GOVERNMENT POLICY NEWS
December 12, 2016
JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - Outgoing Norwegian Ambassador Stig Traavik, in his capacity as Norway’s foremost diplomat in Indonesia since 2012, has been given a unique perspective and insight into environmental and climate change matters in Indonesia. As such, foresthints.news welcomed the opportunity to interview him on his last day in office (Dec 6).
When asked his impressions about the reform efforts being undertaken by Jokowi’s administration to tackle climate change issues, the ambassador was enthusiastic in his response.
“The Jokowi administration has really impressed not only me but, I think, the world with its efforts at reform. I think the Jokowi administration with the President and Ibu Siti in front have made this a pro-people agenda, so people first, stop the forest fires, stop the conversion of peat.”
He also lauded the government’s courage in taking some unprecedented measures in a challenging environment. “It’s very important, very difficult and very brave and I think this administration has taken it to a new level by establishing the BRG (the peatland restoration agency), then the moratorium, and now in the next phase I know that the government will be very forceful in implementing the moratorium."
Ambassador Traavik was then asked whether he was happy with the progress being made by the Environment and Forestry Ministry’s leadership in addressing environmental, forestry and climate change issues.
“I’m not only happy with Ibu Siti’s leadership, I’m very impressed. Under the direction of the President, Ibu Siti has brought this to a new level, because it’s a very complicated agenda which is about a landscape where you have big companies, you have communities, you have indigenous peoples, you have small businesses, and you need to find ways to protect the environment but, at the same time, you also have to protect people’s livelihoods.”
Did he have any key concerns in response to efforts being undertaken by Jokowi’s administration to end business-as-usual practices in land-based industries?
“I would say I don’t have concerns when it comes to the implementation of this agenda. What I would say is although the legal framework is in place - the moratorium on forests is there, the moratorium on peatlands is there, the peatland agency is there, now it’s about the implementation, and we all know we’re talking about huge areas, we’re talking about many people involved, we’re talking even about the companies, these are big companies.”
The ambassador then addressed the issue of business-as-usual practices more directly. “So from the time that the leadership in Jakarta understands and accepts no more “business-as-usual”, then the next step is for the daughter company (subsidiary to accept this), then the managers on the ground. Of course, this is not going to be a process without any problems, but I believe that because this government has shown such determination in really wanting to do it, at the end of the day their reforms will carry through.”
Pressed further on whether he was optimistic that current efforts being undertaken by Jokowi’s administration to address climate change issues are headed in the right direction, Ambassador Traavik sought to underline Indonesia’s unique situation in this respect.
“I think the Jokowi administration is right now in a position to take the lead globally. In terms of the Paris agenda, if Indonesia is able to implement the peatland moratorium, it will be a very significant contribution. I think also Indonesia is in a position to be a leader in sustainable commodities.”
He went on to give some specific examples of how Indonesia could prosper in the future from an even greater emphasis on environmental sustainability.
“Indonesia already has SVLK, the forest and timber legality processes which gives Indonesia an advantage in trading good products with the EU. Maybe in the future with palm oil and coffee and other commodities, I think Indonesia could be a leader in all these areas and Indonesia could provide an example, and I think internationally Indonesia can do even more to promote these examples. I’m very optimistic and positive about this.”
On a more personal note, foresthints.news asked the departing ambassador about his time in Indonesia as well as his hopes and concerns regarding the country’s future efforts in addressing climate change issues.
“I’ve been lucky to have been here in a very interesting, challenging and also successful period for Indonesia in terms of the environment and climate. I would say I don’t have concerns. I’m very happy to have been part of this little chapter in Indonesia’s history and I’m very optimistic about the future. I believe that this government has the right policies and has the right people to carry them through.”
“I also believe that people are beginning to understand this is not mainly about carbon, (rather) it’s about creating livelihoods, it’s about creating sustainable livelihoods for people. If you have forest fires, if you have drainage, if you have too much monoculture, it’s not sustainable in the long run and doesn’t benefit the people.”
In wrapping up the interview with foresthints.news, Ambassador Traavik reaffirmed his positive outlook for the country in which he has served for the last four years. “So I believe that this agenda is going forward in the right way. I'll continue to watch it and it will continue to make me happy whenever Indonesia is reporting good news.”