Profile: Dorjee Sun

Profile: Dorjee Sun

As a campaigner against deforestation and founder of Carbon Conservation, Dorjee Sun has been on about the Indonesian Burning Season for a few years. Now it is worse than ever for the health and environments of South East Asia. Deforestation is bad enough – it accounts for 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions – now the very health of its people is at stake. What does he think needs to be done to stop the burning? Read More

We asked Dorjee Sun, a long time campaigner for avoided deforestation and producer of the film “The Burning Season”, for his thoughts on the “haze” issue and what can be done to end the burning and attend to the health and environmental consequences, not just for Singapore but the rest of South Asia and ultimately the world..

From Hong Kong, where Dorjee went to get away from Singapore’s all pervasive air pollution from the Indonesian fires, he sent this considered report on what he titles “HAZE 9-11”:

Dorjee Sun for ABC Carbon Express (21 June 2013):

HAZE 9-11: As a pragmatic environmentalist and a solutions oriented person, the current finger pointing and combative rhetoric by all parties is not the path to constructive long lasting solutions in my humble opinion.

Rather we must build deep, open, honest and transparent collaborations for the next decade and beyond, and use this ‘HAZE 9-11′ as a Pearl Harbour or black swan event that will never be forgotten but will be used as the motivation to find lasting solutions and that rarest of commodities; ‘long lasting political will’ in companies, communities and government to finally solve this persistent and recurring problem. ‘Lest we forget’.

Carbon Conservation has been working on avoided deforestation, stopping the haze and helping industry towards a more sustainable business model for 7 years and worked in Indonesia for nearly this whole period. The sad fact is that behind the 2 super powers of America and China, Indonesia is the THIRD biggest emitter of greenhouse gases simply because of this forest clearing and burning.

So how do we solve this? Firstly, I believe that this is a man-made problem and thus is absolutely solvable. Let me repeat – ‘Yes we can solve this problem’. I don’t buy into the naysayers who say fires will always burn and I absolutely believe that where there is a will there is a way.

But to find the right solutions we need to be open-minded and collaborative with all stakeholders. We all just need to ‘stay calm and carry on’.

We need to look at and evaluate all possible options – both ‘carrots and sticks’. From ‘carrots’ or payments to the people on the ground to value and protect the peat-lands and forests and exploring innovative ideas like incentivizing forest stewardship and fire avoidance by rewarding those communities for the years where there are reduced or no hotspots and reduced or no haze.

This then could possibly be even parlayed into a regional carbon market hub in Singapore where companies buy carbon credits to offset their footprint by buying anti-haze community carbon credits.

We actually have a pilot project in Riau that would protect deep peat forest and could avoid the fires in the critical Kampar Peninsula peat dome area on the Sumatra island where the haze is originating from but were unable to raise finance in 2009-10. Now with other industry partners I hope to re-launch this effort and possibly build a bigger regional area of protection.

In terms of the viability of a Singapore based regional carbon market for anti-haze carbon, please note that Shenzhen just launched a regional Chinese domestic carbon market this week and in 2009 the USA (under the Waxman Markey Bill), the world came within inches of a market policy that would have included forest carbon within its trading boundaries.

Ironically and interestingly, the voluntary market report which was released just 2 days ago showed that voluntary markets are healthier than compliance markets with average 2012 prices of US$5.90 per tonne down  only a fraction from US$6.20 in 2011 and traded volumes were actually up about 4% to 101 million tonnes.

Solutions could also involve the recognition of products carrying supply chain inputs from the burning areas and also identification of owners of the offending concessions, if but just to allow consumers to discern and decide where to spend their dollars.

The solutions might also involve encouraging the Indonesian Government to consider domestic ‘sticks’ or enforcement of ‘zero burn’ laws which Indonesia has but doesn’t widely enforce. Or perhaps just allowing the ability for Singapore to mobilize water bombing efforts in circumstances of such serious haze. At what point can a country defend its sovereign right to clean air for its kids?

But before all of this, first, there needs to be building of trusted and transparent sharing relationships where we come together to find mutually agreeable solutions. Unless we see the common win-wins of all our children enjoying fresh air and economic development then our efforts will be doomed to failure. And indeed the rift of ‘us versus them’ or ‘rich dad, poor dad’ will grow ever deeper when in actuality we should all be prospering together.

The best example of global solutions was the Montreal Protocol and a bilateral example is where Australia will send fire-fighters to California to help fight their bush fires in the Australian winter. Unfortunately, probably the most notable failed example is the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen UNFCCC summit.

But there is a silver lining in this terrible HAZE 9-11. Seven years ago, when grisly images of burnt orangu-tans and devastated forest areas first moved my team and I to raise finance for forest carbon and motivated Carbon Conservation’s first forest projects in Indonesia, what we lacked was the momentum, awareness and sustained interest of society. We asked: ‘How could we rally the importance of this issue?’

Well now environmentalists have the momentum, the attention and support of society and so we must operate in pragmatic, realistic, achievable and transparent rational steps.

The simple fact is that we operate in a capitalist world with multiple sovereign governments representing different voter bases but we all must recognise that we are bound by some common questions: What wealth is worth having? What is the value of economic development or wealth if your children (in both Indonesia and Singapore) develop massive systemic respiratory problems?

