A Cobra in the Forest? Quantifying the Impact of Perverse Incentives from Indonesia's Deforestation Moratorium, 2011 to 2016

Principal Investigator: 
Matthew Hansen
University of Maryland, College Park

While initially heralded as a win for conservation and sustainable forest management, the Indonesian government’s moratorium halting the issuance of new licenses for logging, palm oil, and wood-fiber plantations in primary natural forests and peatlands has not substantially slowed deforestation. In fact the highest area of primary forest clearing since 2000 occurred in 2012, the first year of the moratorium’s implementation. Compared to Brazil, whose forest policy and associated enforcement has reduced deforestation by over 70%, Indonesia has made little or no progress in slowing primary forest loss. The acceleration of forest conversion in Indonesia suggests the government’s moratorium resulted in a Cobra Effect, whereby the policy created perverse incentives for local actors and industries to acquire permits prior to the freeze and intensify forest land conversion in the aftermath. The proposed study integrates remote sensing, socioeconomic analysis, and spatially explicit modeling to address the following research questions: 1) To what extent can accelerated forest clearing be attributed to perverse incentives driven by Indonesia’s moratorium, 2) What political mechanisms enabled this policy to produce these unintended effects, and 3) How do socio-economic livelihoods and well-being vary across areas with different post-moratorium outcomes?