Forest Conservation Takes Commitment
By Zulfahmi, Greenpeace
Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) said this week that it would call on NGOs, governments and businesses to collaborate to protect Indonesia’s forests. This announcement came Wednesday, one year to the day after the company announced its Forest Conservation Policy and as Greenpeace announced the suspension of its global campaign against APP.
The pulp giant, once the leading driver of deforestation in Indonesia, agreed to protect all areas of natural forest across its supply chain. Greenpeace has spent the last 12 months getting its hands dirty by providing regular advice and feedback to APP on implementing the policy. This is no easy task given the enormous amount of land impacted by the new policy — some 2.6 million hectares or 3.7 million soccer fields, but our conclusion is that APP remains serious about its implementation.
One of the greatest hurdles facing the conservation of Indonesia’s rainforests is the land-grabbing by different industry interests often endorsed by various levels of government. This is compounded by the issuance of overlapping licenses, with numerous instances of both pulp and oil palm companies having permits governing the same forest area. Exacerbating this, licenses for mining may legally be granted inside other legal concession areas. This threatens to undermine any individual company’s conservation efforts in Indonesia.
The problem is not APP’s alone to solve. Saving Sumatran tigers, a species driven to the edge of extinction because its habitat is being destroyed, requires a landscape-level approach to conservation, not the protection of isolated fragments of forest, which is the current approach supported by government. Success requires cooperation, commitment and action from multiple stakeholders who share a vision to protect Indonesia’s last forests.
On the positive side, other major industry players are recognizing that they must act to ensure their operations are not driving deforestation. In December 2013, Wilmar — the world’s largest trader of palm oil — made a commitment to zero deforestation, requiring all of its suppliers to cease deforestation. The company controls around a third of the world’s palm oil trade.
This stands in stark contrast to APP’s major pulp and paper competitor Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd. (APRIL)/Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) group — a company with the dubious claim to fame as the largest cause of deforestation for pulp in Indonesia today. APRIL, feeling pressure from stakeholders, recently announced a new forest management policy. Unfortunately, it is little more than green-wash and will allow the company to continue using timber from rainforests for another six years.
But this must translate into urgent action on the ground — action that levels the playing field for companies that take action to protect forests. Until it does, the chances of long-term forest conservation are limited.
The writer is the forest campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
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