Deforestation continues to be one of the biggest environmental crises facing our world but looking at countries with effective deforestation mitigation policies can help us map out what saving the earth’s forests looks like on a global scale. One country that serves as a case study for turning around deforestation is Indonesia.
Indonesia, like many Southeast Asian countries, was a hot spot for palm oil industry deforestation. In 2011, the government made the announcement that no more palm oil forest permits would be issued in the country and existing lands would have to suffice. Indonesian palm oil is produced by a small number of large companies such as IOI Group, Cargill, and Wilmar International. The moratorium on new lands was not enough to stop deforestation, especially unsanctioned, at first, but when combined with conservation technology, the policy became much more effective.
Indonesian activists used a satellite imagery system provided by Global Forest Watch to boost forest monitoring. With the online platform, violations of the deforestation laws could be identified and penalized much quicker and more often. Soon, Wilmar’s CEO Kuok Khoon Hong even took the lead among private businesses and forged an agreement with other major producers to stop pursuing new palm oil production and turn to alternatives instead. Although the shift began with government and activists’ action, the cooperation of corporations has helped solidify the protections for Indonesia’s forests.
Palm oil is a big contributor to deforestation, but around the world, threats like cattle farming are also major players. In Brazil, clear-cutting for cattle lands is a growing issue. Whatever the culprit may be, Indonesia demonstrates to us that coordinated government action supported by technological tools and corporate cooperation can have an impact in protecting these vital hubs of clean air and biodiversity.