EU Considering Palm-Oil Boycott To Curb Deforestation

Deforestation Driving Climate Change, Extinction

Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce more than 80 percent of the world’s palm oil, are resisting proposals by European parliamentarians that could limit their access to the second biggest palm oil market after India.

Government ministers from Malaysia and Indonesia, along with some regional palm oil producers, met in Jakarta on April 11 to plan a response to a resolution approved on April 4 by European parliament members concerning palm oil and deforestation.

The parliamentarians requested the EU to “introduce a single certification scheme for palm oil entering the EU market and phase out the use of vegetable oils that drive deforestation by 2020.”

They hope for an EU-wide ban on biodiesel made from palm oil by 2020, claiming that the expansion of palm oil plantations, mostly in Southeast Asia, is causing “massive forest fires, the drying up of rivers, soil erosion, peatland drainage, the pollution of waterways and overall loss of biodiversity.”

palm oil plantation deforestation

Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar called the EU proposals an “insult,” while the foreign ministry accused the EU of “protectionism” and of ignoring the rights of millions of Indonesian farmers whose main source of income is from small oil palm plots.

The growth in global demand for palm oil, which is used in a wide array of products from cosmetics and fuel to foods such as margarine and chocolate, has resulted in the massive clearing of forests, particularly in Indonesia, over the last 30 years. The slash and burn methods used on Sumatra and Borneo have led to forest and peatland fires that have enveloped Singapore and parts of Malaysia in a smoky haze that has spread as far as southern Thailand.

Images of orphaned baby elephants and orangutans rescued from cleared forests and plantations have spurred vigorous environmental activism and consumer awareness campaigns in recent years. Species such as the Sumatran elephant have been put on endangered lists, with the ensuing bad publicity forcing governments and palm oil companies to sign up for various national and international certification schemes to guarantee that palm oil products are not causing environmental damage.

palm oil and orangutans

But members of the European parliament argue that a single certification scheme is needed. “MEPs note that various voluntary certification schemes promote the sustainable cultivation of palm oil,” but “their standards are open to criticism and are confusing for consumers,” said a European parliament press release issued on April 4.

In response, Indonesia’s Agriculture Minister Andi Amran Sulaiman told reporters in Jakarta that “we cannot let Europe dictate Indonesia’s agriculture. We have our own standard called Indonesia Sustainable Palm Oil.”

Mah Siew Keong, the Malaysian plantation industries and commodities minister, said that “Malaysia too already has a national certification system.” He noted that “only palm oil is subjected to certification while similarly produced vegetables oils are not subject to sustainability certification,” asserting, “this is not fair.”

With the Indonesia Oil Palm Producers Association executive director Fadhil Hasan calling on the government to “retaliate,” mentioning wine, aircraft, perfume and pharmaceuticals as imports from Europe that Jakarta could target, the dispute over palm oil could undermine work started in July 2016 by the EU and Indonesia to move toward a free trade agreement, as well as disrupt longer-standing negotiations between the EU and Malaysia on a similar deal.

Indonesia is Southeast Asian’s biggest economy and accounts for almost 40% of the total 620 million population of Southeast Asia. “European companies already provide 1 million jobs here in Indonesia and we hope it can grow,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, during a Nov. 2016 trade mission visit to Jakarta.With tensions over palm oil threatening to undermine free trade negotiations, some European officials sought to play down some of the concerns raised by MEPs.

deforestation and climate change

Jean-Charles Berthonnet, the French ambassador to Indonesia, described the MEP resolution as “unilaterally critical and moralizing” in an opinion article published in the Jakarta Post, though the ambassador agreed that a better certification system is needed.

“Deforestation is a very complex issue and I think we can agree on a number of points. But we need to take a broader look at deforestation because it is not caused only by the palm oil industry,” said Karmenu Vella, the EU commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

Indeed, one recent agreement suggests that the EU and Indonesia can collaborate on preserving forests. In November 2016, Indonesia and the EU launched a licensing scheme that aimed to stop illegally logged timber from being exported from Indonesia — the world’s third biggest jungle area after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — to Europe, and in turn reduce deforestation across the archipelago. “Indonesia has shown true leadership and now sets a high standard for other countries to emulate,” said Vincent Guerend, the EU ambassador to Indonesia, when the initiative was launched.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

But both sides will now have to come to terms over palm oil. The April 11 meeting of palm oil growers in Jakarta was convened to plan a negotiating strategy ahead of a possible meeting with European officials in May to discuss the proposed restrictions on palm oil.

“We will do whatever we can to convince the European parliament and European countries not to implement it,” Darmin Nasution, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for economic affairs, told reporters. “We will negotiate in full force,” he added.

