Press Release – For Immediate Release

As Indonesian Forest Fires Bellow Smoke, U.S. Visit by Indonesian President Joko Widodo Presents a Crucial Leadership Opportunity on Climate Change, Deforestation and Investment

Indonesia’s Fire Outbreaks Producing More Daily Emissions than Entire US Economy

Washington, DC – Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, will make his first visit to the United States as head-of-state and meet with President Barack Obama to discuss economic issues and climate change. Meanwhile, suffocating haze from widespread forest fires most severe on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo blankets Southeast Asia causing respiratory illness and death, preventing millions of children from attending school across the region and releasing more daily carbon emissions than the entire US economy.

A network of leading conservation organisations from the U.S, Indonesia and around the world is urging President Obama to use this visit to publicly support the President of Indonesia in taking concrete and vigorous action to reign in deforestation and illegal burning. Indonesia is one of the world’s top climate polluters, with its emissions primarily from deforestation, peat drainage and related forest fires, and is a critical piece of the international effort to stave off rapid warming and the worst effects of climate change for the world’s population, and its thousands of islands threatened by sea level rise.  

“Resolving deforestation and the forest fire crisis is President Widodo’s greatest opportunity to simultaneously demonstrate the significance and value in modern global markets and politics of a rising Indonesia,” said Joshua Martin, Director of the Environmental Paper Network.  

According to estimates released this week by Guido van der Werf on the Global Fire Emissions Database, there have been nearly 100,000 active fire detections in Indonesia so far in 2015, which since September have generated emissions each day exceeding the average daily emissions from all U.S. economic activity. More than 1.5 million hectares of forest have burned this year, more than half of it on carbon-rich peat soils. Much of the burning is occurring within the land concessions of major producers of pulp and paper and palm oil, and who have created volatile conditions by the drainage and conversion of peatland soils.

Civil society groups in Indonesia have been leading the charge, demanding that the Indonesian government take action to stop the fires. Recently a coalition of 11 groups released a statement calling on the government to take action to address widespread and uncontrolled fires burning on land controlled by some of Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper companies. This call comes at a time when many of the largest producers of agricultural commodities in Indonesia have made public commitments to zero deforestation and other measures in response to international customer demand for responsibly sourced products. At the same time, some entrenched elements in the Indonesian government are in the process of undermining these reforms, and claiming that zero deforestation commitments by commodity producers are harming Indonesia.

The Indonesian government has popular support to achieve this reform and halt the conditions that drive these catastrophic fires, and must show leadership as Indonesian civil society is demanding. Only with better national land management planning, ecological restoration, improved enforcement and alternatives for small farmers to burning land will Indonesia be able to reach its proposed national goal to reduce emissions 29% by 2030, and for President Widodo to join President Obama in leaving an international climate change legacy. These reforms will address the massive public health crisis created by the smoke, improve Indonesia’s reputation, and increase economic opportunities in the international marketplace for its citizens.   

The Indonesian president has a moment of opportunity to leverage this crisis, the international concern about climate change and the proliferation of high profile corporate commitments to zero deforestation. With the support and assistance of President Obama and the international community, and based on popular support in Indonesia for reform that led to his historic election to office, President Widodo can seize this moment to move land reform and the economic fortunes of his country forward.   

Contact:  Joshua Martin, Environmental Paper Network, 828-242-4238  

The Environmental Paper Network is an international network of 146 organisations dedicated to empowering and motivating consumers, corporations, organisations and governments to protect forests, climate, air, water and communities through more sustainable production and consumption of pulp and paper. EPN member organisations are working to create transformational change in the pulp and paper industry in accordance with the Global Paper Vision and its seven priority areas. For information, visit