Indonesia is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters, mostly because of the large-scale destruction of forests and peat lands that represent a store of carbon.
So what impact has this moratorium had and what will another two years mean for Indonesia and for the region's environmental efforts?
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: Dr. Nigel Sizer, Director of the Global Forests Initiative, World Resources Institute
SIZER: It covers an area of about 43 million hectares of forest, which is hard to picture, but what that is in practice, is roughly twice the area of New Zealand or twice the area of the United Kingdom. So that's an area of forest which currently doesn't have logging licences and other licences on it for exploitation and which is basically kept off limits by the government for a further two years.
COCHRANE: And has that been respected over the last two years?
SIZER: Well, our analysis shows that there has been some reduction in forest clearing in the area covered by the moratorium and it has also given the government time to try to put in place a number of significant reforms, which are needed to ensure good management of Indonesia's forests in the future.
COCHRANE: What sort of reforms are we talking about?
SIZER: We're basically talking about reforms in the way that permits are issued for exploitation of the forest, reforms are around the way that different government agencies work together so they can be better coordinated to ensure effective law enforcement and also to eradicate things, like respecting the rights of local communities and dealing with the many customary land claims across Indonesia's forests, which date far back into history and have not been addressed in any systematic way and as a source of significant conflicts between palm oil and logging companies and those local and traditional communities.
So the moratorium gives time for the government to work on these things, which, is obviously, a complex process in a place the size of Indonesia.
COCHRANE: The initial moratorium was widely welcomed and this extension has been described by some as a bold and courageous decision from Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. How does it stack up with the way other countries in the region are dealing with climate change, with the protection of forests?
SIZER: I think it stacks up quite well in many ways. Indonesia is a large country with a very significant forest area and has been seeing high rates of deforestation, but we've also seen that in many other countries in the region. Those countries just happen to be smaller, so they don't generate such dramatic statistics in terms of the area that's been cleared. But there are very serious concerns, for example, about what's happening to forests in Malaysia, particularly in Sarawak, in Myanmar or Burma as well, and Cambodia, Vietnam. These are significant issues across the whole region, and this is one of the more dramatic steps that has been taken by any of the governments in the region to try to address those issues, that's for sure.
COCHRANE: Would you see this as perhaps some regional leadership and something other leaders should look to show a positive way forward?
SIZER: Well, I think it's very important that other countries follow on Indonesia's lead. I mean a number of them are taking important steps already, but much more needs to be done.
As we look at patterns of forest loss across the region, what we are seeing is the rates of forest loss in Indonesia over the last decade or so have dropped to some extent, although they've been picking up again recently. But in many of the other countries around the region, in mainland South East Asia, particularly, we're actually seeing significant increases in forest loss. So serious and sustained efforts, such as those Indonesia is taking, to some extent, with this move are certainly required elsewhere in the region, yes.