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Asia Pulp and Paper’s big REDD scam on the Kampar peninsula

How can a company use the fact that it is one of largest forest destroyers in Indonesia to benefit from REDD? Easy. The very fact that the company is so destructive means that any forest in the company’s concessions is automatically threatened. So any patch of forest left standing must, by definition, be avoided deforestation.

That’s the trick that Asia Pulp and Paper is hoping to pull, with more than a little help from Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry. In the process, APP is attempting to use REDD to re-brand itself. “One of the most destructive companies on the planet”, as George Monbiot described APP, now wants us to believe that it is protecting the forests and the climate.

A new report from Greenomics Indonesia exposes how two of APP’s “carbon reserves” are in fact set aside for commercial reasons and not because of a new-found interest in biodiversity or reducing deforestation. The report is titled, “Reasons Behind Asia Pulp and Paper’s Taman Raja & Kampar Carbon Reserves” (pdf file 1.3 MB). Greenomics Indonesia uses company reports to reveal that one of these areas of forest is in fact too steep to log and the other is of “low timber potential” and is “very difficult to access”.

APP claims that it is setting aside part of its concessions to protect biodiversity and to reduce emissions from deforestation. The company calls one of these areas the Kampar Carbon Reserve and it is working with Dorjee Sun’s company, Carbon Conservation, to establish a REDD project there. The forest area covers 15,000 hectares on deep peat and is part of a pulpwood plantation concession of PT Putra Riau Perkasa (PT PRP).

Aida Greenbury is Managing Director of Sustainability & Stakeholder Relations at Asia Pulp & Paper. In a press release at the launch of the project a year ago she said, “The Kampar Carbon Reserve is a gift from Indonesia to the world.” It would have been accurate to describe the project as a gift from the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry to APP.

Jago Wadley, a senior forest campaigner at the Environmental Investigation Agency, pointed out (in a comment on REDD-Monitor) that Ministry of Forestry Decree No. 101, 2004 (SK. 101/Menhut-II/2004) stated that “pulp and paper companies would not be permitted to harvest raw materials from natural forests after December 2009.”

Had this decree remained in place, it would now be illegal for APP to use the timber from the Kampar peninsula for its pulp and paper operations. But in January 2009, M.S. Kaban, then-Minster of Forestry, revoked the decree and allowed pulp and paper companies to continue trashing forests until 2015. In revoking the decree, Kaban created a threat to the forests of the Kampar peninsula and thus created the possibility of APP cashing in on REDD by leaving the forest standing.

In its new report, Greenomics Indonesia reveals that the Kampar Carbon Reserve may not be threatened after all. Greenomics quotes from a 2008 report produced by the concession holder, PT Putra Riau Perkasa:

“Although this area [the PT PRP concession] was previously designated as a selective logging concession (HPH), having regard to the stunted nature of the forest with low timber potential, there would only be a very slim possibility that it could be exploited by a HPH company. At this time, there is no illegal logging taking place on the ground. Besides its lack of potential, this area is also very difficult to access, as it is far removed from the nearest roads or drains. Most of the rivers in the area are small, and many are clogged by vegetation. The only access into the area is on foot, with the journey taking between 1 and 3 days, that is, along the corridor of PT RAPP [a subsidiary of pulp and paper company APRIL] or Selat Panjang.”

Greenomics Indonesia explains that the deep peatlands in PT PRP’s concession were not set aside as a result of APP’s “commitment to biodiversity conservation”, but because they were too difficult to get to. Further, the PT PRP report concluded that the concession could not be developed as a pulpwood plantation and that the entire concession was a high conservation value forest.

Since 2008, APP’s timber supplier PT Putra Riau Perkasa had no intention of clearing the forest in the Kampar Carbon Reserve. The forest is inaccessible and unless the laws are changed (again), it will be illegal to clear the forest in three years’ time. APP hopes to create carbon credits from this non-additional project which will allow pollution elsewhere to continue. And it is using this token project to greenwash the rest of its destructive operations.

PHOTO Credit: Romain Pirard and Rofikoh Rokhim (2006) “Asia Pulp & Paper Indonesia: The business rationale that led to forest degradation and financial collapse,” CIFOR.

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  1. A straightforward and non negotiable boycott. What else will such a nefarious company do if they lose financial income.

  2. On a general note, it is not the angels who need to change but the devils. To this extent I applaud APP’s STATED claims to be changing their practices and I am glad that Carbon Conservation is helping them. That being said it is incumbent upon them to be SEEN to be doing the right thing and to be transparent and committed.

    The best outcome here is that money flows back to the forest communities and that APP makes damn sure it, itself does not benefit financially (though they should be allowed to cover their costs).

    It is the last point that is the most relevant here. Debating additionality is mute (the validators/verifiers will sort that out) as long as the only beneficiaries of these two projects are the local forest communities. If the motivation and desired outcome remains noble then give APP a round of applause.

  3. I don’t think APP deserve a round of applause at all as the area of forest would have been left untouched anyhow? Additionally, it will only serve to improve their superficial image of Corporate Social Responsibility and allow them to continue pursuing devastating forest destruction and all the repercussions that follow on biodiversity, local communities and the climate. Their website is the epitome of greenwash – the main backdrop being an intact forest with sound effects which play in the background of nature – WHICH THEY DESTROY? Aida Greenbury specifically I find most hypocritical and enraging – I don’t know how she can sleep at night really with all the lies that fall from her lips about APP’s commitment to sustainability while the company wipes out vast strips of forest and animal biodiversity… utterly tragic.

  4. I just had another look at their website and realised that the forest background is a plantation forest – still find it misleading! With the birds flying over and nature soundtrack that plays…

  5. As of April 2011, Dorjee Sun of Carbon Conservation was still claiming that the Kampar Carbon Reserve project with APP would protect roughly 20,000 hectares from deforestation for APP production over a 30 year period.

    Clearly, this claim fails to address the substantive issues raised by Greenomics’ analysis of APP’s internal documents – which make clear that since at least 2008, APP has had highly debatable intention of clearing this area of forest.

    Further, Carbon Conservation still clearly suggests that it is predictable that APP’s suppliers (who control the forest in question) will have the legal right to exploit these forests for APP mills for the next 30 years, and that any ensuing avoided deforestation credits will be credible. This is in stark contrast to the regulatory framework that APP is supposed to be operating in in Indonesia, under which they will not be legally allowed to exploit natural forest fibre in their mills beyond 2015. Further, it is also in stark contrast to APP’s proclaimed corporate policies. According to APP press releases, includng this one ($FILE/110222_APP_Lays_Out_Key_Milestones.pdf) it is APP policy “To source 100 percent of its pulpwood supply from sustainable plantation stock by the end of 2015”. I.e. APP says it will not use natural forest fibre after 2015.

    While the press release seems to disguised this comittment as a “company policy” rather than as “legal restriction” on the sector it operates in, the policy does indeed fit the legal obligations placed on them by the government of Indonesia.

    So, Carbon Conservation’s hope to market avoided deforestation credits from APP’s Kampar Carbon Reserve for “30 years” needs to be thoroughly examined by any credible independent auditor selected to validate the project methodology.

    Despite it beign a year since the Kampar Carbon Reserve was announced, I am still not aware of any disclosure by APP, Carbon Conservation, or any auditor or accreditiation body that make sclear what the “methodology” will be, who will accredit it or audit it, and when it might begin.

    Hopefully Carbon conservation will be transparent about their flagship REDD project, and let the world know who is involved in this “world first” “gift to the world”.

  6. Once upon a time, APP and APRIL made commitments to stop using forest as a source of pulpwood after 2009. The date is now 2015. What is to stop APP and APRIL “negotiating” a further delay? We must stop buying products which include pulp made by those two groups.

    It would be reasonable to describe as professionally negligent customs officers in the EU (from 03 03 2013) and the USA (now) who do not scrutinise the information about species and country of origin of pulp and paper imports particularly from Indonesia and China which are mandatory under the EU Illegal Timber Regulation 995/2010 and amended Lacey Act.

    The former does not require Member State customs services to even be aware of that regulation. Concerning the latter, customs services in the USA seem either to have not been informed of the probable illegality of such paper or have not bothered (or been allowed..) to treat it with suspicion. As WRI and Greenpeace have shown, fraudulent declaration of species can cheaply and easily be detected – compounding the illegality of importing such paper.