The Forest Trust have released a short video on their Respect programme which aims to address human rights issues in agricultural supply chains. It discusses some of the issues on plantations in Indonesia and in the manufacturing sector in China, and the worker-focused solutions they are implementing to tackle them.
Motion 7 passed at the FSC General Assembly meeting in Vancouver on 13 October, indicating that the organization will pursue a change to its rules allowing companies that have converted forests to plantations since 1994 to go for certification, which is not allowed under current rule. Proponents of a rule change say it would allow more companies to be held to FSC standards and could result in the restoration or conservation of ‘millions of hectares’ in compensation for recent deforestation. Opponents argue that FSC is bending to industry demands and that a rule change will increase the pressure for land conversion on communities and biodiversity.
British fast food restaurants and grocery chains, including Tesco, Morrisons and McDonald’s, buy their chicken from Cargill, which feeds its poultry with imported soy, much of it apparently coming from the Bolivian Amazon and Brazilian Cerrado — areas rapidly being deforested for new soy plantations. Retailers have so far not used their leverage over Cargill to compel it to support a soy moratorium expansion.
Plantation firms like Asia Pulp & Paper and Toba Pulp Lestari have a history land tenure issues, but more recently they have pledged to eliminate the practice from their supply chains. Some conflicts, however, remain unaddressed and a new online platform launched by the Rainforest Action Network shows that communities are still feeling the effects of losing traditional forests to make way for plantations.
One subsidiary of Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (April), Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (Rapp), has constructed a 3km canal through thick peatland on the island of Pedang, Indonesia, which has led to the suspension of their partnership with WWF and Greenpeace. The canal is built for draining peatland for pulp plantations, which is against both the company’s sustainability standards, and also government regulations. However, the president and director of Rapp insisted the action is legal based on a plan approved by the Indonesian government back in 2013, which was before the catastrophic fires of 2015.
A new research published by the journal Conservation Letters studies the industrial palm oil plantations and regional greenhouse gas emissions levels. The paper summarizes the results of a case study focused on an oil palm operation in Gabon, and suggests that tropical African countries could largely offset the emissions created by converting the land to palm oil plantations if they enact mandatory policies regulation which forests can be cleared and how much remaining forest must be set aside for conservation. If those mandatory measures are lack, unsustainable levels of climate-warming carbon emissions could be created by converting Africa’s tropical forests into monoculture palm plantations.
"Zero deforestation” champion creates new risks for Indonesia’s forests and carbon-rich peatlands with mega-scale pulp mill
A recent study released by 12 international and Indonesian NGOs reveal that Asia Pulp &Paper (APP) is building one of the world’s largest pulp mills without a sustainable wood supply in South Sumatra. This analysis indicates that the current planted area owned by APP is insufficient in supporting this new mill as well as the 2 existing mills. This report suggests that APP may fail to meet its ‘zero deforestation commitments’ made in 2013 which included ‘100% sustainable plantation wood for pulp’.
A new study published on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that the role of agriculture in the destruction of mangrove forests in South-East Asia has been underestimated. The study is based on a 12-year assessment conducted between 2000 and 2012, which found that in South-East Asia mangroves were being lost at an average rate of 0.18%. Rice and palm oil plantations contributed nearly 40% to the lost. The author is calling for action as mangrove habitats in South-East Asia are highly biodiverse and are vital to the livelihood or millions of people.
Drones are increasingly being used in the fight against deforestation and illegal land clearing in some counties, including Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil trader Cargill has begun using drones to monitor fires near to its plantations and plan to use drones to identify protected forests. It is thought that local law enforcement agencies in Indonesia might also turn to drones as they currently rely on satellite imagery to identify hotspots but can often encounter delays in receiving information and poor resolution of images.
