Indonesia’s elections next year are likely to spur deforestation as politicians seek campaign funds from businesses in return for easier access to rich natural resources, environmentalists say.
The Southeast Asian nation, the world’s third-largest democracy, will hold a general election on Feb. 14, with regional polls planned for later in 2024.
“Next year’s election is pivotal for Indonesia to determine the fate of the richest and most biodiverse forests in the world,” said Annisa Rahmawati, a board member at Indonesian conservation group Satya Bumi.
She and other experts fear the soaring costs of campaigns - and little oversight of spending - will undercut rainforest protection.
Ward Berenschot, a professor in comparative political anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, said election campaigns in Indonesia are so expensive that politicians from local to national levels have developed “very close ties” with natural resource companies to help finance their ambitions.
“Measures to protect forests have been under pressure because helping campaign donors, or sometimes even family companies, to sidestep or circumvent (them) has been a way to fund campaigns,” said Berenschot, who has researched the issue.
Nature-rich Indonesia has a third of the world’s rainforests but large areas have been cleared in recent decades due to the expansion of crops like palm oil, as well as mining, pulp and paper expansion, and urbanisation.
Trees suck up planet-warming carbon dioxide to grow, but release it when they rot or are burned. Land use change, mainly deforestation, accounts for about 10-20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
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