Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called on his successor, who will take office in October, to extend a ban on the issuance of new logging licenses, saying “more remains to be done” to address unsustainable land-use practices in his country and across the region.
Speaking to nearly 2,000 participants at the Forests Asia Summit in Jakarta, Yudhoyono urged other countries in Southeast Asia to steer clear of a “self-destructing path of development.” He called upon governments in the region to commit to sustainable land-use and investment practices that do not come at the expense of Southeast Asia’s natural resources — chiefly its forests. Indonesia is home to the world’s third-largest area of tropical forests.
“What we do today is not for our own benefit,” Yudhoyono said. “It is for the billions of people who will inherit our Earth.”
It was one of several calls to action ahead of what is seen as a critical window for informing major global policy processes related to climate change and sustainable development.
“Our world is at a turning point,” said Peter Holmgren, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research, which co-hosted the Summit with the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. “Decisions are to be made on the international arena over the next 18 months that may shape our common future for generations to come.”
Southeast Asia is considered to be on the frontline of the fight to balance the needs of a growing population, a growing economy, and environmental protection. The Forests Asia Summit sought to bring together regional stakeholders — from governments, civil society, academia and the private sector — to generate inclusive, equitable solutions for this challenge.
Economically and demographically, Southeast Asia is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. In recent years, it has also seen some of the worst effects of unsustainable development and agricultural expansion — such as the haze crisis of June 2013 that choked the skies of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore with smoke caused by human-started fires in Sumatra.
“We have a problem,” said Vivian Balakrishnan, Singaporean Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. “And the root of this problem is misaligned commercial interests.”
Companies set on short-term profits in Southeast Asia, he said, help to drive what he called “environmental vandalism.”
Underpinning the Summit is the idea that the problems of one Southeast Asian country are problems shared by all.
“Individual countries cannot overcome interconnected problems” including poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and economic instability, said U Win Tun, the Union Minister for Environmental Conservation and Forestry of Myanmar. The minister urged the narrowing of development gaps among ASEAN member states; his country has recently begun to open its doors to expanded trade.
The Summit saw numerous discussion forums centered around five themes — climate change, sustainable investments, food security, governance and equitable development. Messages and outcomes from these discussions will inform high-level panels on these themes on Tuesday, the second day of the Summit. The role of the private sector will be a major focus of the Summit on Tuesday.
Several high-level speakers will take to the podium on Tuesday, including Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peruvian Minister of the Environment and President of the UNFCCC climate change talks in Lima, Peru. Also speaking will be Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which recently released an assessment report on climate change mitigation.
All Southeast Asian countries sent delegations to the Summit to share lessons and experiences on green growth and sustainable development. Ministerial delegations also came from Africa and Latin America.