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Indonesian forestry giant calls for stronger forest moratorium

Peat forest canopy in Riau, Indonesia
Peat forest canopy in Riau, Indonesia. Photos by Rhett A. Butler.


Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), an Indonesian forestry giant that was once one of the biggest targets for environmentalists for its logging practices, has joined a growing chorus of voices calling for a stronger moratorium on deforestation and policies that enable companies to support conservation efforts.



In a letter released Monday, Aida Greenbury, APP’s Managing Director of Sustainability, asked Indonesian President Joko (“Jokowi”) Widodo to extend the country’s moratorium on new logging and plantation concessions in some 14 million hectares of otherwise unprotected forests and peatlands.



“I support in principle the continuation and strengthening of Indonesia’s forest moratorium. I welcomed the forest moratorium in 2011 and I would welcome a strengthening and extension of the moratorium today. For this reason, the request for President Widodo to extend the moratorium deserves industry support,” she writes.



“To be blunt, deforestation is unnecessary, it damages the reputational standing of Indonesia abroad and it hinders the success of our businesses.”




Lowland rainforest in Java



However Greenbury said the government would have to go beyond the existing moratorium to protect Indonesia’s remaining forests. Specifically, she argues for the government to adopt policies and enforce laws that support conservation, noting challenges APP has had with encroachment into areas set aside as conservation zones, an issue that has also affected other Indonesian companies.



“The priorities in my view should be an extension to cover natural forest and forested peat in Indonesia. This will match the moratorium with the zero deforestation approach being taken by leading Indonesian and international businesses such as APP, GAR, Wilmar, Cargill, Unilever, Nestlé, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and many others. But business players alone cannot protect these forests, the moratorium should also be imposed on forest clearance and land claim activities by community members,” she writes.



“Responsible businesses are committed to addressing issues of land conflict; yes it will take time and yes it will be difficult, but the commitment is there. All stakeholders benefit from legal clarity; local communities become empowered, knowledgeable of their rights, clarity on the boundaries of their land, and businesses can make long term sustainable decisions.”




Peat forest in Kalimantan



Greenbury’s comments come on the heels of a wave of statements from civil society groups also calling for Jokowi to extend and strengthen the moratorium. Greenpeace, Walhi, Kemitraan, and World Resources Institute were among the groups to publish high profile commentaries on the moratorium in recent days.



Greenbury’s full letter is reproduced below.




A strengthened forest moratorium is the right thing for Indonesia
Aida Greenbury, Managing Director Sustainability, Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP)



Let me be clear, I support in principle the continuation and strengthening of Indonesia’s forest moratorium. I welcomed the forest moratorium in 2011 and I would welcome a strengthening and extension of the moratorium today. For this reason, the request for President Widodo to extend the moratorium deserves industry support.



Now, in 2011, some said that you know something is wrong when a major paper company supports a ban on cutting down natural forest trees, so let me explain why I support the moratorium and why, as a business, we advocate zero deforestation.



To be blunt, deforestation is unnecessary, it damages the reputational standing of Indonesia abroad and it hinders the success of our businesses.



However, the “in principle” referenced at the start of this article is not an opt-out. It is a recognition that whilst well-intentioned, the existing moratorium has not been overly effective. Forest loss continues, concession mapping has had little change, “One Map” does not yet exist and levels of enforcement vary hugely. The moratorium clearly needs improvement, and nowhere is this as apparent as in issues of land conflict and the need for One Map.



Followers of our business will know that the recent independent assessment of our operations by the Rainforest Alliance found that we have made moderate progress in the implementation of our Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), launched in February 2013. This feedback, along with feedback from other stakeholders and from within the business has been used to inform our FCP implementation plan for 2015 and beyond which we are working through today.



On our critical zero deforestation commitment, the Rainforest Alliance found that APP and our suppliers had successfully halted forest clearance. However, clearance by unauthorized third parties on our concessions was continuing, whether due to overlapping concession rights with other businesses, encroachment or illegal activity. We are responding to these issues, but as one stakeholder in the wider landscape, our success ultimately depend on the collaborative efforts with others within the landscape. This is especially the case when there are fundamental conflicts over land use rights and even conflicting maps. We need support from the Government, and we need support from other stakeholders in the landscape.



The issues we are facing with implementing zero deforestation highlight the challenges facing Indonesia generally in tackling deforestation. Effective policy requires effective spatial planning in the form of One Map. This in my view should be a clear priority for the Government, and indeed one criterion for judging whether the moratorium should be extended.



I also recognize as the NGO community does that the areas covered by the original moratorium occasionally did not match the reality on the ground. I believe that the High Carbon Stock (HCS) approach, when supported by effective High Conservation Value assessments and landscape-based Integrated Forest Management Planning, is a far simpler and scientific way of defining natural forest. The HCS approach developed by Greenpeace and our sister company GAR is
today a much more open collaborative effort championed by a range of businesses and other stakeholders through the HCS approach steering group. It is effective, impartial and provides an irrefutable scientific definition as to what constitutes natural forest, and what by implication should be protected.



I therefore support the call on the moratorium to be strengthened. The priorities in my view should be an extension to cover natural forest and forested peat in Indonesia. This will match the moratorium with the zero deforestation approach being taken by leading Indonesian and international businesses such as APP, GAR, Wilmar, Cargill, Unilever, Nestlé, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and many others. But business players alone cannot protect these forests, the moratorium should also be imposed on forest clearance and land claim activities by community members. The moratorium should then provide time for One Map to be resolved once and for all. Responsible businesses are committed to addressing issues of land conflict; yes it will take time and yes it will be difficult, but the commitment is there. All stakeholders benefit from legal clarity; local communities become empowered, knowledgeable of their rights, clarity on the boundaries of their land, and businesses can make long term sustainable decisions.



Separately, we of course need to see natural forest protected and conserved in perpetuity. As part of our one million hectare commitment, we are working with a range of stakeholders on the establishment of an independent foundation to help achieve this goal, more details will be available soon. As we look towards COP 21 in Paris this year, it is right for Indonesia to set an example to the world.



The time for zero deforestation is now, and effective policy starts with effective spatial planning. The development of ‘One Map’ is a crucial way the Government can act to protect the future of Indonesia and enhance the actions of businesses moving in the right direction.