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Interview with Bustar Maitar and Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace: “REDD is not answering the real problems of deforestation, yet”

Interview with Bustar Maitar and Yuyun Indradi, GreenpeaceInterview with Bustar Maitar, Head of Forest Campaign, Greenpeace Global Forest Network Indonesia, and Yuyun Indradi, Political Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Indonesia, at Greenpeace’s office, Jakarta, March 2012.

REDD-Monitor: Please give some background about Greenpeace internationally and in Indonesia, relating to the organisation’s work on forests.

Bustar Maitar: Greenpeace is an independent global environmental campaigning organisation with 28 national/regional offices covering over 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, as well as a co-ordinating body, Greenpeace International. Greenpeace has been campaigning to save the world’s forests for most of its 40 year existence, including the Amazon, and the boreal forests of the US, Canada and Europe. Over the last five years Greenpeace has prioritised its Forests campaign as part of our climate solution approach. Why is that? Because deforestation contributes 20-25% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. If we are not addressing the deforestation issue, we will fail to solve the climate problem.

Greenpeace is now working in three key rainforest regions: the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and Indonesia. These three regions are by far the largest areas of the world’s remaining tropical forest. We are using these regions to represent the deforestation problem globally. In the Amazon, we have a ship tour at the moment, asking the government of Brazil to stop a change to the Forest Code. In the Congo Basin, we are mostly focussing on logging activity. And in Indonesia we are talking generally on key forest issues.

We started campaigning on forests in Indonesia in 2005. We first targeted the logging sector, mostly focusing on Papua. In 2007, we started to focus on one the fastest drivers of deforestation in Indonesia, the palm oil sector, and for the last two years, we have been focusing on deforestation caused by the pulp and paper sector.

Greenpeace’s campaign is actually a forest campaign, not a palm oil campaign, or a pulp and paper campaign, or a logging campaign. We are trying to stop deforestation in general. This is also the approach we take to the issue of a moratorium, for example. We have been encouraging the government to declare a moratorium on deforestation for the last five years or more. Civil society raised the issue of a moratorium 20 years ago. What Greenpeace is asking is part of a civil society demand to the government to create better governance and better forest management in Indonesia.

REDD-Monitor: How many people does Greenpeace have specifically working on REDD in Indonesia?

Bustar Maitar: Specifically on REDD we have no one. Our forest team is working together to address forest issues and REDD is one of the issues in the forest campaign. Our key demand is not really REDD, it is to stop deforestation. We are proposing a moratorium as the solution for better forest management in Indonesia.

Currently we have about 10 people working on the forest campaign. We have three people based in Riau, there will soon be three people based in Papua and the rest are based in Jakarta.

REDD-Monitor: And how many people in total work at Greenpeace in Indonesia?

Bustar Maitar: We have around 50 office based staff in Indonesia at the moment. On top of this we have fundraising teams in most major cities, totaling about 130 staff. We have fundraising operations in Medan, Jakarta, Bandung, Jogja, Samarang, Surabaya and we just opened a new fund-raising operation in Makassar. In Indonesia, we have around 50,000 supporters on our database including about 30,000 people who donate to Greenpeace monthly.

REDD-Monitor: Can you describe Greenpeace’s position on REDD and how Greenpeace is working in Indonesia to promote this position?

Yuyun Indradi: Basically, we are supporting REDD, but there are also some conditions for this support. These conditions include that REDD should indigenous peoples and local communities, benefit biodiversity, and leakage should be avoided, so that companies don’t transfer deforestation and emissions from one place to another.

Greenpeace is trying to engage other stakeholders and NGOs. An agreement between these NGOs in Indonesia is translated into a Common Platform on saving Indonesia’s forests. Basically the Platform contains some conditions for saving Indonesian forests, which apply to the REDD scheme.

REDD-Monitor: Is Greenpeace involved in any of the working groups for the REDD+ Task Force?

Bustar Maitar: We’re not directly involved. In the Common Platform we agreed who will be inside the Task Force and who will be outside. We agreed that Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, WALHI/Indonesia FoE and some others, will remain outside of the Task Force working groups. Our role is monitoring the limitations of REDD.

