Indonesia has the worst rate of deforestation in the world, with much of its logging activity illegal and therefore unreported. However, the country’s new president, Joko Widodo, has taken an early stand against the destruction, announcing a review of plantation companies’ operations and protective measures for the country’s peatlands. Indonesia is the world’s third-largest carbon dioxide emitter, so curbing deforestation is a vital step for the country in achieving its substantial 26 percent emissions reduction targets by 2020.

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President Widodo has been in office since October, 2014. He’s already made headlines for his unconventional leadership style, including flying economy class to Singapore to attend his son’s recent graduation ceremony. He observed that as it was a personal trip, he shouldn’t take a private jet on the country’s tab. This week, Widodo revealed his intention to take action on deforestation and peatland loss while visiting the village of Sungai Tohor, in Sumatra. There he helped locals to dam a canal that was draining water from a peat forest. Peatlands are significant carbon sinks, but they are rapidly being drained and then burned to make way for timber and palm oil plantations. Not only does this release carbon dioxide and airborne pollutants, it also increases the risk of forest fires. When combined with Indonesia’s estimated loss of 840,000 hectares of primary forest in 2012, it’s clear the country needs better protections in place.

Related: Environmental Hero Rudi Putra Wins 2014 “Green Nobel” Goldman Prize for Shutting Down Illegal Palm Oil Plantations

Speaking in Sungai Tohor, President Widodo said of plantation companies: “If they are indeed destroying the ecosystem because of their monoculture plantations, they will have to be terminated. It must be stopped, we mustn’t allow our tropical rainforest to disappear because of monoculture plantations like oil palm.” He went on to note that community-based management plans were usually more environmentally friendly.

In response to the President’s stance, Greenpeace’s international executive director Kumi Naidoo told the Guardian, “Indonesia’s new president has wasted no time stepping into an international leadership role, well timed to position his country ahead of next week’s UN climate negotiations in Lima, Peru.” World leaders are meeting in Lima from 1 to 12 December, 2014, to continue discussions on climate change action ahead of the UN’s Paris 2015 meeting to develop a new universal climate agreement.

Via The Guardian

Photos by the Provincial Government of Jakarta via Wikimedia Commons, and Department of Foreign Affairs Australia and vincentraal via Flickr