Indonesia takes new step to combat loss of forests, fires

Indonesia has strengthened its moratorium on converting peat swamps to plantations in a move a conservation research group says would prevent annual fires and substantially cut the country's carbon emissions if properly implemented.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo issued an amendment recently to the moratorium regulation, expanding it to cover peatlands of any depth and ordering companies to restore areas they've degraded.

Draining of peat swamps by plantation, pulp wood and mining companies is a major contributor to destruction of tropical forests in Indonesia. It worsens annual fires that release huge amounts of carbon stored in the peat.

Indonesia's move was welcomed by Norway on Monday, which in 2010 pledged $1 billion to help the country stop cutting down its prized tropical forests but has released little of it.