A toolkit, named the HCS Approach, has been developed by a group of organisations with the aim of identifying High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests. The toolkit was endorsed last week by major NGOs and plantation companies in Singapore including Golden Agri Resources, APP, Wilmar, Greenpeace, WWF, RAN, Unilever and The Forest Trust. The toolkit is seen as a crucial element in developing sustainable plantations and the companies involved will now begin the steps towards implementation in the field. HCS sits alongside HCV
Despite government plans to eradicate illegal logging that have been in place over the past five years, encroachment on the country’s forests remains rampant, a recent report says. The report, released by a number of NGOs grouped under the Coalition against Forestry Mafia and the Washington-based Forest Trends, said that more than 30 percent of the timber used by the country’s industrial forest sector could be considered illegal. According to the report, while the source of this illegal wood was unclear, it was likely from trees harvested during the clear-cutting of natural forests from new oil, palm and pulp plantations. In order to meet the demands from the industrial forestry industry, the government had pledged to boost the number of industrial forestry plantations as the primary source of legal wood in Indonesia. The plantations produce fast-growing species of trees like acacia. However, the report found that the plantation sector was dramatically underperforming. In 2007, the forestry ministry predicted that by 2014, plantations would be producing at almost twice the rate reportedly achieved.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has been documenting and exposing the illicit trade in stolen timber in Indonesia for more than 15 years. According to a new EIA report, it’s all a huge illusion that Indonesia appears to bring rainforest logging under control. Traditional logging has been replaced by the mass clearance of rainforest for oil palm plantations, creating massive supplies of hugely profitable but often illegal timber. And lurking beneath the surface is a pervasive network of criminality and corruption. NGOs and progressive government figures have emphasised the need to look beyond sectoral legislation and to corruption laws in order to address this.
1. Zero deforestation commitments. 2015 may be the year that many of the zero deforestation commitments are actually implemented.
2. Joko Widodo’s forest commitments. As Indonesia’s new president takes on the challenge of reforming the forestry sector, look out for greater scrutiny of concession licensees, as well as a crack-down on forestry-related corruption.
3. The Brazilian Amazon. There are concerns that Brazil’s current downward deforestation trajectory may not last.
4. Will Paris product a binding climate framework? Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is expected to have a central role in the climate talks in Paris at the end of the year.
5. Where are the new deforestation hotspots? Data from the WRI suggests that deforestation may be rising in several countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Ecuador and Ghana amongst others. 2015 will also uncover new studies and tools that will help better quantify change in forest cover.
6. Falling commodity prices. Lower prices reduce the profitability of converting rainforests for palm oil plantations. On the other hand, companies may be less likely to adopt environmental measures if they have less cash on hand.
7. Myanmar. As Myanmar opens up further to foreign investors, concerns about the fate of the country’s forests will rise.
8. Dams in the Amazon. Indigenous groups and environmentalists are ready to fight against Brazil’s hydro projects in the Tapajos basin.
9. RSPO and zero deforestation. If the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) does move towards zero deforestation it has a critical tool in place to do so: last year members were required to submit the GPS coordinates of their concessions.
10. Jurisdictional initiatives. Sub-national efforts to develop forest-friendly policies and initiatives will move forward in 2015.
A report has claimed that the Peruvian government is ignoring the real drivers of deforestation and failing to safeguard the rights of indigenous people who rely on, and are best-placed to protect, the country’s forests. The report, Revealing the Hidden: Indigenous perspectives on deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, was issued by Peru’s indigenous peoples’ organisation (AIDESEP), and international human rights NGO Forest Peoples Programme (FPP). Conflicting with previous reports that suggest agriculture is mostly to blame (see above), this report suggests the invisible drivers of deforestation have a much more significant impact. These include infrastructure projects, such as the Transoceanic highway, oil, gas and mining projects, palm oil plantations, illegal logging operations, and mega-dam projects. According to the report, roughly 75% of deforestation in Peru occurs within 20km of a road. The report goes on to suggest practical steps to address this deforestation and violation of indigenous peoples’ rights, including: resolving territorial demands; providing legal, financial and technical support; close legal loopholes; and implement robust and independent planning mechanisms to ensure economic interests do not over-ride all other considerations.
