Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo will return early from an official trip to the United States due to a haze crisis caused by raging peat fires in the Southeast Asian country, the government said.
Indonesia and the wider Southeast Asian region have been suffering for weeks from smoke caused by smouldering forest fires in Sumatra and Borneo islands that authorities have struggled to contain.
“The president will return a day earlier and will not be going to the west coast of the U.S.,” Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said. Widodo will fly back on Tuesday evening.
Widodo, who arrived in Washington on Sunday, said planned meetings with Apple and Google in Silicon Valley on Wednesday would go ahead without him. They are aimed at attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investment into Indonesia’s tech sector.
“I have asked several ministers to proceed with the meetings with the CEOs on the west coast,” Widodo said in a statement released by the presidential palace in Jakarta. He said he would fly directly to the haze-affected areas.
Widodo met U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday, when they discussed climate change ahead of a U.N. climate summit in Paris in December.
Obama said later it was important for large countries like the United States and Indonesia “to arrive at the strongest possible set of targets and international agreements when we arrive in Paris”.
Widodo said they had held “a thorough discussion” on climate change and agreed to work together “for the sake of our future generations”.
“Especially in Indonesia, we have a big challenge right now. We have peat fires, and the efforts to extinguish it is quite challenging,” he said.
A joint statement said Indonesia and the United States committed to work closely to implement strong policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions and increase climate resilience.
Indonesia is home to the world’s third-largest tropical forest and is the sixth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter due to deforestation, the degradation of peatland and forest fires.
Nearly 100,000 active fires have been detected in Indonesia so far in 2015, according to the Global Emissions Fire Database.