May 11, 2020

Minister boosts conservation gains from palm oil moratorium

JAKARTA ( - Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya has identified almost 1.5 million hectares of potential high conservation value (HCV) areas - greater than twenty times the size of Singapore - situated in more than 345 palm oil concessions with a total area of nearly 3.6 million hectares.

“This is the initial figure from the results of the first stage of identification. Of course, the areas to be set aside from palm oil concessions for conservation purposes will continue to expand,” Minister Nurbaya affirmed in a written communication with (May 8). 

According to the minister, of the total potential HCV areas identified in this early stage, more than one million hectares were located in the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

“Other sections lie in palm oil concessions in Sumatra where they serve as habitats for Sumatran orangutans, tigers and elephants, while the parts in Indonesian Borneo are inhabited by Bornean orangutans,” she explained.

“I have already reported the results of the first stage to the President. This forms part of the follow-up to his order for a moratorium on palm oil expansion that was signed in September 2018,” she added.

As previously reported by (Feb 25), the minister stated that we all need to be fair in looking at the evidence on the ground which shows that significant expanses of conservation gain areas, rich in biodiversity, remain in many palm oil concessions.

Below are photos depicting the forested areas which still dominate a palm oil concession in Central Kalimantan’s Sebangau landscape. This area is inhabited by Bornean orangutans and represents part of the conservation gains from palm oil concessions.

The minister reaffirmed that she continues to work to boost conservation gains from palm oil concessions, including forestry concessions, amid ongoing complexities.

Options for conservation gains

Minister Nurbaya pointed out that the government is still giving the option to palm oil companies whose concessions lie in potential HCV areas, including those that still have good forest cover, of continuing to manage these areas as part of the landscape of their palm oil plantations.

“Palm oil companies have an obligation to manage the HCV or forested areas (HCS) in their concessions as part of the mosaic of their adjacent concession areas or within key wildlife corridors,” she explained.

However, she continued, in the event that a palm oil company experiences difficulty managing these areas, the company can partner with the government, including possible engagement with relevant stakeholders as needed on the ground level.

“If a palm oil concession is still dominated by intact forest within a certain landscape, then the government will consider attempting to take it back to be developed into a conservation forest. This is only one of the legal options, among other things,” the minister asserted. 

The minister said that the government has also opened an option, especially for NDPE palm oil companies, whereby the carbon trade mechanism can be utilized as part of their business schemes for the HCV or HCS areas they manage in their concessions.

“Furthermore, palm oil companies retaining areas of good forest cover in certain expanses, which act as important corridors to particular landscapes, are being urged by the government not to convert them into palm oil plantations, an incentive for which is government support for a carbon business scheme,” she elaborated.

She also gave an update on the progress of the legally-based carbon pricing arrangement which has now reached its final stage and will later be signed by the President, adding "I'm aiming for this to be completed soon in spite of the COVID-19 situation."

Minister Nurbaya reiterated that the measured efforts to implement the moratorium on palm oil expansion, as ordered by the President, are being undertaken gradually, including dealing with illegal palm oil plantations in state forest areas, a legacy of the previous government.