APP announcement on forest conservation: PR Gag or U-Turn?

Posted on 12 October 2004

Asia Pulp and Paper to protect high conservation value forests in Sumatra
Jakarta, Indonesia - WWF-Indonesia welcomes the announcement by Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) to protect and manage high conservation value forests in Sumatra.

“While we are pleased to learn of this first example of APP studying the conservation value of forests before it begins clearing them, and of their promise to abide by the results, APP’s operations would still be converting too much precious natural forest in Sumatra into paper," said Nazir Foead, WWF Indonesia's Director of Species Programme.

"In essence, the promises APP made today are still too little for Sumatra.”

Since April 2001, when conservation NGOs started demanding APP to protect their forest concessions, APP has pulped 370,000 hectares of Sumatra’s natural forest. 

Today’s announcement will protect only 34,000 hectares, of which 22,000 hectares have been previously earmarked for protection, and only 12,000 hectares of production forest that remains available to the company for clear-cutting for plantation development in the area.

“WWF is pleased to see APP applying the Indonesian HCVF (high conservation value forest) Toolkit in their forest assessment, however, we regret that APP did not apply the precautionary principle as required by the Toolkit," Foead said.
"Instead, APP continued clear-cutting potential HCVFs in the assessment area while the HCVF study was conducted."

WWF calls on APP to immediately and fully apply the Indonesian HCVF Toolkit to all its concessions in Indonesia and not clear any more potential high conservation value forests before the assessments have been done and the results have been accepted.

There are at least another 108,500 hectares planned to be converted in Sumatra to supply APP’s pulp mills until the end of next year. Each day’s delay means that at least 250 hectares — close to 400 football fields — of natural forest disappear from Sumatra.

“We hope to see very soon the evidence that APP really wants to take the U-turn to sustainability, instead of just issuing another PR gag,”  Foead said.

In addition, WWF points out that APP hasn’t yet solved the problem of illegal wood supply, like recent investigation results have shown.

WWF is concerned that APP is expanding its wood supply base to include forests in other parts of Indonesia, Indochina, China, and Russia. Their failure to repay billions of dollars in debt has not deterred its growth plans.

For example, APP China is going to start operating its newest pulp mill in Hainan later this year. WWF understands that this mill will operate in its first three years with an average annual pulp wood supply deficit of 2.5 million m3, with the deficit nearly doubling for the following three years.

Rod Taylor, WWF International’s Asia Pacific Forest Coordinator, believes that APP still faces some large challenges before it can be recognized as a respectable player on the global paper market

“Internationally, APP needs to show that it has truly reformed. WWF calls on the APP group to assure its stakeholders that it will not clear forests with high conservation values in any country,” Taylor said.

Note to Editors:

High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF) are those of outstanding and critical importance due to their environmental, socio-economic, biodiversity or landscape values, and critical to local communities' traditional cultural identity.

Initially developed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the HCVF concept was designed as a tool to help forest certification. It is now also being promoted as a more general conservation planning tool. The identification of HCVFs requires a multi-stakeholder, consensus-based approach, with results having buy-in, acceptance and credibility. The process therefore involves a wide range of expertise - from biology to social science, from forest management to GIS - and includes consultation with local communities.

The key to the concept of High Conservation Value Forests is the identification and maintenance of High Conservation Values (HCVs), it is the presence of High Conservation Values that determines whether a forest is designated a High Conservation Value Forest. 

HCVF Toolkit
The HCVF Toolkit provides guidance on how to take the HCVF definition into practices: identifying, managing and monitoring the HCVs. The Toolkit states “where doubt exists as to whether an attribute, or collection of attributes, are sufficient to signify HCVs, then the forest manager will treat these attributes as HCVs, until information proves otherwise.”

For further information:

Nazir Foead, Director of Species Programme
WWF Indonesia
Tel: + 62-21 576 1070
Mobile: + 62-811-977-604

Rod Taylor, Asia Pacific Forest Coordinator
WWF International
Mobile: +62-811-387-308
Close to 400 football fields of natural forest are still threatened to disappear daily from Sumatra.
© WWF / WWF-Germany/M. Radday