Pulp and paper giant APRIL (Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd) has been found to be violating its own sustainability policy by continuing to source fibre from peatlands in Riau, Indonesia. The investigation, from Eyes on the Forest, shows that APRIL affiliate Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) is operating in breach of APRIL’s pledge not to clear potential high conservation value (HCV) areas. Dramatic photographs released by Greenpeace-Indonesia in June clearly showed natural forest clearance on deep peat areas, and ongoing preparations to turn the land in to plantations. APRIL says this activity doesn’t violate its policy commitments and clearing is only taking place in non-HCV areas. APRIL is under mounting pressure to clean up its supply chain since its largest competitor, APP, signed a comprehensive zero deforestation policy in 2013. APP’s subsequent commitment to support conservation and restoration of forests equal in size to its own operations was also applauded by environmental groups. APRIL has since said that it will match APP on this commitment – see APRIL’s letter responding to the Greenpeace photographs in June 2014.
A report published by Landesa and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) looks at Asia Pulp and Paper’s acquisitions of forest lands from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s in Guangxi and Yunnan provinces where it leased large blocks of collectively-owned forests for conversion to industrial eucalyptus plantations. The report finds that the principle of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) by local peoples was not applied in some areas, and that both APP and local regulators failed to abide by all laws governing land acquisition. The report acknowledged that APP "cooperated fully" with the researchers and is currently reviewing the problems.
A tree-by-tree battle between activists and timber workers more than three decades in Tasmania tore apart the Apple Isle. Finally, a historic peace deal came in 2012. Hodgman’s government removed 400,000 hectares of native forest from reserves, designing it “future potential production forest land” – available to be logged in six years’ time. The Hodgman government is also putting anti-protest laws aimed squarely at the environment movement. Plantations in Africa, south-east Asia and South America had come online and flooded the solid wood and woodchip markets with cheap, plentiful supply. Tasmania’s major green groups are plotting their next steps. The Hodgman government has created a ministerial council to advise on the future of the state’s forestry industry, without any environmentalist invited. The Hodgman government’s pro-logging drive makes the negotiations between environmentalists and the industry impossible.
An independent study by The Forest Trust and Ata Marie have found that APP has sufficient plantation resources to supply a massive new mill being built in OKI, South Sumatra. The study did however uncover one minor gap in supply in 2020. Aida Greenbury, APP’s managing director of sustainability said “The TFT report forecasts a minor gap in supply in 2020. However it is clear that with a harvesting rotation of around five years, improvements made now can bridge that gap by increasing productivity of supplier plantations through improved yield, better tree stock and reduction of waste. As such, we have been developing an action plan to ensure we have sufficient plantation fibre to meet the pulp requirements of our existing mills as well as our future mill in South Sumatra, in line with our target to become a 100% plantation business for pulp production.
According to a letter signed by signed by Huma, Forest Peoples Program, Rainforest Action Network, Wahana Bumi Hijau, Scale Up, Jaringan Masyarakat Gambut Jambi, Jaringan Masyarakat Gambut Riau, and Pusaka, APRIL’s new forest policy allows the company to continue destroying rainforests and peatlands for industrial plantations. The letter highlights a dozen concerns over APRIL's policy, including a lack of a moratorium on natural forest conversion, failure to identify and protect high carbon stock (HCS) areas, and unclear commitments on resolving social conflicts and embracing the concept of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from affected local communities. It also says that the policy appears to not apply to APRIL’s sister companies or suppliers. The letter comes days after Greenpeace documented APRIL-owned PT. Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper destroying peat forest on Pulau Padang, an island off Sumatra. In response to the report, APRIL said the clearing was in line with its forest conservation policy.
The Rainforest Alliance has agreed to conduct an audit of Asia Pulp and Paper’s progress in implementing the the zero deforestation policy the forest giant signed last year. The organisation will evaluate APP’s progress in meeting four commitments in its forest conservation policy including protecting high conservation value areas and high carbon stock forests, managing peatlands to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and obtaining free, prior informed consent from local communities before developing new plantations.