After a non-binding agreement to stop deforestation by 2030 was joined by 120 countries at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last week, remarks by officials out of key countries have cast doubts on their willingness to carry through with the plan.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo joined in signing the pact, but according to the Voice of America, his environment minister, Siti Nurbaya, called the target “inappropriate and unfair” on Facebook shortly after, saying that she was willing to put development before the environment.
As seen in data by the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Review, Indonesia was flagged as the country where the fourth most primary forest was lost in the world in 2020 – more than 270,000 hectares – after Bolivia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Brazil. Similar mixed messages were coming out of Malaysia, which initially declined to sign the pact before saying it will join anyways, but not when. Both countries are home to powerful palm oil production industries, which are notorious for clearing forests to produce the crop. Malaysia lost 73,000 hectares of primary forest in 2020 – rank nine in the world.
Southeast Asia is home to almost 15 percent of the world’s tropical forests. However, many are under threat, not only in Indonesia and Malaysia, but also in Laos, where 82,000 hectares were lost in 2020. The latter country skipped signing the pact, as did regional neighbors Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand.