Alan Oxley, a lobbyist for industrial forestry companies in the palm oil and pulp and paper sectors, is deliberately misleading the public on deforestation and associated greenhouse gas emissions, said a top Indonesian climate official.
Writing in an editorial published in the Jakarta Post, Agus Purnomo, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s special assistant on climate change, says Oxley is acting in the interests of bad actors in pushing a pro-deforestation agenda and opposing a moratorium on conversion of primary forests and peatlands for industrial plantations.
“Oxley’s campaign for continuing the unsustainable practice of clear-cutting our remaining primary forest and to fan opposition to the two-year moratorium is no doubt welcomed by the unscrupulous business entities,” he writes. “Oxley claims that the two-year moratorium on clearing primary forest lands is a move against development. In our consultations with the private sector, community groups, NGOs and local governments, no companies have raised objections to the idea of a moratorium.”
Purnomo’s editorial is a response to a commentary Oxley published in the same paper on December 15. Oxley cited an unpublished study from Winrock International in claiming that “deforestation is not a major generator of greenhouse gas emissions.” Oxley ignored a clarification issued by the authors of the study, which emphasized the importance of reducing deforestation in helping mitigate climate change.
Deforestation for oil palm cultivation in North Sumatra.
In his editorial, Purnomo further notes that it is unclear whether the study cited by Oxley “considers Indonesia’s national emissions, or indeed any emissions from tropical peat soils, one of the most important sources of emissions from land-use change in Indonesia.”
Purnomo’s public rebuke is not the first for Oxley, who has offices in Australia and the United States. In November Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner for her tree-planting campaign in Africa, blasted Oxley for using her name to imply that she supports the large-scale conversion of tropical forests for industrial plantations. In October a group of prominent scientists castigated the lobbyist and two organizations he runs: World Growth International and ITS Global. In an open letter the scientists identify World Growth (WGI) and ITS Global as front groups for the palm oil, timber, and wood-pulp industries.
“WGI and ITS — which are frequently involved in promoting industrial logging and oil palm and wood pulp plantations internationally — have at times treaded a thin line between reality and a significant distortion of facts,” the scientists, led by William F. Laurance, a researcher at James Cook University, wrote. “ITS is closely allied with, and frequently funded by, multinational logging, woodpulp, and oil palm corporations. The financial supporters of ITS include parent corporations producing paper and wood products under the aegis of ‘Asia Pulp & Paper’, among others.”
“WGI frequently lobbies public opinion on the behalf of Sinar Mas holdings, a conglomerate of mostly Indonesian logging, wood-pulp, and oil palm companies that includes Golden Agri Resources, a Singapore-based firm. One of these companies, known as ‘SMART’, could face expulsion by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry-led trade group, for ‘serious non-compliance with the RSPO Code of Conduct’ with respect to its environmental and social sustainability guidelines.”
(12/09/2010) Sinar Mas Group, the sprawling Indonesian conglomerate that has interests in coal mining, logging and wood-pulp production, palm oil plantations, real estate, and other industries, has hired Cameron Hume, the former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, as an adviser, according to Detik.com. Ambassador Hume stepped down from his post at the embassy in August.
(11/01/2010) An industrial lobbyist is facing mounting criticism for his campaign to reduce social and environmental safeguards in Indonesia.
(10/27/2010) A group of prominent scientists has published an open letter challenging the objectivity of World Growth International, an NGO that claims to operate on behalf of the world’s poor, and its leader Alan Oxley, a former trade diplomat who also chairs ITS Global, a marketing firm. The letter, published online in several forums, slams World Growth and ITS Global as a front groups for forestry companies. The scientists note that while the groups have not disclosed their sources of funding, they assert ITS receives funding from Sinar Mas, an Indonesian conglomerate that controls Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a forest products brand, and Sinar Mas Agro Resources & Technology, a palm oil firm, among other companies.
(10/23/2010) In an editorial published October 9th in the New Straits Times (“Why does World Bank hate palm oil?”), Alan Oxley, a former Australian diplomat who now serves as a lobbyist for logging and plantation companies, makes erroneous claims in his case against the World Bank and the International Finance Corp (IFC) for establishing stronger social and environmental criteria for lending to palm oil companies. It is important to put Mr. Oxley’s editorial in the context of his broader efforts to reduce protections for rural communities and the environment.
(10/21/2010) The image of rainforests being torn down by giant bulldozers, felled by chainsaw-wielding loggers, and torched by large-scale developers has never been more poignant. Corporations have today replaced small-scale farmers as the prime drivers of deforestation, a shift that has critical implications for conservation. Until recently deforestation has been driven mostly by poverty—poor people in developing countries clearing forests or depleting other natural resources as they struggle to feed their families. Government policies in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s had a multiplier effect, subsidizing agricultural expansion through low-interest loans, infrastructure projects, and ambitious colonization schemes, especially in the Amazon and Indonesia. But over the past two decades, this has changed in many countries due to rural depopulation, a decline in state-sponsored development projects, the rise of globalized financial markets, and a worldwide commodity boom. Deforestation, overfishing, and other forms of environmental degradation are now primarily the result of corporations feeding demand from international consumers. While industrial actors exploit resources more efficiently and cause widespread environmental damage, they also are more sensitive to pressure from consumers and environmental groups. Thus in recent years, it has become easier—and more ethical—for green groups to go after corporations than after poor farmers.