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Indonesia: Civil society and investors raise concern over environmental impact of new omnibus law

"Indonesia’s omnibus law a ‘major problem’ for environmental protection", 4 November 2020.

AKARTA — The Indonesian government is trying to downplay the potential environmental fallout from a recently passed slate of deregulation, prompting criticism from experts.

Foreign investors have joined domestic groups — ranging from labor unions to university students to religious conservatives — in flagging concerns about the so-called omnibus law on job creation that parliament passed on Oct. 5. In a recent letter to the Indonesian government, a group that includes 35 global investors, managing a combined $4.1 trillion in assets, expressed worries that the new legislation will have damaging consequences for the environment.

Among their concerns is that the rollback of environmental protections might lead to greater deforestation, which is the main driver of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and in turn jeopardize global efforts to mitigate climate change as called for under the Paris climate agreement...

The government has responded through letters sent via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, which sought to play down the fears.

“The concerns can be understood but [they’re] baseless,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar wrote in one of the letters...

Muhamad Ramdan Andri Gunawan Wibisana, an environmental law professor at the University of Indonesia, said the omnibus law also makes it harder for affected communities and NGOs to mount challenges to projects that pollute the environment and exacerbate climate change, such as coal plants, in court...

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