The European parliamentarians also accused the palm oil companies of not living up to their claims that their products are environmentally friendly. “Some companies trading in palm oil are failing to prove beyond doubt that the palm oil in their supply chain is not linked to deforestation, peatland drainage or environmental pollution, and to demonstrate that it has been produced with full respect for fundamental human rights and adequate social standards,” the MEPs stated.

Anita Neville, vice president of corporate communications and sustainability relations at Golden Agri-Resources, a Singapore-based palm oil company that manages 480,000 hectares of Indonesian palm oil plantations, said that producers hoped that the EU would not back away from the use of palm oil. “If your motivation is to tackle deforestation and poverty, you need to stay in the game and demand sustainable palm oil,” she said.

Malaysian palm oil producers Sime Darby and IOI announced in March they had joined the year-old Fire Free Alliance, which “focuses on fire prevention through community engagement.” It includes environmental groups and major forestry and agriculture companies such as pulp and paper giant Asia Pacific Resources International and major palm oil players Musim Mas Group and Wilmar International.

deforestation climate change

The Indonesian government is backing the FFA, which so far supervises activity in just 200 villages covering roughly 1.5 million hectares of land. This amounts to just over a quarter of what the Indonesian government estimates are 731 villages in seven of Indonesia’s 34 provinces where slash and burn clearances are undertaken.

Among those most affected by plantation expansion and deforestation in Indonesia is the country’s indigenous population, which is seeking more rights over traditional lands in many places that overlap with some of the country’s forests and plantations.

But granting such rights would likely make it more difficult to conduct agribusiness on up 8 million hectares of land claimed by indigenous peoples. This is seen as one reason why Indonesian President Joko Widodo belatedly cancelled a scheduled appearance at a March congress of indigenous leaders in northern Sumatra.

Rukka Sombolinggi, the newly elected head of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), said she was not surprised at the president’s reluctance to attend the event. But she added, “the problem is with the ministry of environment and forestry, they are the ones who are claiming our land as state land.”

Her group contends that giving indigenous groups legal rights to their land is the best way to ensure that forest ecologies are preserved. Rukmini P. Toheke, a prominent activist for indigenous peoples from Palu in central Sulawesi, said: “For us the forest is ‘katu vua,’ or life itself.” She added: “If we destroy the forests, we destroy our own lives.”

Deforestation News via http://asia.nikkei.com/Markets/Commodities/Asian-palm-oil-producers-slam-EU-moves-to-restrict-market-access?page=1

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. We have projects ready across Africa now. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

China Reforestation Becoming A Global Model

Economic Growth Has Taken Its Toll On China’s Natural Resources

The Chinese government has payed close attention to ecological and environmental issues for years. Contrary to popular belief, sustainability and environmental protection are long-term strategies vital to the country’s health and wealth.

climate change and deforestation

China started framing environmental protection as a fundamental national policy in the 1980s. It established sustainable development as a national strategy in the 1990s. At the turn of the century, the government proposed a “Scientific Outlook on Development” that is people-centered, fully coordinated, and environmentally sustainable. Since 2012, the government has incorporated Eco-civilization into the national blueprint, which outlines a commitment to “innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared development.”

This blueprint has given great impetus to the implementation of Eco-civilization with environmental quality at its core aiming at making the skies bluer, mountains greener, water cleaner, and the ecological environment better.

President Xi Jinping has pointed out that green is gold and that moving towards a new era of eco-civilization and building a beautiful China are key to realizing the Chinese Dream of rejuvenating the nation.

Since its reform and opening-up thirty years ago, the country has seen its economy grow at an annual average of 9.8 percent. It has successfully transitioned from a low-income to a high middle-income country with significant economic achievements, almost having reached levels of industrialization and urbanization that took one to two hundred years in developed countries.

Meanwhile, China has paid a heavy environmental price, with the emergence of problems such as soot pollution, ozone depletion, fine particulate matters (PM2.5), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Pollution from different sources – production and households, urban and rural, industry and transport – appear to be intertwined with each other.

China deforestation

For years China was notorious for denuding its forests of vegetation to expand its economy. The economy grew, but water sources were tainted, air polluted and animal habitats demolished. Only a few years ago, just two percent of China’s forests were undisturbed. Deadly floods in 1998 caused by the lack of trees prompted the government to finally take action. They implemented the National Forest Conservation Program.

China banned logging in many areas and then paid farmers, who were accustomed to earning money by cutting down trees for wood, to plant trees instead. Some local citizens were paid to monitor forests and report illegal logging activity. The Chinese government claims that the conservation and reforestation plans are working.

Scientists from the University of Michigan evaluated the Chinese government’s conservation measures using images from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. They studied data between 2000 and 2010 and found forest cover has grown rapidly in 1.6 percent of China. That may not sound like much, but it’s about 61,000 square miles. Meanwhile. 0.38 percent of the nation suffered from deforestation – that’s around 14,400 square miles.

deforestation China

The research isn’t simply a green light for China to continue every current policy. They’re importing more wood now, from countries such as Vietnam, Madagascar, and Russia, which the scientists warned causes deforestation in those other countries.

China plans to cover nearly a quarter of the country in forest by 2020, according to an announcement made via a United Nations report. The goal is part of a larger plan to build an ecological civilization that will serve as a model for future projects around the world.

“The outdated view that man can conquer nature and ignore the bearing capacity of resources and the environment should be completely abandoned,” said Zhu Guangyao, executive vice president of the Chinese Ecological Civilization Research and Promotion Association. “Conscientious efforts should be made to live in harmony with nature.”

giant panda conservation

In addition to planting, the country will also step up efforts to restore 35 percent of the natural shorelines, reclaim more than half of the desert, and increase prairie vegetation coverage by 56 percent.

“If China succeeds in implementing targets outlined in its ecological blue print, then it will have taken a major step towards shifting to a greener economy,” Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director, said.

To address the dilemmas between economic development and resource/environmental constraints, the government has most recently proposed a policy of pursuing green development and building an Eco-civilization, which involves management of the relationship between humans and nature in a comprehensive, scientific, and systematic manner. It embodies the green is gold perspective of values, development, and governance. It goes beyond and does away with the traditional development patterns and models, guiding the transformation of the production methods and the lifestyle of the entire society.

As China firmly supports and actively implements the concept and actions of sustainable development at the global level, its effort to build an Eco-civilization will make a significant contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The country’s practices and experiments to promote an Eco-civilization will not only contribute to addressing its own resource and environmental challenges but also serve as demonstrations for other developing countries that may wish to avoid the dependence on, and the lock-in effect of traditional development pathways. This is conducive to promoting the establishment of a new global environmental governance system and benefitting the noble course of sustainable development for all people, men and women.

Reforestation China via http://reliefweb.int/report/china/green-gold-strategy-and-actions-china-s-ecological-civilization

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Deforestation Taking Toll On Pakistan

Floods, Landslides Killing Citizens

National Assembly members hit out at the Climate Change Ministry’s forest wing and provincial forest departments for failing to control deforestation.

At a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Climate Change held at the Parliament House on Friday under the chair of MNA Hafeez-ur-Rehman Khan Drishak, the parliamentarians said that illegal forest cutting was not possible without the involvement of forest officials.

deforestation and global warming

They rejected the claims of forest officials that local forest mafias were involved in forest cutting with the support of local politicians, terming it unconvincing.

The meeting also discussed the latest situation of floods in upper parts of the country and steps taken by the government for rehabilitation of the affected. The committee also examined issues related to climate change and steps taken by federal as well as provincial governments to stop deforestation.

The parliamentarians said that forest officials were painting a rosy picture of forest cover but the situation on ground was contrary to their claim and deforestation was causing landslides, land erosion, silting of river bodies, urban flooding, heat waves as well as shift in rain patterns. Pakhtunthwa Milli Awami Party MNA Abdul Qahar Khan Wadan said that   cutting of trees was not possible without involvement of local forest departments.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz legislator Muhammad Moeen Watoo said that since the first meeting of NA standing committee on climate change, the climate ministry has been trying to cover up but the ground situation was grim and dismal.

“It reflects the fact that forest officials of the ministry and provincial forest departments are doing nothing to control deforestation and increasing forest cover in the country,” Watoo said.

The parliamentarians emphasized that the political leadership needed to play its role by engaging local forest communities to boost awareness about importance of forest in environmental conservation and forest protection as well as tackling climate change impacts effectively.

reforestation

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal MNA Naeema Kishwar Khan emphasized that to tackle climate change impacts, the country would have to increase forest cover. She also suggested involvement of women for increasing forest cover and stressed to provide alternate fuel resources for local communities.

Climate Change Ministry Secretary Syed Abu Akif Ahmed suggested that the government should reduce import duty on liquefied petroleum gas and on technology used in renewable energy to provide easy alternate sources of fuel to the communities.  The parliamentarians supported his idea.

He said that to tackle climate change issues and increase tree cover, the ministry needed support from provincial governments as  the ministry was pushing hard to bring all provincial forest,  environment and other relevant departments together to address  the menace of climate change.

He said that the ministry was not capable enough  to deal with climate change issues alone and it required cooperation from provincial departments to deal with climate change issues and to increase forest cover. He said that lack of coordination among federating units was a serious bottleneck to address the problem.

Earlier, in a written reply, the climate ministry officials told the committee that from March 9 to April, a total 264 people lost their lives due to heavy rains across the country while 3,017 houses were damaged.

According to break-up, the highest 149 deaths were recorded in K-P followed by FATA with 38 deaths, AJK 25, G-B and Balochistan 19 each, and Punjab 14 deaths.

