presence in Indonesia’s outlying islands, particularly Natuna, is seen as a buffer against China’s economic and military expansion in the South China Sea.

Indonesia calls on South Korea to increase maritime cooperation
− Yuni Arisandy, Antara 24 June 2018
The Indonesian government has asked South Korea to increase cooperation in the maritime sector. Indonesia submitted its appeal at the 22nd Meeting of the ASEAN-South Korea Dialogue in Seoul. "The destruction of the marine environment and overfishing are major challenges … and need to be addressed through cooperation among nations," said Jose Tavares, Director General of ASEAN Cooperation at Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to Tavares, ASEAN and South Korean member countries must work together through an ASEAN-based mechanism to ensure cooperation in the marine sector can ensure sustainability and a better future. Tavares also conveyed Indonesia`s commitment and leadership in the marine sector, a proposed East Asia Summit (EAS) Leader Statement. EAS participating countries also welcomed the New Southern Policy initiative, developed by the government of South Korean, as a commitment to increase cooperation with ASEAN and its member countries.

NOAA considers eliminating climate change from its agency mission
—Timothy Cama, The Hill, 25 June 2018
Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, head of the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) recently proposed removing climate change from the agency’s mission statement but adding “reducing the seafood trade deficit” as part of a larger effort to boost the US commercial fishing industry.  The proposal was part of a presentation at a summit organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce.  NOAA’s current mission statement is “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.”  The new statement would be “to observe, understand and predict atmospheric and ocean conditions, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to protect lives and property, empower the economy, and support homeland and national security.”

Forestry & Land Use

Illegal logging persists in Borneo orangutan habitat despite government ban
− Basten Gokken, Mongabay 7 June 2018
An investigation by Greenpeace in March this year found at least six illegal logging camps inside a concession held by timber company PT Mohairson Pawan Khatulistiwa (MPK), in Ketapang district of West Kalimantan province. The concession covers 484 km2 of land, or 85% of the Sungai Putri landscape, home to an estimated 950 to 1,200 critically endangered Bornean orangutans and one of the last pristine coastal peat swamp forests in Borneo. Greenpeace said the logging was taking place at night and ending just before dawn as trucks arrived to transport the woodpiles to nearby sawmills and furniture shops. The group reported the camps in the concession, but it noted that it was unclear whether the company itself was engaged in the illegal logging. This is the second time Greenpeace has found indications of commercial exploitation in the area since the government ordered PT MPK to halt its operations last year.

Evaluating the effectiveness of palm oil certification in delivering multiple sustainability objectives
— Courtney L. Morgans et al, Environmental Research Letters, 12 June 2018
Industrial palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia have caused significant biodiversity losses and perverse social outcomes. To address this challenge, civil society organizations and industry representatives established the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004. With the palm oil industry continuing to expand, this paper evaluates the environmental, social and economic sustainability of RSPO plantations compared to non-certified plantations by assessing their relative performance on several key sustainability metrics and causal analysis. Looking at plantations in Indonesian Borneo, the study found no significant difference between certified and non-certified plantations for any of the sustainability metrics investigated. However positive economic trends including greater fresh fruit bunch yields were revealed. To achieve its intended outcomes, RSPO principles and criteria are in need of substantial improvement and rigorous enforcement.

Paper giant denies secretly owning ‘independent’ suppliers
− Philip Jacobson, Mongabay 7 June 2018
One of the world’s biggest paper producers continues to deny that it secretly owns most of the companies supplying it with wood, despite mounting evidence to the contrary following the exposé of the company’s practices by the Associated Press last December. A coalition NGOs has issued a new report mapping the links between the wood suppliers and the Sinarmas Group, whose subsidiaries include Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and palm oil producer PT Smart. The NGO report, titled Removing the Corporate Mask, said that dozens of individuals who “appear to be current or past employees” of Sinarmas and/or its APP arm are also listed as directors, commissioners and shareholders of the supposedly independent supplier companies. The NGO investigators speculate that Sinarmas may have structured its operations in this manner in order to deflect blame for forest fires which burn nearly every year in its suppliers’ concessions, or to evade taxes.

Energy, Climate Change & Pollution

Government slammed over regulation on Premium gasoline sales
− Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, The Jakarta Post 11 June 2018
Indonesian President Joko Widodo recently signed a revised presidential regulation requiring the sale of subsidized Premium (RON88) brand gasoline at state-owned energy giant Pertamina gas stations in Java, Madura and Bali. The revision of Presidential Regulation No. 191/2014 has been labeled a politically-motivated move ahead of the presidential election next year. The new rules impose a new burden on state-owned energy giant Pertamina, the sole distributor of the fuel, which has been pressured to hold the price of Premium below its current market value of Rp6,550 (US$ 0.47) per liter without any government subsidy support. House of Representatives Commission VII, which oversees energy policies, recently advised the government to discontinue the sale of Premium and provide a subsidy for fuel with higher octane rating (RON) instead.

