The EU-Indonesia trade agreement risks accelerating deforestation by improving market access for products like palm oil and timber, environment lawyers ClientEarth say today.
In a new briefing, the lawyers say stronger safeguards are needed in the trade agreement to stop forests being destroyed at a faster rate, risking harm to the people whose livelihoods depend on them.
The fifth round of negotiations are set to take place between the EU and Indonesia this week, two years after the first discussions in 2016.
ClientEarth forests lawyer Clotilde Henriot said: “Trade deals should be a vehicle to achieve better social and environmental standards. Indonesia is one of the world’s top 10 biodiverse nations, but between 2000 and 2010, the proportion of deforestation caused by expanding palm oil alone was around 11 percent.
“The EU and Indonesian negotiators have a responsibility to ensure this agreement does not put more pressure on forests and the communities who depend on them.”
Indonesia already exports palm oil at an alarming rate and a new trade agreement threatens to increase these problems.
ClientEarth recommends changes to the current sustainable development chapter of the trade agreement that would strengthen protections for Indonesian forests.
As an immediate step, strong environmental safeguards must be included in the agreement – beyond paying lip service to rules on forest management – and a sustainability and human rights impact assessment must be carried out and responded to before the agreement is concluded.
The trade deal should also allow people and organisations to lodge formal complaints when they suspect that environmental or human rights commitments have been broken. This would give civil society stronger rights to make their voices heard.
Henriot added: “Unless the environmental provisions in the EU-Indonesia trade agreement are improved, it will undermine pledges that both parties have made to stop forest destruction and bring down greenhouse gas emissions.”
The outcome of this trade deal is important because it could give a new direction to sustainable development chapters in future EU agreements.
Henriot said: “It is crucial that the EU puts social and environmental concerns at the heart of any EU trade agreements. For all current and future negotiations, the planet cannot be a mere afterthought.”