APP Promises Conservation: Don’t Hold Your Breath

By Rainforest Action Network
Kampar Peninsula: Photo Via Treehugger

Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), Indonesia’s largest and most controversial logger, made another promise this week.

APP announced that one of the rainforest logging and conversion permits it controls (located in the globally significant peatland forests of the Sumatra’s Kampar Peninsula) will be re-licensed as a carbon conservation project.

However, given the lack local community or government involvement, the fact that the Industrial Timber Plantation license has yet to be reclassified as restoration or protected forest by government, and given the long timelines and lack of details associated with the deal, it remains to be seen if this is just another empty promise and public relations ploy by APP.

APP has a long history of broken commitments with communities, government, certification bodies, civil society and its customers.

Here’s my official statement:

The Kampar is among the deepest and most valuable peat forest ecosystems in the world. Not only does it provide carbon storage, it is customary land that supports the livelihoods of local communities and it serves as critical habitat for endangered Sumatran tigers and many other species. Although RAN hasn’t seen the details behind this announcement, it’s likely that the area in question should be illegal to clear in the first place. Any further development in this or other parts of the Kampar and neighboring peatlands and natural forests should certainly be subject to the moratorium on new licenses due to be adopted in January as part of the agreement on reducing deforestation and forest degradation between the Governments of Indonesia and Norway.
While we support the conservation of the Kampar, this project in no way makes up for the tremendous amount of damage that APP and its affiliates are having on communities rainforests and peatlands across Indonesia. This area represents a small proportion of the remaining natural forests and peatlands in their land bank and without action to protect other threatened areas in the Kampar and elsewhere, the area’s values could be lost and any emissions reductions rendered meaningless due to leakage.

APP’s conservation efforts are a drop in the bucket compared to the destruction that their standard business practices are causing across Indonesia. Under no circumstances should APP be praised or compensated for doing something that they should have been doing in the first place.

A critical question that needs to be answered in this situation, is whether or not local communities and governments know that this is happening and have a meaningful role in decision-making. If we don’t know that, it’s unclear where benefits will flow from this deal and how durable it will be. RAN maintains that if these types of conservation projects are to be successful, they must have the free, prior and informed consent of local communities and these communities must participate and receive an equitable share of the benefits.

What’s really good here is that the Ministry of Forests is stepping up to change the designation of this land use from “clear and convert” to “restore and protect.” If it’s done in the right way, involving communities and avoiding leakage, it could be an important precedent for Indonesia’s government.

If Indonesia is going to live up to their agreement with Norway, the government must re-designate licenses somehow and APP holds a lot of concessions with peat and natural forests. We urge the government to involve local communities, settle land claims and, as they appear to be doing with this agreement, and to reallocate all remaining undeveloped peatlands and natural forests to restoration/conservation areas.

Finally, this project is a great example of why, before they package carbon as a commodity, private carbon traders should adopt fundamental social and environmental safeguards and require their clients to verify that they’re not involved in the destruction of peatlands and natural forests across all their land holdings.

Thought the jury’s still out on how this project will land- given APP’s track record of deception, corruption and destruction- don’t hold your breath.