Government to foot rising fuel and electricity subsidy bills
− Adinda Normala, The Jakarta Globe 5 June 2018
The Indonesian government has reiterated its commitment to keep fuel and electricity prices steady this year, amid rising global oil prices and recent strengthening of the US dollar. State Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno said the government will continue to subsidize diesel fuel at the current rate, which is four times higher than originally planned in the state budget. Subsidies for electricity will also be increased. The government had previously planned to hold fuel and electricity prices stable until the end of 2019, but pressure is mounting to increase them, as crude oil prices have climbed nearly 50% above than the initial forecasts.

Asian biofuel policies produce a volatile political cocktail
− Apornrath Phoonphongphiphat and Shotaro Tani, Nikkei Asian Review 21 June 2018
The Asian biofuels boom could create complications. In Indonesia, the world's largest producer of palm oil. The government plans to introduce B25 biodiesel next year, which would raise the ratio of biofuel to petroleum fuel content of diesel fuel from 20% to 25%, saving an estimated US$1 billion in oil imports. Palm oil, corn and sugar cane -- the main sources of ethanol for biofuels -- are known as "political commodities" in countries like Indonesia and Thailand, both of which are headed for general elections early next year. The Indonesian government also sees huge opportunities in China. The country exported palm oil worth US$2.1 billion in 2017, accounting for 11.4% of its total palm oil exports. President Joko Widodo has persuaded Beijing to increase its imports of crude palm oil.

Conservation & Protected Area

Proposed gold mine could have catastrophic environmental impacts
− Basten Gokken, Pacific Standard 21 June 2018
Environmental officials have warned of the potentially catastrophic impacts of a planned gold mine in a conservation zone in eastern Indonesia. The proposed mine would cover 233 km2 in the Wondama Bay district of West Papua province. Applicant PT Abisha Bumi Persada (ABP) proposes to operate for 15 years and is in the process of obtaining an environmental impact assessment (AMDAL). Rudolf Rumbino, the head of the West Papua government's environmental agency, said his office would not issue an AMDAL without assurances from NGOs and the provincial government that the benefits would outweigh the environmental disruption. The district chief, though, appeared to discourage any opposition when he told those in attendance that "the local people must not act in such a way that the company can't proceed." In any case, there has been little pushback from the community representatives, who said they approved of the proposed mining operation as long as their rights as indigenous people were upheld.

Chimps and orangutans among species endangered by imminent mass extinction
− Josh Gabbatiss, The Independent 15 June 2018
A number of endangered primate species, including chimpanzees and orangutans, are now on the brink of extinction. Scientists fear that without a concerted global effort they will soon be gone for good. Just four countries contain two thirds of all primate species – Brazil, Madagascar, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – and 60% of those species are threatened by extinction. A group led by scientists at Oxford Brookes University explored a range of likely future scenarios in these four primate-rich nations. Based on current trends, the group concluded that the worst-case scenario in Brazil would see nearly 80% of its habitat lost in the coming decades. Sizeable losses were also predicted in the other three nations, with Indonesia, Madagascar and the DRC facing habitat depletions of roughly 70%, 60% and 30% respectively. Expansion of farming is the biggest threat as forests are felled to make way for palm oil and sugarcane production.

Why expanding protected areas isn’t saving nature
— Richard Conniff, Scientific American 21 June 2018
Forests worldwide continue to be degraded at an unprecedented rate even as the extent of parks, refuges and other protected areas has increased significantly. A study in Nature Ecology & Evolution argues that policy-makers working to designate protected areas need to develop far more precise targets. The new study proposes instead that along with designating the boundaries of new protected areas, policy-makers should also stipulate a set of science-based, site-specific “nature retention targets” aimed at keeping natural systems intact and functioning. Watson argues that protecting intact forests is the most efficient and least expensive way to capture key natural values. Having “nature retention targets” in place for protected areas might have prevented the forests of Indonesia and Malaysia from being “smashed” by palm oil plantation development, Watson said. Designating upland forests as “no go” zones for logging might have avoided subsequent flooding in downhill areas from Haiti to Kashmir.


JAD leader, Aman Abdurahman sentence to death
— Bayu Maherjati and Sheany, The Jakarta Globe 22 June 2018
Aman Abdurrahman, the leader of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a terrorist organization affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) and linked to the Surabaya suicide bombings earlier this year, was sentenced to death on 22 June by the South Jakarta District Court. After the verdict, Aman got on his knees and kissed the courtroom floor in an apparent show of gratitude for being made a martyr. The five-judge panel ruled Aman had been involved in a number of attacks over the past nine years, including last year's attack on a bus terminal in East Jakarta and the 2016 attack on Starbucks in Thamrin, Central Jakarta. According to prosecutors, Aman pledged allegiance to IS in 2014, during his incarceration at the Nusakambangan prison. Aman's defense team has one week to file an appeal, but his lawyer said the convict is unlikely to appeal, as he does not recognize the Indonesian state and its laws.




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