The parliamentarian, however, appreciated the Climate Change Ministry for devising a National Climate Change Policy and a roadmap for implementation of the policy.

Deforestation and Climate Change via http://tribune.com.pk/story/1094396/floods-landslides-parliamentarians-hit-out-at-forest-departments-for-failing-to-control-deforestation/

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Indonesia Vows To Fight Deforestation

Bans New Palm Oil Plantations

By Ben Otto, Wall Street Journal

Indonesia will temporarily bar new palm oil and mining operations to help protect the country’s vast tropical forests following international criticism over its environmental stewardship.

A spokesman for Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Friday that the ban would likely take effect this year and last for an undetermined time. The moratorium would halt new permits for palm oil and mining operations, both mainstays of Indonesia’s economy. Mr. Widodo suggested growers could double production on existing lands if they farmed more efficiently.

palm oil plantation deforestation

Foreign officials and environmental activists have criticized Indonesia for the rapid loss of its tropical rainforest, mainly on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, much of it tied to land conversion to support palm oil and pulp production. Dry-season fires used by farmers and companies to clear forest and scrublands regularly send toxic smoke billowing throughout the region, raising air pollution levels in neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. Mr. Widodo vowed during and after global climate talks in Paris last year to improve Indonesia’s record on its rain forests.

Environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the news but expressed skepticism about its implementation because the ban’s authority rests on a presidential decree, which carries less weight than a law. The group pointed to a current ban on palm oil licenses in peatland and some forest areas that it says isn’t adequately being enforced.

“We have learned from weak enforcement of the existing moratorium that a presidential instruction lacks teeth,” said Kiki Taufik, forest campaigner for Greenpeace in Indonesia.

The moratorium would come as Mr. Widodo struggles to restore Southeast Asia’s largest economy to higher growth rates amid slack demand from China and budget cuts it has imposed. The economy grew by 4.7 percent last year, greatly underperforming the rate of growth it enjoyed a few years ago during a commodities boom.

Palm oil has grown into a $20 billion export industry in Indonesia, fed by a global boom for the edible oil used in products from toothpaste and candy bars to cleaning products. Growers want to expand from production of 32.5 million metric tons of palm oil last year to 40 million by 2020, an effort they have said requires adding millions of hectares of lands for production.

deforestation and climate change

The Indonesian Palm Oil Association said it was still seeking details about the plan and highlighted the importance of the industry for export earnings and millions of jobs.

“The palm oil sector is a strategic sector that contributed to exports (of almost) $19 billion in 2015, and this figure is much higher than foreign exchange from exports of oil and gas,” the association said.

Golden Agri-Resources, the world’s second-largest palm oil company and a unit of Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas, supported the government’s move. “Any government initiative that is focused on intensification over land expansion is to be applauded,” said its spokeswoman Anita Neville.

Ms. Neville said that the company’s yields are already among the sector’s highest, but that the challenge is to spread capacity gains among millions of smallholders.

Mining experts said the move wasn’t immediately a cause for alarm and said that a steadily extending moratorium in forest areas had led most companies to understand that forests are effectively off limits. Many companies in sectors like coal have meanwhile cut back due to low global prices and demand.

Supriatna Suhala, executive director of the Indonesian Coal Mining Association, said the moratorium would allow the government to improve governance and monitoring and help reduce illegal mining.

“In the situation of prolonged low prices of mining products due to significant oversupply, presumably a lot of (our) members will agree with the policy,” he said.

Exact rates of Indonesian deforestation have varied with different figures quoted by researchers and government, but a new study, which claims to be the most comprehensive yet, suggests that nearly twice as much primary forest is being cut down as in Brazil, the historical global leader in deforestation.

Indonesia is the world’s third-largest producer of greenhouse gases behind China and the US, with 85 percent of its emissions coming from forest destruction and degradation. Primary forests are the largest above-ground carbon stores in the world.

Forest Conservation News via http://www.wsj.com/articles/indonesia-bans-new-palm-oil-and-mining-operations-1460707310

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

India Failing To Conserve Forests, Biodiversity

Deforestation Threatens Life Across Asia

As national action on climate change accelerates and corporate agendas turn to energy efficiency and deployment of renewables to reduce carbon footprints, the International Day of Forests on March 21 offers a timely reminder of a crucial, but often overlooked ally in this effort.

Over the last few decades, forests have absorbed as much as 30 percent of annual global CO2 emissions but the role business can play through their supply chain to halt deforestation linked to production of a wide range of every-day goods, remains an area of significant, untapped potential.

deforestation and climate change

India’s demand for internationally traded forest-based commodities like timber, pulp, viscose cellulose fibre, palm oil and natural rubber that form the base of every-day goods is substantial and growing. The opportunity to contribute significantly to addressing climate change lies in driving greater sustainability in these important supply chains.