REDD-Monitor: What is Greenpeace’s position on carbon trading?

Yuyun Indradi: At the moment we do not support a carbon market. We have our own idea of a hybrid market which is basically a mix between public funds and market mechanism. But so far, it is only concept paper.

Bustar Maitar: We also don’t support carbon trading yet because the infrastructure for this carbon market is not yet established and there’s no agreement on it. So far, there is only the voluntary market, and that is not good enough.

But also, carbon trading is not the solution for the climate. I think this is important, because what we are talking about here is reducing deforestation and reducing carbon emissions. Creating a new commodity out of carbon is not really a solution to the problem. It’s simple. If someone can smoke a lot of cigarettes and that person gives money to another person to absorb the smoke that he produces, this will only make the other person sick. This is the simplification of why we do not support carbon trading. Because what we are trying to do is reduce global carbon emissions to deal with the climate issue.

REDD-Monitor: Last year Greenpeace produced a series of maps showing how much forest is still at risk despite the moratorium that was agreed as part of the Indonesia-Norway US$1 billion deal. Before the moratorium was enacted, Yuyun said that, “The proposed moratorium is utterly inadequate.” What is Greenpeace’s current view of the moratorium and your view generally of the Indonesia-Norway US$1 billion REDD deal?

Bustar Maitar

Bustar Maitar: Just two days after the President, SBY [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono], announced the agreement with Norway in Oslo, we applauded the commitment that president SBY made. Why? Because as I said before, a moratorium itself is one of the key demands from civil society in Indonesia for the last 20 years. WALHI, for example, already raised this issue 20 years ago. And two years ago President SBY made a commitment.

So, as a political stepping stone this is something very important for Indonesia, showing the willingness at least of President SBY to address the forest issue. Greenpeace still supports this initiative. But at the same time there is the challenge of making sure that all government bodies work well together.

The moratorium was delayed almost six months from the original date that the president committed to, mainly because many stakeholders, especially from the business sector, lobbied to weaken the moratorium.

The official government bodies do not talk to each other. And this is a problem. There is the REDD Task Force, and the Ministry of Forestry has a strong authority on forests, but there is also the land authority, BPN [Badan Pertanahan Nasional – National Land Authority], and the Ministry of Agriculture is dealing with the palm oil concessions. They do not communicate with each other.

We were not surprised when the moratorium came out and it is not strong enough to address the deforestation problem. There are a lot of exclusions. When the moratorium map came out, we found that key peatland areas were not covered. Our analysis was that this is really far from what we expected, this is really far from what civil society wanted to see from the government commitment. And the moratorium only covers new licences and primary forest, while the Norwegian-Indonesian deal states natural forest.

The other problem that we’ve seen is that the Government of Norway is not really “pushing” the Indonesian government to follow what it already agreed in the LoI [Letter of Intent]. The Government of Norway is playing wait and see, but I believe that they realise there is a risk if they do not say something, because the Norwegian Government is playing a key role to address the deforestation issue and to support the REDD initiative, not only in Indonesia but around the globe. If the Government of Norway is not really standing up on this issue in Indonesia, then they will risk their credibility.

It is almost one year since the moratorium started but there is still no REDD institution. One of the key things in the Norwegian deal is that the Government of Indonesia should have a REDD institution. So far we only have the REDD Task Force, which is only a preparatory body.

In our opinion, the moratorium should not have a time limit, but should be performance-based. What we would like to achieve is the reform of the forestry sector in Indonesia. If after two years we are not yet there, it means the moratorium should be extended, until we can agree that the system has been reformed enough to make sure that the forest is protected and well managed for the future.

Yuyun Indradi: The moratorium only covers primary forests, which means that secondary forests are still at risk. About 35 million hectares of secondary forest could potentially be a source of emissions. So this is still business as usual. The potential emissions from secondary forest are as big as the previous emissions from deforestation. This is also deforestation.

Not to mention the fact that there are a lot of small fragments of primary forest in the moratorium area that are spread all over Indonesia. There is no guarantee that these primary forests will still exist in the future revisions of the moratorium map, or at the end of the moratorium.

