April 15, 2015 / 4:52 AM / 4 years ago

Norway says Indonesia's president stressed environmental commitment

JAKARTA, April 15 (Reuters) - Indonesia’s president has assured Norway, which has pledged up to $1 billion in aid to help preserve the Southeast Asian country’s forests, that he is as committed to the environment as his predecessor, the Norwegian prime minister told Reuters.

Soon after coming into office in October, President Joko Widodo dissolved the independent National Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Agency, merging it with the Environment and Forestry Ministry.

That raised concern among green activists that Indonesia might be rolling back on its climate deal with Norway, signed in 2010 by former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“We also have been a bit anxious about whether the new government would continue at the same pace as the old government. I think they are back on track,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in an interview late on Tuesday after meeting with Widodo in Jakarta.

Indonesia imposed a temporary moratorium on clearing forests as part of the deal with Norway. A government official said earlier this month the Widodo administration would extend the ban.

Under the deal, Indonesia will receive payments based on the amount of reduced deforestation. But environmental groups say forest clearing has accelerated due to an expansion in mining and palm oil plantations.

“We have become more realistic on how fast you can achieve results,” said Solberg, adding that Indonesia needed “cultural change” to successfully curb deforestation. (Reporting by Randy Fabi; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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