At the root of the issue is the link between production and the clearing of natural forest to make room for the establishment of large scale commercial plantations, particularly in the tropical forests of South East Asia. The adverse consequences for both people and planet are increasingly apparent—deforestation rates in Indonesia have reached record rates. Illustrative of this was the recent ‘haze’ in South East Asia linked to the burning of tropical forests to make way for commercial plantation of timber and oil palm.

palm oil plantation deforestation

It was regarded as the worst environmental crisis of 2015 with emissions generated each day from the burning exceeding that of the average daily emissions from all US economic activity.

In recognition of the need for collective effort to address these issues, a number of public and private initiatives have emerged in recent times. Regulatory frameworks such as FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) and EUTR (EU Timber Regulation) have been introduced in the United States and European Union, aimed at driving greater legality in global forestry supply chains.

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF)—an alliance of 400 companies including retailers, manufacturers and service providers across 70 countries—pledged in 2012 to achieve ‘zero net deforestation’ by 2020. Out of this commitment, the Tropical Forest Alliance was formed—a global public-private partnership which sees eight governments, 33 civil society organizations and 27 private sector companies partnering to tackle the drivers of deforestation associated with the sourcing of commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef, and paper and pulp. Even the finance sector has recognized the risks with 12 international banks joining with the CGF to form a ‘Soft Commodities Compact’ in 2013 to support a 2020 target for zero net deforestation in supply chains.

Most strikingly, for the first time, in 2014, through the New York Declaration of Forests, dozens of governments, 30 of the world’s biggest companies, and more than 50 influential civil society and indigenous organizations came together to endorse a political declaration that sets a global time-line to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and strives to end it by 2030. The Declaration calls for restoring forests and croplands of an area larger than India and, most significantly, lays out a specific role for the private sector in achieving these goals, through the development of deforestation-free supply chains.

Critical to all of this action is engagement by companies with their suppliers to understand and remove deforestation from their sourcing and deploying clear operating procedures, credible third-party verification, and transparent reporting on sustainability parameters.

By expanding their efforts on climate change to include their supply chains, Indian companies can play a significant part in reducing global deforestation and carbon emissions. Deforestation-free supply chains can become a reality if business plays its part. These measures not only contribute to an important global cause but are also a means to protect brand value, improve supply chain resilience and meet the future requirements of an evolving customer base.

Forest Conservation News via http://www.financialexpress.com/article/fe-columnist/column-india-inc-must-shun-deforestation/228464/

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Indonesia Forest Fires Threaten Wildlife, Communities

Land Clearing Considered Greatest Environmental Crime Of Our Time

By Nadia Drake, Nature

The world’s only wild orangutans—already besieged by logging, hunting, pet trading and the steady expansion of palm oil plantations—are now threatened by forest fires that have burned for months on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in southeast Asia. In the toxic smoke and haze, locals and researchers are scrambling to protect the estimated 50,000 remaining orangutans that live only on those two islands.

Fires erupt every year in Indonesia during the dry season, as farmers, plantation owners and others deliberately burn forest to clear land or to settle territorial disputes. But this year’s El Niño weather pattern, combined with a legacy of land-management practices that have dried the soil and degraded vast swathes of peat-swamp forest, turned this burning season into an environmental catastrophe that has destroyed more than 2 million hectares of forest throughout Indonesia, to which Sumatra and much of Borneo belong.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

Since late summer, teams of researchers have headed out from the city of Palangkaraya in Borneo to find and fight new blazes. Some patrol the rivers and others head into the forest, where extinguishing the flames can require drilling more than 20 metres down to reach the water table—tough, gruelling work that is carried out amid tropical heat and in a persistent, menacing orange haze.

One day in October, Simon Husson, director of the UK-based Orangutan Tropical Peatland Project, deployed a drone at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation’s centre for orangutan rescue and rehabilitation near Palangkaraya.

“Eyes in the sky are a huge help,” he says. “On the ground, you’re in choking smoke and the haze is severely restricting visibility.”

Indonesia forest fires palm oil plantations

As the drone rose above the smoggy blanket, its camera glimpsed a new fire burning deep in the forest. The fire was remote enough not to threaten the orphaned and injured orangutans being readied for reintroduction to the forest, “but you can’t help thinking about the wild ones out there”, Husson says.

Husson and his colleagues have temporarily abandoned their normal research activities in the 6,000-square-kilometre Sabangau Forest, which is home not just to orangutans but also to rare Bornean white-bearded gibbons, sun bears and pangolins, to help local fire-fighting teams with cash and personnel. “Not only is [research] pretty unimportant right now,” he says, “it’s basically impossible to study the orangutans in the canopy as we can’t see them for the smoke.”

