May 27, 2019

GAR making consistent efforts to protect HCS forests

JAKARTA ( - The majority of the large blocks of high carbon stock (HCS) forests spread within three palm oil concessions controlled by Golden Agri-Resources (GAR/Sinarmas Group) is still being protected, as evidenced by a ground-based verification undertaken by (May 24).

The HCS forests in these three concessions in West Kalimantan’s Kapuas Hulu regency were identified and defined by means of a methodology established by an HCS forest team which was formed after the launch of GAR’s Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) in early February 2011.

This HCS forest team, composed of Jakarta-listed palm oil company PT Smart Tbk (a key subsidiary of GAR), Greenpeace and TFT (now the Earthworm Foundation), released its “HCS forest study report” in early June 2012.

Almost five years ago, in October 2014, Mongabay reported on the proven commitment displayed by GAR on the ground level in protecting the HCS forests - ranging from low to high level density - in its concessions lying in the provinces of West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan. 

The ground-based and spatial verification conducted by the team was limited to four out of five large HCS forest blocks in three GAR-owned palm oil concessions (PT KPC, PT PIP and PT PGM) covering a total area equivalent to around twice the size of Brussels.

High, medium density forests remain protected

The ground-based check performed by the team in two large HCS forest blocks in PT KPC, identified by the HCS forest team as composed of high and medium density forests, found the forests were still being protected. A large portion of these forests are shown in the photos below.

The experience gained from the protection efforts in the HCS areas identified as high and medium density forests by the HCS forest team in the PT KPC palm oil concession should serve as a relevant lesson learned for the EU.  

Low density forests also still protected

Meanwhile, the field check by the team in a large block of HCS forest in the PT PIP concession, identified by the HCS forest team as consisting of low density forests, also revealed that the majority of these forests are still being protected, as seen in the following photos.

Consistent on-the-ground efforts aimed at protecting the majority of low density forests as part of HCS areas, such as those undertaken by PT PIP, deserve appreciation. 

Furthermore, the ground-based check of one large HCS forest block in the PT PGM concession, also defined as low density forests by the HCS forest team, discovered that most of these forests are benefiting from protection efforts as well, as depicted in the photos below.

The EU should also learn from the protection efforts made by PT PIP and PT PGM in that they mostly involve low density forests as delineated by the HCS forest team, meaning that it is not just high and medium density forests which are being protected.

Substantial investments

The objective of the EU Delegated Act - to phase out the use of palm oil sourced from companies in biofuels - is technically improper, given that it ignores efforts, begun years ago and ongoing, to protect HCS forests such as those undertaken by GAR.

The investments made by palm oil companies such as GAR in protecting HCS forests are hugely significant. The EU needs to consider this and look at the evidence of some best practices delivered in the GAR case, which involved a process of engagement between GAR and Greenpeace

The EU should also take into account the large opportunity costs incurred by palm oil companies, primarily from refraining to develop HCS forests into new palm oil concessions, as exemplified in the three GAR concessions, and acknowledge the clear and consistent efforts at HCS forest protection made on the ground.

Such efforts are typified by GAR which, in its 2018 annual report published in early April this year, confirmed that it has set aside 72,000 hectares - an area equal to more than six times the size of Paris and composed of high conservation value (HCV) and HCS areas - across its palm oil concessions for ongoing conservation efforts.