Remarks by Ambassador Blake in Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan

Deputy Governor of Central Kalimantan Achmad Diran, Bupati Eddy Pratowo, Bupati Katingan, the representative of the mayor of Palangkaraya, the representative of the Governor of Central Kalimantan.

Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for your warm welcome.

This is my first visit to Central Kalimantan, and I am looking forward to hearing about the wonderful work that USAID has been conducting here through the Indonesia Forest and Climate Support (IFACS) program with the strong support of Governor Narang, Bupati Edy Pratowo and the community here.

My trip this week is focused on the environment – a priority area for the Embassy and for the U.S. Government.

Yesterday, we learned about artisanal and small scale gold mining, and toured gold shops and mining areas where forests have been cleared and the land and water contaminated.

Today, we are here in Buntoi to celebrate the achievements of USAID’s IFACS program.

I’d like to commend the Governor Narang and Deputy Governor Diran for their commitment to slow deforestation.

I’d like to thank Bupati Pratowo for being a strong supporter of USAID IFACS and for his strong support to prevent and manage fires on peatland, the largest contributor to carbon emissions in Indonesia, and a significant health risk. He also created a 900 person volunteer fire brigade covering 30 villages in Central Kalimantan.

I’d also like to commend the members of the IFACS multi-stakeholder forum and your important work to promote good forest governance. Strong community involvement is an essential element in successful and sustainable forest management.  I look forward to visiting with you later today at your exhibition booths.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen a dramatic deforestation in many parts of Indonesia with natural forest being cleared for private timber, oil palm, and mining concessions.

Such unsustainable development is not only jeopardizing biodiversity and ecosystems but also weakening communities’ resilience to cope with climate variability and change. Central Kalimantan is the main driver of peatland greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia.  Peat emissions represent sixty percent of Indonesia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.  So what is done here really matters to this region of the country and the world.

We’ve also seen the practice of draining peat, which leaves the land highly susceptible to severe forest fires and flooding.

The forest fires emit carbon and contribute to climate change. The fires affect local villages’ air and water quality and destroy habitat for endangered species like orangutans. It also threatens local people’s source of livelihood and food.

USAID’s IFACS program is one of the many U.S. government environment programs in Indonesia. The U.S. commitment to countering climate change in Indonesia amounts to some $500 million.

Here in Central Kalimantan, IFACS worked with Pak Eddy to create, and more importantly enforce, a policy framework to prevent peatland fires.  IFACS is also working with rubber farmers, rubber companies, and the government to ensure they keep peatlands wet, thereby raising the value of their rubber crops, reducing the risk of fires, reducing carbon emissions, and protecting the health of communities.

We look forward to continuing our partnership to support Indonesian efforts to ensure sustainable management of the forests so that local communities will be able to benefit from the forests without aggravating climate change.

Thank you!
As prepared.