APP announces halt to clearing in Indonesia



Posted on 08 February 2013  | 
Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has announced plans to stop clearing Indonesia’s tropical forests and peatlands to allow an assessment of their conservation and carbon values.

The move has been met with cautious optimism by conservation organisations who are urging paper buyers to wait for confirmation of the claims through independent monitoring by civil society before doing business with APP.

“If the company follows through on this, it could be great news for Indonesia’s forests, biodiversity and citizens,” said Nazir Foead, Conservation Director of WWF-Indonesia.

“Unfortunately, APP has a long history of making commitments to WWF, customers and other stakeholders that it has failed to live up to. We hope this time the company does what it promises. WWF plans to independently monitor APP’s wood sourcing and forestry activities for compliance with its commitments and regularly update stakeholders on the findings.”

APP runs two of the world’s largest pulp mills on Sumatra, where it produces the pulp for the toilet paper, tissue, copy paper and packaging that it sells worldwide. The company and its wood suppliers are responsible for clearing more than 2 million hectares of rain forest on the island since beginning operations in 1984, an analysis by the NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest found.

“WWF hopes that APP’s new commitments will do more than just stop its own bulldozers, including protecting the natural forests in its concessions from all illegal activities and mitigating the long-term negative impacts its practices have had on all the peat lands, forests, biodiversity and local people in Sumatra and Borneo for which these commitments have come too late,” Foead added.

Good news for the future of forests in the Heart of Borneo (HoB)

While APP currently has little or no forest concessions within the Heart of Borneo, it has a number which lie adjacent to the boundaries of the HoB.

According to the new leader of the WWF’s HoB Global Initiative, Dr Tom Maddox, the announcement helps alleviate some of the concern of expansion of these concessions.

“The proof of the announcement will be in the implementation of course, but certainly, if APP is halting its clearing operations to assess the conservation value of the forest it intends to clear, then we expect the conservation values of the HoB to shine through and prohibit any expansion into HoB forests,” he said.

With APP’s long history of broken promises in this regard the skeptics are keeping a keen eye on the company’s next steps.

“WWF has long called on responsible businesses to avoid sourcing from APP and until there is truly independent confirmation that APP has stopped draining peat soils and pulping tropical forests with high conservation value, we continue to urge paper buyers to adopt a wait for proof stance,” said Aditya Bayunanda, GFTN and pulp & paper manager of WWF Indonesia.

Signs of good faith needed

Mr Teguh Widjaya, the patriarch of the family’s pulp and paper business, oversaw the announcement that no member of his APP group operating in Indonesia or China will accept any tropical timber felled in Indonesia after 31 January 2013 until company consultants have completed a full “high conservation value” and a “high carbon stock” assessment of their forest concessions. However, the company inserted a loophole in the commitment saying that for an indefinite period of time APP mills would accept trees felled before 31 January.

As a sign of good faith and the first demonstrable milestone, WWF has called on APP to have moved the supply of already-cut tropical timber its suppliers have cleared before the self-imposed 31 January 2013 moratorium by 5 May 2013, the due date of its next quarterly forest policy report.

A fully implemented moratorium on pulping forests with high conservation and high carbon value would have a profound impact on Indonesia’s biodiversity, as well as on Indonesia’s carbon emissions. WWF urges all of the country’s pulp producers to stop using tropical forests.
Trees on the climb up Bukit Peninjau, West Kalimantan
© WWF-Indonesia / Jane Spence Enlarge

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