Indonesia deforestation
Indonesia and Malaysia are the palm oil capitals of the world. The industry has pillaged the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

Peat fires devastate orangutan populations primarily by destroying crucial habitat, but the animals are also susceptible to the same types of smoke- and haze-induced respiratory problems as humans. The charismatic arboreal apes are already endangered throughout their range; their population is estimated to have declined by 78% from more than 230,000 a century ago. “Over half the world’s orangutans live in peat-swamp forests, and every one of these peatlands in Borneo right now is on fire, somewhere,” Husson says.

Undisturbed peat forests are actually incredibly fire resistant, says Susan Page, a geographer at the University of Leicester, UK, who studies peatlands in southeast Asia, because the swamps are damp enough to make ignition difficult. But, unfortunately, large tracts of Borneo’s peatland are anything but undisturbed.

In 1996, Indonesia’s then-president Suharto launched the Mega Rice Project, which tried to transform 1 million hectares of Bornean peatland into rice paddies. Draining the peat was essential for the plan, and despite the fact that no rice was ever harvested, canals that were cut through the forests have been draining water from the peat ever since.

The infernos in Indonesia have climate implications as well. Normally, Borneo’s peat forests are efficient carbon stores, holding tons of organic matter in layers of compressed plant material that can be more than 15 meters thick. But when that peat burns, the accumulated carbon is released. This year, the fires have already released more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—more than Japan’s annual carbon emissions. Since September, carbon emissions due to the fires have exceeded the daily production of the United States on at least 38 days, prompting one conservation scientist to call this year’s fires the “biggest environmental crime of the twenty-first century.”

Read The Full Story At http://www.nature.com/news/indonesia-blazes-threaten-endangered-orangutans-1.18714

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

DiCaprio Foundation Chipping In To Save Indonesian Rainforest

DiCaprio Foundation, WWF Forge Creative Rainforest Conservation Plan

Indonesia has one of the highest rates of deforestation of any country in the world. According to Global Forest Watch, the country lost 16.88 million hectares of rainforest between 2001 and 2013, a chunk of forest nearly the size of France.

Deforestation is not only a serious problem for global climate change, but it’s also a problem for the communities of people who make the forests their home. The same goes for animals, and many of the species found in the Sumatran rainforest of Indonesia are increasingly threatened with extinction, including the orangutan, Sumatran tiger and Asian elephants.

palm oil plantation deforestation

To help stop the decimation on the island of Sumatra, WWF and a handful of partners announced some good news. The government of Indonesia has granted conservationists a 100,000-acre concession of forest in Bukit Tigapuluh, also called Thirty Hills, for the purpose of ecosystem restoration.

The announcement effectively expands the protected area of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park by 25 percent. Part of the concession had previously been granted to a logging company, which has since abandoned the site. Although some of the forest is degraded from logging activities, logging has not occurred there for many years and much of the forest remains intact.

Leonardo DiCaprio is helping to fund the 100,000-acre restoration and conservation plan, which effectively expands the protected area of Bukit Tigapuluh National Park by 25 percent. According to Global Forest Watch, the Asian country lost 16.88 million hectares of rainforest between 2001 and 2013.

deforestation and climate change

Deforestation is obviously not great for the environment. Not only does it contribute to global climate change, but it’s also a huge problem for the communities of people and the various species of wildlife who make the forests their home. This concession of land is a good step in the right direction.

“I am honored that my Foundation is a part of this effort,” DiCaprio said.

The rainforest in Bukit Tigapuluh, or Thirty Hills, will also generate sustainable revenue from non-timber forest products, including rubber, honey and rattan. The WWF, the Frankfurt Zoological Society and The Orangutan Project will work together with indigenous forest groups to harvest products from the forest without causing further harm to the land. The revenue from the products will go towards protection as well as the restoration process of the forest where past logging activities have caused degradation.

deforestation palm oil orangutans

“This is a whole new approach to forest conservation,” said Jan Vertefeuille, Head of Campaigns for WWF. “We’re seeing it as a new model of innovative financing married with traditional conservation.”

But the new concession isn’t going to be managed like a national park. Instead, WWF, the Frankfurt Zoological Society and The Orangutan Project have set up a commercial company that will work with indigenous forest groups to harvest products from the forest without damaging it. These non-timber products include rubber, honey and rattan.

“Working very closely with the local communities is key to this, we see them as equal partners,” said Vertefeuille. There are two indigenous forest-dwelling tribes who live in this forest: the Orang Rumba, a nomadic tribe, and the Talang Mamak, a group that lives in forest villages.

Although these tribes have been marginalized by commercial loggers and plantations in the past, working with forest peoples is a smart conservation strategy. Considerable research has shown that forest communities who have land tenure can in fact be more effective at preventing deforestation than other types of management plans.

