Jakarta, Indonesia — Indonesia, which has been losing its forests at a rapid pace in recent years, launched a campaign on Wednesday to plant 79 million trees ahead of next month’s U.N. climate change conference in Bali.
“We have been negligent in the past, now we have to get our act together,” president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was quoted by state news agency Ataraas saying as he planted saplings on the outskirts of Jakarta.
The drive is part of a global campaign to plant one billion trees launched at U.N. climate change talks in Nairobi last year. Forestry ministry officials said 79 million saplings were collected from local governments around the archipelago and they planned to complete the planting in one day. According to Greenpeace, Indonesia had the fastest pace of deforestation in the world between 2000-2005, with an area of forest equivalent to 300 soccer pitches destroyed every hour.
Yudhoyono said that illegal loggers and their financers were “common enemies” and must be brought to justice.
Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is also among the world’s top three greenhouse gas emitters because of deforestation, peatland degradation, and forest fires, according to a recent report sponsored by the World Bank and Britain’s development arm. Environmental groups are concerned that rapidly expanding palm oil plantations, partly driven by ambitious plans for biofuels, are damaging the country’s rainforests.
Participants from 189 countries are expected to gather in Bali in next month to discuss a new deal to fight global warming. The existing pact, the Kyoto Protocol, runs out in 2012.