How do we put a value on clean air and on the protection of standing forest when it is 20 times cheaper to burn to clear land? What is the true economic equation if the US$25billion per year industry of tourism is crippled in Singapore by not protecting forests and Marina Bay becomes Mordor? And at what point do we truly fight for what’s right?

Sometimes it takes a crisis to solve a crisis and I think with HAZE 9 -11 that time has finally arrived.’

Dorjee Sun, Director of Carbon Conservation and Carbon Agro.

The business of saving the planet

This article by Steve Colquhoun appeared last month in the Sydney Morning Herald (31 May 2013):


Dorjee Sun is both an optimist and realist when it comes to attempts to save the world’s rainforests and their inhabitants from being ravaged.

The chief executive of the Carbon Conservation organisation knows the forces of profit and demand are arrayed against his team’s efforts to protect endangered and highly sensitive ecosystems, and that the carbon credits system that was supposed to assist isn’t doing so.

“We aren’t going to change the system we currently have, so we have to play within the parameters of that system,” he says.

“What I hope to do is convince governments, consumers, as well as companies that we can have a sustainable world as well as a profitable and prosperous world.”

Part of the problem continues to be public apathy. “It’s like the world is asleep and every time there is a catastrophe or a calamity, some people wake up, but a lot of people still hit the snooze button and go to bed while the clock keeps ticking,” he says.

Tempering his frustration is the elation that comes with small but important victories. His team worked to protect a forest in Aceh, Indonesia that contains tigers, rhinos, elephants, orangutan and leopards.

After knocking on more than 200 doors, they finally arranged for investment bank Merrill Lynch to provide $432 million in carbon credits to protect the forest.

However, with the virtual collapse of the carbon trading market during the 2008 global financial crisis, another plan was needed. A deal was struck with a gold mining company to hand over 1 per cent of the forest to mining in return for saving 99 per cent for conservation.

“After we did that deal we did receive a lot of criticism … but we had to do it. No regrets,” Sun says.

Carbon Conservation is also a minority holder in a deal to protect a 200,000 hectare timber concession in the Congo basin that is home to 500 lowland gorillas.

“I’m realistic and optimistic. I still think we can do this,” Sun says.

“Every day the key philosophy is you wake up, you give it 100 per cent, you don’t give up, failure only is if you never try. As long as I go to bed feeling like I’ve tried my hardest then I can’t fault whether or not we win or lose.”

Read more:


Dorjee Sun is CEO of Carbon Conservation and is passionate about forests, community development, conservation and climate change. He started Carbon Conservation to finance the preservation of tropical rainforests and provide carbon credit revenues to local communities via Avoided Deforestation.

Dorjee was the founder of a recruitment software company with offices in Melbourne and London (exited 2003), and an award winning education company which mentored over 25,000 students through Sydney and Melbourne offices in 2004 (later acquired by an ASX listed company). His interest in animation and webTV led to the founding of the creative agency Joosed, producing HoneyRoasted TV, the first Asian-Australian TV series and over 50 TV commercials for global clients.

With an interest in viral marketing and social media software, Dorjee started, a software company building virtual villages for business and government. The company’s projects include, the world’s first asian youth pop-culture collaborative community (with webTV and a peer production platform) and focusing on youth car culture.

Graduating from the University Of New South Wales (UNSW) with degrees in Law and Commerce and a Diploma in Asian Studies, Dorjee studied at Peking University in China on a 2 year scholarship. He has served as a University of Melbourne Asialink Asia Australia Leader , Youth Chair of the Ethnic Communities Council at both national and state levels, University Law Society President and as a menber of the Education Technology Advisory Board.

He has spoken at the Future Summit, AsiaConnect, The World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and participated at the Australian Davos Leadership retreat and other think-tanks.


Carbon Agro is a privately held company which was founded in Singapore in 2008. During the past 4-5 years, it has focused its investments and activities in South East Asia. Currently the group is Headquartered in Singapore. The group was setup to invest and develop environmentally sustainable and commercially sustainable projects and business. The founders and shareholders believe that business does not have to come at the expense of the environment and more importantly an environmentally sustainable and responsible business can be equally commercial or even more viable.

Focusing on clean technologies, Carbon Agro has focused it activities on the use of biomass across the region. Our first project was a Oil Palm Empty Fruit Bunch co-generation power plant for a ply mill factory in project in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Subsequently has successfully implement Oil Palm composting systems in Sumatra Indonesia and is seeing growing demand for is various Biomass technology solutions.

Carbon Agro is currently investing with clients to fully integrated Oil Palm waste management solution which include the holistic use of mill waste streams such as POME, EFB, Boiler Ash, incorporating composting, biogas digestion technologies into integrated waste management solutions. Carbon Agro has strong pipeline of projects and looks to be expanding organically as well as through partnerships and investments.

Carbon Agro has been investing in Zero Waste Aerated Bunker (ZWAB) composting system as it is the only system to utilize up to 100% of mill POME during its composting process. It is also unique in being fully registered as a program of activity for GHG abatement under the UNFCCC clean development mechanism. Carbon Agro has ZWAB sites under development and deployment in Indonesia and Malaysia and has also deployed our first Composting Site in Latin America.

​Carbon Agro continues to seek optimal waste management solutions for the Oil Palm Sector that achieve maximum nutrient recycling and reduces GHGs. Where appropriate Carbon Agro also looks to providing clean energy via biogas or biomass power plant for Palm Oil Mills.


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