The year of 2020 saw an increase in rainforest destruction despite the pandemic and the economic depression. Despite the alarming numbers, there were a few positives. Indonesia is definitely one of them. The country’s environmental policy led to a drop in deforestation rates for the fourth consecutive year. More importantly, rainforest preservation in Indonesia produced its best result in 30 years. Of course, much work remains to be done – but the record-setting numbers from 2020 are an encouraging step in the right direction.
For many years, Indonesia remained among the leading countries in primary rainforest cover loss. In 2012, it actually topped the primary forest destruction chart, which makes the recent turnaround even more impressive. Indonesia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. However, the agro-industrial expansion since the 1970s led to an escalating deforestation rate. Forest fires, a common practice among farmers to clear land for plantations, was one of the driving forces behind it. Illegal logging, driven forward by foreign demand, was another important factor.
But what does the future hold for rainforest preservation efforts in Indonesia? Can the country repeat its recent success and continue this positive trend? Or are we going to see a sudden reversal, with deforestation numbers rebounding in the near-future? Join us at Slothino, the eco-conscious casino brand, as we take a closer and detailed look at Indonesia’s record-setting year, and future projections as well.
Indonesia’s Record-Setting Deforestation Reduction in 2020
First of all, it’s important to say that Indonesia’s record-low deforestation in 2020 wasn’t an isolated event. As mentioned earlier, the country has seen a drop in primary rainforest coverage loss every year since 2017. Last year, Indonesia lost 115,459 hectares of its forest cover. It represents an impressive 75% drop compared to 2019, and the lowest number registered since monitoring began in 1990. But how exactly has Indonesia managed to achieve such successful results?
In 2015, massive forest fires around the country led to a new record in forest cover loss. Pressure mounted on the Jakarta authorities to take decisive action – and we are finally starting to see the results. In 2011, Indonesia issued a moratorium on rainforest and peatland conversion permits. Then, in 2019, President Joko Widodo made the ban permanent. Not only that, but the Indonesian government took further action to curb deforestation.
The palm oil industry is one of the driving forces behind rainforest destruction in the world, thanks to the high demand. It’s widely used by the food and cosmetics industries. You will find palm oil in just about any product on a supermarket shelf. Indonesia and Malaysia are the leading palm oil exporters in the world. In late 2018, Widodo issued another moratorium, this time suspending new permits for palm tree plantations.
While the government efforts have definitely played a part in this, it’s also worth pointing out that some unconventional circumstances also contributed to Indonesia’s record-setting year. Let’s take a closer look at these factors and what we may expect going forward.
Will Indonesia Repeat its Success in the Future?
It goes without saying, but 2020 was an unconventional year. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the worst economic recession since 2008. And that also affected the global demand for commodities. Palm oil was no exception. The decrease in demand, combined with the natural flow of the market, led to a drop in prices – which in turn also slowed down its production. The moratorium on new palm oil plantation permits definitely helped, but an increase in demand and prices could very well drive the deforestation rate up again. And considering that the global economy will likely pick up some steam in 2021 as the pandemic recedes, this is a realistic possibility.
Experts have also pointed out that 2020 was a significantly wetter year thanks to the La Niña phenomenon. The climate contributed to a drop in forest fires. On the other hand, 2021 may see a return of El Niño, and the prolonged dry season could contribute to an increase in forest fires.
Despite the drop, Indonesia’s deforestation numbers still paint a grim picture. The country destroyed over 460,000 hectares in 2019. While impressive at first glance, the 75% drop means that Indonesia still lost over 100,000 hectares of forest cover last year. The government’s food estates program, which you can learn more about here, is another major problem. It could turn 1.5 million hectares of forests into farmland – and since the food estate program is exempt from the no-deforestation policy, the effects would be devastating.
Indonesia definitely deserves praise for its efforts in curbing deforestation. But, as you can see, the job isn’t over yet, and there is a long road ahead.
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