Swiss banks, Credit Suisse and UBS, together with the French BNP Paribas, are helping Singapore-listed Golden Agri-Resources raise up to 280 million Swiss francs ($258 million) to finance conversion of large areas of rainforest in New Guinea and Borneo for oil palm plantations, reports the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), a group that campaigns on behalf of forest people in Southeast Asia.
The deal would finance expansion of plantations operated by Sinar Mas, a subsidiary of Golden Agri-Resources. A recent report from Greenpeace Indonesia says that Sinar Mas plans to convert up to 2.8 million hectares of forest for new plantations in the Indonesian provinces of Kalimantan and Papua.
Clearing and draining of peatland for oil palm in Central Kalimantan in May 2009
“The vast majority of future expansion is likely to involve deforestation, some on peatlands and in the habitats of the critically endangered orang-utan”, said Greenpeace in the report.
Environmentalists say Credit Suisse’s decision to help finance the project calls into question the banks commitment to the the Equator Principles, a set of environmental and social benchmarks for managing environmental and social issues in development project finance globally.
“The Bruno Manser Fund condemns the three European banks’ funding of the expansion of the oil-palm plantations in Indonesia and calls on Credit Suisse, UBS and BNP Paribas to stop this kind of short-sighted dealings,” said BMF in a statement.
Ecological Internet has also launched a campaign to pressure the banks: Swiss Francs Threaten Indonesian Rainforests