Indonesia Sees Redd: Cutting deforestation & cutting emissions

Deforestation in Indonesia has caused great devastation to its natural landscape, with 20% of its forest area lost between 1990 and 2010. A glint of hope comes in the form of the world’s largest REDD+ project at Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve in Borneo, which will reduce emissions by 119 million tonnes over 30 years. Another hopeful sign is the pledge by Asia Pulp and Paper to stop cutting down natural forests, bowing to pressure from Greenpeace, among others. Read more

World’s largest REDD+ project approved in Indonesia

Rimba Raya project should save 119 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent over 30 years

By BusinessGreen staff (3 June 2013):

The world’s largest REDD+ project has finally been given the go-ahead by the Indonesian government after spending three years in limbo.

The project at Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve in Borneo was approved by the Ministry of Forestry last week and is now set to reduce total emissions by 119 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent over 30 years.

The 64,000 hectare site will generate carbon credits from preserving the carbon-rich tropical peat swamp and forest in the face of development pressure from palm oil plantations. Under the REDD+ scheme the credits can be purchased by companies seeking to reduce their emissions through the voluntary carbon market.

Supporters of the scheme say the revenues from carbon credits will go towards preserving critical orangutan habitat, which is faces severe threats from deforestation and changes in land use.

The project had been left in limbo for over three years as a result of a long-running assessment programme, but the eventual approval of the Ministry of Forests was hailed as a victory by conservationists.

“Rimba Raya will be one of the most important orangutan conservation projects in the world,” said Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas of conservation group, Orangutan Foundation International, which is a beneficiary of the project. “It is nothing less than the promise of survival for the endangered orangutan.”

REDD+ projects have been criticised in some quarters as companies could in theory log areas of forest, but compensate for the emissions by planting trees elsewhere. Questions have also been asked over project developers’ ability to accurately measuring the amount of carbon stored in forests and soils – as well model what might have happened had the project not existed.

Wider reforms to the REDD+ scheme are continuing as part of international climate talks with diplomats hopeful that a market mechanism could be established that will give developing countries a financial incentive to leave forests standing.



Battling Deforestation In Indonesia, One Firm At A Time

by ANTHONY KUHN for NPR (31 May 2013):

On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, a backhoe stacks freshly cut trees to be made into pulp and paper. Asia Pulp and Paper, or APP, is Indonesia’s largest papermaker, and the company and its suppliers operate vast plantations of acacia trees here that have transformed the local landscape.

APP has sold billions of dollars’ worth of paper products to Staples, Disney and other big U.S. corporations. But environmental groups have accused APP of causing deforestation, destroying the habitat of Sumatran tigers and orangutans, and trampling on the rights of forest dwellers.

Asril Amran is the head of a nearby village. He says that the plantations have ruined the local environment.

“In the past we could go into the forest and catch deer. We could look for birds,” he recalls. “But now, there is nothing, as you can see. No animal can live in the acacia forest. We cannot shelter in its shade. It’s hot. It’s a greedy tree — it uses up a lot of water.”

The Rainforest Action Network says that APP has turned an area of rain forests the size of Massachusetts into pulpwood plantations. It estimates that by cutting down forests and burning peat land, APP spewed the equivalent of 67 million to 86 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2006. That would rank APP’s emissions ahead of 165 countries, as measured by those countries’ emissions as measured in 2006.

Two years ago, the environmental group Greenpeace began targeting APP’s biggest customers.

They protested at the Los Angeles headquarters of Mattel, makers of the Barbie doll. In this campaign video, Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, learns that Barbie’s packaging is causing deforestation.

In response, Ken dumps her. Barbie sits on her couch in a huff, wearing her Day-Glo spandex.

“I’m Barbie,” she says. “As long as I look good, who cares about tigers in some distant rain forest? If Mattel wants to use wood from Indonesia’s rain forests to make my box, then let them do it.”

The campaign and others like it worked. Companies stopped buying APP’s products, and APP’s profits plummeted.

APP felt the criticism was unfair. After all, they said, they were building schools and conservation programs for local communities.

APP Managing Director for Sustainability Aida Greenbury says her company and the NGOs that were criticizing it were just not talking on the same wavelength.

“We addressed climate change by trying to implement sustainable practice in our forestry, so we have tried our best to address those. But there’s always something missing, as if we were talking on two different frequencies.”

So the company turned to Scott Poynton, a lanky Australian who runs the Tropical Forest Trust.

Poynton told them bluntly that if they kept cutting down virgin forests, no amount of “greenwashing” was going to help them.

“I was just like: You guys are not listening. Your whole business is going down the drain; you’ve got customers leaving you every two seconds; you think you’re doing a good job; and you’ve missed the point,” he says.

Corporate Targets

Greenpeace and Poynton’s good cop/bad cop tactics worked. In February, APP’s chairman announced that his company would stop cutting down natural forests.

Poynton says that APP’s managers just needed help in seeing that their business model was outdated.

“The context in which they’re operating has changed, and with the questions of climate change, cutting down forests is not cool,” Poynton says. “And people don’t want deforestation in their products.”

Environmentalists say the APP case shows the importance of big corporations in driving deforestation, and stopping it.

“Sure, consumers want stuff, they use stuff. But the corporations are the ones that determine often, or try to influence what you perceive that you need, and what you perceive are the things that you want to buy,” says Lafcadio Cortesi, an activist with the Rainforest Action Network. “And so that’s one of the reasons that we focus on large corporate consumers rather than individuals.”

Greenpeace Indonesia activist Yuyun Indradi welcomes APP’s new policy. But he says that if APP goes back on its pledge, Greenpeace will restart its campaign. He adds that APP is only the first step in a bigger fight against deforestation.

“Our target is zero deforestation in Indonesia by 2015,” Indradi says. “Yes, I think it’s quite ambitious. But APP’s pledge helps to lighten our burden in reaching that goal.”

He says Greenpeace is now trying to persuade other papermakers to follow APP’s example.

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