Thursday, 29 October 2009

INTERVIEW-Indonesia environment min wants funds for enforcement

Friday October 30, 2009


* Wants budget doubled for environmental law enforcement

* U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen won't reach a pact

* Wants tighter mining controls

By Sunanda Creagh

JAKARTA, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Indonesia's new environment minister said on Thursday he needs more funds for law enforcement to stop illegal logging and pollution, in a bid to curb emissions by one of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.

As the world's third-biggest contributor to climate change, behind the United States and China, Indonesia is seen as a key player when it comes to putting a brake on deforestation and reaching an agreement on fighting climate change.

However, Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta warned that the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen in December would probably fail to reach a broader global pact to fight climate change, largely because the various parties would not compromise.

"It seems to me that Copenhagen will not be a success. Each party is maintaining their position very strongly," Hatta, an academic who founded a forestry research centre in Kalimantan on Borneo island, told Reuters in an interview.

Curbing deforestation -- which accounts for nearly a fifth of greenhouse gas pollution -- by Indonesia, Brazil and tropical Africa is seen as an important step in soaking up carbon dioxide emissions.

Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, last month told the Group of 20 (G20) nations that Indonesia would cut its emissions by 26 percent by 2020, or as much as 41 percent with international funding and transfer of technology.

But to achieve that kind of reduction requires funding for effective law enforcement, Hatta said.

"Enforcement of the law -- that is what we need to reach this 26 percent," said Hatta, 57.

"We have civil guards that can directly arrest people found breaching the law and bring them to court but we have only 220 in the whole country. We want a total of 1,000 but we obviously can't do that on our current budget."

Hatta said he would ask for his ministry's budget to be doubled to 800 billion rupiah ($83 million) to pay for enforcement of laws against illegal logging and pollution.

He said that to cut emissions by as much as 41 percent would require transfer of technology and international funding for programmes such as the reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) scheme, which involves paying developing countries not to chop down forests.

Hatta said he intended to enforce a new environment law that allows the government to cancel the operating permit of any company found to be breaching the terms of its environmental impact assessment.

"I am very serious about this. We have already briefed regional leaders so they can brief the people in their own areas. We plan to write the regulations needed to implement this law within one year," he said.

Hatta, an academic with a PhD in forestry from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, was considered a surprise choice for the post of environment minister and has drawn a mixed response from conservation groups.

However, he could easily run into problems with the powerful business interests in the timber and palm oil sectors, as well as with other ministers.

The environment ministry is relatively powerless compared to the forestry, agriculture, and energy ministries but Hatta said he would lobby the relevant ministers to stop environmentally damaging practices such as allowing mining in protected forests or planting of oil palm in peat lands, and would commission a new review of mining to identify areas that are over-mined.

"In some areas, for instance, they are only supposed to mine 5 percent but they mine 10 percent. Later, with this review, I will be able to recommend new limits on mining to the relevant ministry," he said. (Editing by Sara Webb)

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