Environmental NGOs call on APP not to continue operations in drained peatlands

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - Mainly due to 2015's catastrophic fires, which largely derived from pulpwood concessions belonging to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) spread over two landscapes in South Sumatra province, a lot of pressure has been put on this pulp & paper company - one of the world's largest - including from environmental NGOs.

Some of the latest pressure being placed on APP by the NGO community is from an alliance of local and global NGOs which has urged the pulp & paper giant, via a joint statement (Jan 19), not to continue its operations in drained peatlands.

This alliance comprises a number of leading international NGOs, such as Wood & Wayside International, Rainforest Action Network, and Wetlands International as well as local NGO networks like Eyes on the Forest.

The joint statement strongly reminded APP of the economic losses caused by 2015's destructive peat fires - which according to World Bank calculations amounted to more than USD 16 billion - given that the massive peat fires from the company's pulpwood concessions made a significant contribution to these economic losses.

The statement also highlighted the reliance of APP on its new and existing mills, 60% of which source their fiber from drained peatlands, a significant part of which constitute peatlands incorporated in the Indonesian government’s targeted peat restoration areas.

This situation affects the peat restoration efforts that need to be undertaken across APP’s supply chains in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo. The joint statement thus sought to emphasize the huge challenge that faces APP in ensuring that its longterm wood supplies, both for its new OKI mill and its existing mills, do not originate from drained peatlands.

As previously reported by foresthints.news, the ground checks conducted by the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry in the last two months of 2016 revealed that no peat restoration efforts have been carried out across APP’s supply chains.

The ministry concluded from its field inspections that APP companies were continuing to replant acacia in 2015’s burned peatlands and drained peat domes after the harvesting of acacia had been completed.

As a result of its findings, the ministry sent out letters to eight APP companies ordering them to remove the newly-replanted acacia in 2015’s burned peatlands, as well as that in drained peat domes.

Furthermore, the ministry’s ground checks also demonstrated that no action was taken by the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG), in terms of peat restoration interventions involving concession areas, over the whole of 2016.

In fact, not only did the peat agency take zero action, but it also failed to finalize its peat restoration operating plans in two peat restoration priority regencies - Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) and Musi Banyuasin - in which APP pulpwood concessions seriously affected by 2015’s peat fires are distributed.

APP’s reaction

In reaction to a request for a response from foresthints.news to the joint statement released by the NGO groups (Jan 19), APP declared that its operations continue to adhere to its Forest Conservation Policy which was launched in early February 2013.

This, according to APP, includes continuing to implement responsible and best practices when it comes to peatland management across the company’s supply chains.

In its response, there was no specific mention from APP of the appeal contained in the joint statement for the company to spare drained peatlands from its operations.

Based on the ministry’s data, major parts of APP’s concessions lie in indicative peat domes, the majority of which are drained peat domes.

Greenpeace’s response

Following up on the joint statement released by the NGO groups, foresthints.news also asked Greenpeace for its response. Greenpeace’s view is unquestionably important, given that this prominent NGO has pursued a policy of engagement with APP, beginning with a joint declaration of APP’s Forest Conservation Policy in early February 2013.

Greenpeace’s response was as follows: “All plantation companies operating on peat have major climate impacts and are causing subsidence. Companies must show they are serious about addressing these impacts through protecting all remaining peatlands and other forests.”

Greenpeace added that, “retiring plantations, investing in alternative local species that don't need drainage, and following the best independent scientific advice on peatland management are needed to protect peatlands.”

Greenpeace, however, did not give a specific statement with regard to its position on the firm demand expressed in the joint statement for APP to stop operating in drained peatlands across its supply chains.