Bangkok – As world leaders gather to negotiate a new global climate deal, one pulp and paper company in Indonesia is proceeding with plans to pulp up to 170,000 hectares of natural forest in Sumatra’s Bukit Tigapuluh. The forest landscape is key habitat for critically endangered Sumatran tigers and Sumatran elephants, and the site of the world’s only successful Sumatran orangutan reintroduction program.
The dense forest of Bukit Tigapuluh is also a recognised carbon hot spot, storing an estimated 68 million tons of carbon. The wanton destruction of such a high conservation value area demonstrates the urgent need for international action to protect natural forests via a REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) treaty mechanism that prioritizes biodiversity and Indigenous rights over corporate profits.
“This forest – full of wildlife, birds and natural beauty – has an amazing potential for ecotourism and other important local economic benefits,” said Pak Didy Wurjanto, Director for Culture and Tourism Services in Jambi Province and until recently, the Head of the Jambi Nature Conservation Authority.
“The people of Jambi Province need the international community to help save Bukit Tigapuluh through a serious commitment to sustainable local livelihoods and protecting natural forests as a means of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Plans to clear the Bukit Tigapuluh are being spearheaded by the Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper (APP/SMG) and their wood suppliers. APP and the rest of the pulp & paper industry are having devastating impacts on climate, biodiversity and human rights in Indonesia through the relentless clearing of the country’s remaining natural forest. Bukit Tigapuluh, which stretches across Riau and Jambi provinces in central Sumatra, is the largest remaining dry lowland forest block on the island.
The landscape is also home to forest-dependent local communities, including the indigenous tribes of Talang Mamak and Orang Rimba. These communities actively rely on the existing natural forest for their livelihoods and have previously spoken out about the destruction caused by the massive APP forest clearing.
APP/SMG plans to clear the forest and convert much of it to pulpwood plantations to feed its Sumatran pulp mills. Loss of the forest is estimated to cause 10 megatons tons of CO2 emissions, equivalent to one tenth of the collective annual GHG emissions reduction target in the first commitment period (2008-2012).
“Since 2007, APP has been damaging this unique forest ecosystem by clearing natural forest and recently opening a legally questionable wood transport corridor. The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry has not yet formally approved APP’s latest expansion plans. Nonetheless, APP trucks continue to cut down the forest of Bukit Tigapuluh,” said Leif Cocks, president of the Australian Orangutan Project, who recently visited the forest.
APP’s latest expansion plans, if approved, would destroy most of the natural forest inside this ecosystem, lying outside the National Park – including the forest where Sumatran orangutan reintroduction centre is located.
The landscape is home to approximately 100 orangutans, a quarter of the remaining Sumatran tigers left in the wild, and is exclusive habitat for two Sumatran elephant groups. These wildlife species are likely to face extinction in Bukit Tigapuluh if the clearing goes ahead.
Under REDD rules, forest definitions currently being considered fail to distinguish between natural forests and tree plantations, which, if not addressed, will mean that the conversion of Bukit Tigapuluh’s unique forest ecosystem would not count as deforestation and could even be subsidized with REDD monies.
To avoid the destruction of Bukit Tigapuluh and countless other valuable forest ecosystems around the world, the international community must adopt a REDD treaty that strongly focuses on the protection of natural forests, prevents forest conversion to plantations, protects Indigenous rights, improves governance and addresses international demand for forest products that are driving the destruction.
Diverse stakeholder groups are banding together to stop the destruction of Bukit Tigapuluh and to oppose the careless business practices that have made SMG/APP one of the world’s most notorious forest destroyers. Over 16 NGO and semi-government groups have sent letters to the Indonesian government and APP, calling for a halt to the pulping of Bukit Tigapuluh’s natural forest (view the letters here).
The international business community is also increasingly rejecting pulp and paper supplies that depend on forest and species destruction. This month, global fashion retailer H&M Group ceased buying shopping bags from Pak2000, an APP company, joining a long list of retailers dropping APP products or refusing to do business with the company, including Staples Inc, Office Depot, Franklin Covey, Fuji Xerox, Ricoh, Wal-mart, Target, Corporate Express, Metro Group, Unisource, Woolworths (Australia) and one of Australia’s top banks.
“Businesses are increasingly focused on becoming more socially and environmentally responsible. It’s what their customers expect and what they see as their long term interest.” said Lafcadio Cortesi of Rainforest Action Network.
“No one wants to do business with companies like APP/SMG who destroy the rainforest, don’t respect human rights and contribute to global warming.”
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org