Asia Wild Fire Panel at COP21 Highlights Worst Climate Crisis in 21st Century Being Ignored

Racing Extinction, Rainforest Action Network, United Nations GRASP, Kids Cut Palm Oil Leaders and Students Demand Corporations & Governments Find Solutions

Event as Part of ‘Kids Cut Palm Oil’ Day Happening Around the World


CONTACT: Blair FitzGibbon, +1 202-503-6141

[Paris] – Today nearby the COP21 climate conference, an international panel of experts discussed the recent wild fire disaster in Indonesia and the implications for Indonesia’s climate commitments. The panel shined a light on the highly threatened Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra. The panel included leaders from Rainforest Action Network, Racing Extinction, UN Great Ape Survival Partnership, Orangutan Information Centre as well as a student leader from Kids Cut Palm Oil and called on the international business community to stand strong on their no-deforestation commitments to help the survival of critically endangered species including the Sumatran orangutan, elephant, tiger and rhino. The event was also part of Kids Cut Palm Oil day that involves an international group of school students from Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and America raising awareness and saying no to conflict palm oil. A video presentation by Dr. Jane Goodall was shown at the panel discussing the danger of palm oil practices in Asia.

“As world leaders gather in Paris to prepare action plans to reduce carbon emissions, one cannot ignore the globally significant disaster that is taking place in Indonesia:  over 2 million hectares of fires are burning, releasing millions of tonnes of carbon pollution into the atmosphere,” said Ian Redmond OBE, founder of UN-GRASP. “The added burden on the global environment is huge – and fires continue to burn – and it is also delivering a devastating blow to Indonesia’s biodiversity, much of which is already on the edge of extinction.  It is essential that the world helps Indonesia to prevent future fires by blocking the drainage canals in peat swamps which are lowering the water-table – wet peat does not burn.”

“One of the most important tropical forests that remain in the world is the Leuser Ecosystem,” said Panut Hadisiswoyo, Founder and Director of the Orangutan Information Centre based in Indonesia. “It is also the last place on earth where orangutan, rhino, tiger and elephant live together in the wild. Industrial palm oil expansion is the biggest threat to the survival of these species, but also the millions of people in Sumatra who depends on the ecosystem services, such as clean water, food and livelihoods.

“A climate agreement that does not address Indonesia’s spiraling deforestation and fire crises is a setup for failure,” said Lindsey Allen, Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network. “It’s crucial for Indonesia to take bold action at all levels of government to interrupt this tragic cycle of destruction, but Indonesia cannot do this alone. We are working with major global brands that use palm oil to end plantation development on peatlands and in rainforests and protect the extraordinary Leuser Ecosystem while securing economic opportunities for local communities.”

“Today, youth activists in schools around the world are taking action to cut conflict palm oil from our lives.” said Elle O’Brien, student activist from GS Green Generation. “Kids Cut Palm Oil is an international group of school students who want to see an end to the destruction of our forests. We want this destruction to stop killing critically endangered animals. We want the destruction to stop because it is killing people, and leading to tremendous global carbon emissions that have never been seen before on this scale. We know how to stop it. We can stop it. And we will stop it. We can challenge this by becoming educated on the issue and boycotting products containing conflict palm oil.”

“As the film Racing Extinction is about to bring the urgency of the biodiversity crisis to an audience of millions, we would like to draw the world’s attention to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra as a key example of what is at stake on the frontlines of species loss,” said Dr. Heather Rally, Racing Extinction. “The Leuser Ecosystem is a global priority for protection and restoration imminently threatened with destruction by palm oil development. As consumers around the world are connected to this controversial commodity, we all bear responsibility to use our influence to demand that the products we buy are not connected to this destruction. The world will be paying very close attention to the upcoming announcements from the Paris negotiation, especially in regards to the palm oil industry, and the Leuser Ecosystem”  She concluded.

Recent fires raging throughout Indonesia have been described as the biggest man made ecological disaster of the 21st century, with more than 2 million hectares of forest lost, hundreds of thousands of people across the region affected, and earning Indonesia the dubious accolade of being the world’s worst climate polluter. In the wake of the crisis, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has pledged to ban the conversion of carbon-rich peatlands to oil palm plantations, one of the leading causes of the fires. However, concurrent moves within the Indonesian and Malaysian governments to establish the new Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries threatens to undermine recent progress in breaking the link between oil palm development and deforestation, by pressuring companies to drop their zero-deforestation commitments.

Read Rainforest Action Network’s recent Leuser Ecosystem report here:

Further comment or information:

Laurel Sutherlin

Rainforest Action Network