“We very much want to make sure that their land tenure is understood, and we’ve been mapping the concession to understand what parts of the forest are most important to them,” said Vertefeuille.

WWF has already created a partnership with Michelin tires, which operates a nearby rubber concession, and the local groups. Vertefeuille explains that natural rubber can be harvested without harming the trees or the surrounding forest, much like shade-grown coffee. Michelin has not only committed to purchasing this rubber, but also to helping the communities improve their tree-tapping techniques, so that they can sell a higher quality product and increase their revenue.

 

The announcement is also good news for critically endangered Sumatran tigers and elephants, two species that have suffered from habitat loss. Thirty Hills is also home to the only project in the world that has successfully reintroduced Sumatran orangutans back into the wild, after they have been rescued from the illegal pet trade.

“Between the tigers, the orangutans and the elephants there it is quite a spectacular rainforest,” said Vertefeuille.

Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

DiCaprio’s foundation donated $15 million to various environmental causes last month in addition to raising more than $40 million at his annual fundraising gala. That’s leadership.

Rainforest Conservation News via http://www.treehugger.com/endangered-species/conservation-group-gets-into-rubber-business-to-save-rainforest.html

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture, carbon capture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Corporations Plan To Destroy Remaining Orangutan Habitat

Editor’s Note: If Indonesia and Malaysia plan to industrialize the entire islands of Borneo and Sumatra, they owe it to the world to relocate the last orangutans and tigers to safe zones–including nearby islands. Extinction is not an option.

Relocating Orangutans Might Help Them Escape Land-Grab, Climate Change

Orangutan populations and their habitat on Borneo and Sumatra have been decimated over the past few decades. It’s predicted to get worse.

Due to deliberate deforestation and poaching, there are likely fewer than 50,000 orangutans left on these two islands combined. That number is dropping fast. Saving them from the threats of industry will be tough enough, but climate change adds a wild card to the equation.

deforestation and wildlife extinction and deforestation for palm oil

According to one study, some 74 percent of current orangutan habitat on Borneo – which covers Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei – could become unsuitable for them due to climate and deforestation caused by agriculture, mining and logging. Sumatra and its endangered species are experiencing a similar fate.

Large parts of the original forests have been taken away and replaced by palm oil plantations, or cities and villages. They also face danger from poachers, with the adults being killed for their meat and the babies being sold to keep as pets.

Research conducted by Dr Matthew Struebig, at the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, has identified some 42,000 km2 of land that could serve as potential orangutan refuges, providing relatively safe new habitats where the great apes could reside safely. This means that if necessary the apes could be moved there from their current location.

“The findings on first glance are quite pessimistic,” Dr Struebig explained. “What they show is the effects of climate change will exacerbate the ongoing effects of deforestation. The good news is that we found areas that wouldn’t be impacted upon by deforestation or climate change over the next 60 to 80 years.”

palm oil plantation deforestation

Dr. Struebig was joined by colleagues from Liverpool John Moores University and the Leibinz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and contributions were made by conservation scientists from Australia and Indonesia, in consultation with leading orangutan experts based in the Malaysian and Indonesian parts of Borneo. The researchers are hoping the findings will make a difference to conservation efforts on the ground.

“Orangutans need large areas of forests,” Dr Struebig explaines, “they need fruiting trees and they need areas that are relatively well protected because they are hunted.”

Indonesia deforestation

Part of the work was conducted by the Centre for International Foresty in Indonesia. Researchers used satellite images to map the deforestation and estimate the areas of forest change that are expected in the future. They mapped land that was unsuitable for oil palm agriculture, which is one of the major threats to the orangutans.

Using this alongside the information they had on orangutan ecology and climate, they could identify the environmentally stable habitats for the species. As habitat loss and climate change depletes their food resources, the problem is compounded.

With their living space shrinking and food getting more scarce, some orangutans are wandering into palm oil plantations to find food, including palm seedlings. They are seen as pests on these large plantations and they are shot, tortured and killed.

palm oil and orangutans

“I think the first step is awareness, so people know what’s actually happening,” MidKent College conservationist Ant Finch explains. “Then they can choose to get involved in a project that speaks to them. The situation isn’t getting any better. On a worldwide scale when you look at all species, to lose one would be terrible in our lifetime. If the orangutan goes extinct in our generation, it would be really, really catastrophic.”

Rainforest Conservation News via http://www.kentnews.co.uk/news/kent_orangutan_expert_talks_of_the_animals_plight_1_3947074

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Deforestation Threatens World Heritage Site In Indonesia

Government Unwilling, Unable To Defend Sumatra

A unique ecosystem with endangered orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants is threatened by the provincial Aceh government, which is ignoring national laws that protect public lands from deforestation and development.

deforestation and wildlife extinction and deforestation for palm oil

Aceh, which has greater autonomy than other Indonesian provinces, is asserting control over land within the Leuser Ecosystem and ignoring its protected status under Indonesian law.

