Indonesia: Green Group Calls Asia Pulp and Paper Forest Policy ‘Artful Deception’

Rosa O'Hara Jakarta Globe 20 Mar 13;

An environmental think tank has accused paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper of attempting to purposefully deceive the public and its stakeholders with its new conservation policy.

In a report released on Monday titled “APP’s Artful Deception,” Greenomics Indonesia, a group that says it is devoted to empirical-based policy approaches for the conservation of natural resources, claimed that no significant amount of natural forest or forested peatland has been saved through Asia Pulp and Paper’s conservation policy.

APP announced its new forest conservation policy on Feb. 5, calling it “a high-profile forest conservation policy on the part of one of the largest pulp and paper producers in the world.”

But Greenomics Indonesia claimed that the deliberate framing of APP’s report as an attempt to conserve natural forest and forested peatlands was both inaccurate and misleading.

The policy institute claimed that APP purposefully delayed committing to a new conservation policy until its current projects that involve the clearance of natural forest and forested peatland had been completed.

APP finished most its projects prior to Jan. 31, the deadline for the moratorium on the clearing of natural forest and forested peatland under its new policy.

Furthermore, though APP announced a planned suspension of natural forest clearance in Indonesia last year, “the actual extent of the natural forest to be covered by the suspension ... was very surprising,” the report said.

“In fact, it was revealed that almost no natural forest or conflict-free areas were involved. In concrete terms, the area of natural forest that would benefit from the moratorium only amounted to some 200 hectares out of more than 1.15 million hectares included within the relevant concessions.”

The report added that any areas of forest within APP pulpwood plantations that remained intact were not due to the new conservation policy.

In the case of Riau Indo Agropalma’s pulpwood plantation concession, almost all of the area was cleared before the deadline, with only small remnants of forest remaining.

“It would be disingenuous to claim these as being the results of the new APP forest conservation policy,” Greenomics Indonesia said.

These areas remain untouched due to previously existing protection zones, occupation by local communities or designation for crop production, lack of road access, or because they are areas that APP has attempted to clear but with no success, the report noted.

“[RIA] is clearing blocks of forested peatland located in living crop block, which are intended for partnership ventures with local communities,” Greenomics Indonesia said.

Prior to report’s release, APP explained its collaborative efforts to conserve natural forests.

“To help bring positive change on the ground, we are working closely in both Indonesia and China with The Forest Trust, which is providing advice, guidance, capacity-building and monitoring on issues around high-conservation-value forests, high-carbon-stock forests, peatland clearance, community conflict and other operational issues affecting environmental and social performance,” APP told environment news website recently. “We will continue to keep stakeholders and the wider NGO community updated on our progress and welcome further input”

APP was previously accused of unethical behavior by Greenpeace in 2010.