Greenpeace International has released a report titled “License to Clear: The Dark Side of Permitting in West Papua” on 6 April 2021 revealing allegations of systematic violations on plantation and forest release permits in Papua. It urgently calls on the Indonesian government in Jakarta and the provincial governments to protect the area designated for palm oil plantations in Papua from further deforestation. “Since 2000, the land released from the forest estate for plantations in Papua Province alone has totalled nearly a million hectares (951,771 ha) – an area more than one and a half times the size of the island of Bali”. Greenpeace reported that most of this land currently still forested, so the government must reverse the move by permanently protecting the uncleared forest areas and recognising customary land rights.
After climbing to a peak in 2015 and 2016, the rate of deforestation has been falling in Papua Province for the last three years, mainly due to a decrease in forest clearance for plantations. The report attempts to address the critical questions of the extent to which government policies have contributed to this downward trend in deforestation, and whether it will continue.
Alongside any effect due to government action, however, two other factors must be recognised as contributing to a reduction in deforestation: international pressure from civil society groups and consumer companies to cut deforestation out of commodity supply chains, and local opposition by Indigenous groups that hold customary land rights on concession land. There is evidence that it is market dynamics, including the demands of consumers responding to biodiversity loss, fires, and human rights abuses for palm oil, which are primarily responsible for decreasing. Unfortunately, with palm oil prices surging and plantation groups holding massive uncleared forest land banks in West Papua, a disaster is poised to unfold.
The evidence that action from the Indonesian Government has contributed significantly to the deforestation slowdown is considerably less clear. The report also found systematic violations of the permit regulations as plantations were expanded into forest areas. To make matters worse, the measures introduced by the national government to protect forests and peatlands – such as the forest moratorium and the oil palm moratorium – have not brought about the promised reforms and are paralysed by poor implementation and a lack of enforceability, according to the report.