A new report by the European Union’s development program said the threat of damage to the protected area is high because of developments plans. Disagreement over the land use plan highlights continuing tension between the central government in Jakarta and the provincial government in Aceh. The province received autonomy in a peace deal that ended decades of separatist warfare in 2005, but the extent of Aceh’s independence from national mandates remains unclear. The silence from the government in Jakarta in the wake of these crimes speaks volumes.

Gov. Zaini Abdullah and one of his senior aides — who were both leaders of the recent rebel movement — did not respond to requests for comment about forest destruction and the land use plan.

endangered species conservation and forest conservation

The Gunung Leuser Ecosystem is a forested mountain area in northern Sumatra that straddles the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. It is the only place that the four rare species of Sumatran mega-fauna — orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos — share the same natural habitat, environmentalists say. The 6.5 million-acre ecosystem includes Gunung Leuser National Park, designated by UNESCO as part of a multi-park World Heritage site.

Conservationists say the Aceh government is ignoring the central government and allowing widespread illegal activities in the protected area: logging, road-building, the burning of protected land and the planting of extensive palm oil groves. The province issued its so-called spatial plan in December 2013, which sets out land use policy for a 20-year period. The document made no mention of the Leuser Ecosystem and the omission has alarmed conservationists.

In February,  the Home Affairs ministry, which has authority over the planning process, rejected Aceh’s plan and directed provincial officials to include consideration of Leuser. The provincial government has yet to amend the plan and is implementing it anyway, environmentalists say.

“All we are asking is for you to follow the rules,” said Ian Singleton, scientific director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, which releases formerly captive orangutans into the wilderness area. “If you want to conserve Sumatra’s mega-fauna, you have to conserve the Leuser ecosystem.”

Indonesia deforestation

Muhammad Fadhil, head of infrastructure for the province’s development and planning agency, agreed with environmentalists that deforestation and the planting of palm plantations in the area was “a big problem.”

He asserted that the government was attempting to address forest destruction in the Leuser Ecosystem but acknowledged that such efforts are “a work in progress.”

palm oil plantation deforestation

The Leuser Ecosystem is one of the last remaining true wilderness areas in Indonesia. This vast landscape spans lowland evergreen dipterocarp forest, lower and upper montane rainforest, peat swamp forest, sub-alpine meadows and heathlands, freshwater lakes and rivers, and sulphur mineral pools. Sumatran rhinos, Asian elephants, and sun bears wander through the forests, while orangutans and gibbons swing through the canopies above. There is nothing like it elsewhere in Indonesia or on earth.

Rainforest News via http://blogs.wsj.com/indonesiarealtime/2015/02/02/prized-forest-in-aceh-threatened-by-development-activists-say/

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

Tiger Population Rising In India

Despite Vanishing Wilderness, Tiger Numbers Up 30 Percent Since 2010

India‘s latest tiger census shows a sharp increase in the number of the endangered tigers in the wild, raising hopes that conservation efforts are working, despite several missteps and rising pressure from wildlife poachers.

India tiger conservation

The 2014 census found at least 2,226 tigers in forests across the country, up from 1,706 found in 2010. Environment minister Prakash Javadekar described the rise as a huge success story and said it was the result of sustained conservation efforts.

“While the tiger population is falling in the world, it is rising in India. This is great news,” Javadekar told journalists in New Delhi.

Tigers in India are threatened by poaching and shrinking habitats from deforestation caused by power projects, roads and human settlements as the country pushes ahead with industrialization, economic development and intensive agriculture. The disappearance of forests has affected the availability of prey and led tigers to stray into human habitats.

Javadekar said more than 9,700 cameras were used in the massive count and the results are the most accurate in the past few decades.

“Never before has such an exercise been taken. We have unique photographs of 80 percent of the tigers” in the wild, he said.

Officials said nearly 380,000 square kilometers (146,000 square miles) of forest area in 18 states were surveyed.

A century ago an estimated 100,000 tigers roamed India’s forests. Their numbers declined steadily until the 1970s, when India banned tiger hunting and embarked on a program to create special reserves and protected areas in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Conservation efforts began to pay off around 2010 when tiger numbers began to rise.

India faces intense international scrutiny over its tiger conservation efforts as it has nearly three-fourths of the world’s estimated 3,200 tigers.

Shrinking habitats have brought the wild cats into conflict with farmers who live near tiger reserves. Also, the illegal trade in tiger skin and body parts remains a stubborn and serious threat. Tiger organs and bones fetch high prices on the black market because of demand driven by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

Tiger News via http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/india-counts-wild-tigers-2014-credits-conservation-28341251

climate change and deforestation

Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems. Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com