The moratorium should have included a review of existing concessions. From the first revision of the moratorium map [December 2011] the area of protected forest was reduced by almost four million hectares, without any explanation where and what the status is of this area of forest. It should be listed, where the four million hectares came from. We hope that the second revision in May 2012 will be much better than the previous one and we hope that there’s no more reductions to the moratorium area. But let’s see what happens.

Bustar Maitar: Another important thing is from the start, we asked the government to conduct a full legal review of all existing concessions because a lot of natural forest and peatland is covered by concessions already. Without reviewing existing concession, I think it will be really hard to achieve the president’s commitment for the 41% emissions reductions. We say 41%, not 26%, because 26% is the commitment only from the government of Indonesia. With international support, like the Norwegian support, the target is 41% emissions reductions.

Yuyun Indradi: Clarity on land rights and the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights is also important. If these are not resolved, then any reform in the forestry sector would not succeed. In the LoI between Indonesia and Norway it’s clearly stated that there should be a mechanism on conflict resolutions. That also needs to be addressed.

There is another gaping loophole in the moratorium as well, that it excludes areas of forest with fuel reserves. Much of Indonesia’s huge coal reservers and a lot of geothermal energy lies underneath forests, which means that much larger areas of forest are at risk if the government allows this loophole to remain in the moratorium.

REDD-Monitor: Greenpeace has been very critical of the role that McKinsey has played in REDD. McKinsey has been quite heavily involved in Indonesia. Can you say something about the problems that McKinsey’s type of analysis has created in REDD in Indonesia.

Yuyun Indradi

Yuyun Indradi: Basically, what we are trying to highlight about McKinsey is the lack of transparency relating to the assumptions they use to produce their cost curve. McKinsey ends up blaming the local communities for being the main actors in deforestation in Indonesia.

McKinsey fails to see the problems with policies and the implementation of the policies. They don’t see the corruption problems in the forestry sector. Yet McKinsey’s findings will be referred to by the government in implementing their future policy on REDD. In our opinion, this will not improve forest governance but will make it worse.

Blaming local people is not the solution to deforestation. McKinsey doesn’t see the bigger picture, that there are large scale operations, transnational companies that are the main drivers in the palm oil, pulp and paper and mining sectors. So that’s the kind of issue where we disagree with McKinsey.

REDD-Monitor: Last year, an agreement signed between the EU and Indonesia and illegal logging. How much has Greenpeace been involved in the discussions on illegal logging in Indonesia?

Bustar Maitar: Specifically on the consultations on developing the SVLK [Timber Legality Verification System], we were not very involved in this. We were invited to several meetings, but Greenpeace did not really contribute a lot in the long process of SVLK.

But as I mentioned before, since 2005, one of the key issues that Greenpeace has raised in Indonesia is the illegal logging activity. We exposed what was happening in Papua. And of course we support any kind of initiative that attempts to reduce illegal logging activity, especially from the big companies’ operations.

In our view, the Indonesian government already has regulations to address the illegal logging problem. The challenge is the implementation of the policy itself. This raises the issue of governance, which is not really strong. Many of the interpretations of illegal logging affect the local communities, it’s not addressing the large-scale illegal loggers.

With the SVLK, of course we are happy that this scheme is there, not really to solve the problem, but at least to address the issue and to start to educate companies and the government that it is something important to be addressed.

Already, we’ve seen some companies trying to use it as greenwash. For example Asia Pulp and Paper, a couple of days after SVLK was launched, claimed that they comply with SVLK. But APP is still clearing peatland, natural forest and endangered species habitat. We don’t want to see this kind of thing.

To implement the EU-Indonesia agreement on illegal logging on the ground needs full commitment from the government. A review of the system, including the system that the government has developed, is long overdue.

Yuyun Indradi: I was personally involved from 2003, before I came to Greenpeace, in developing the SVLK. When we submitted it to the government, they edited it and split the standard into two. So one is SVLK and the other is the mandatory certification for sustainable management.

The SVLK is mainly a compilation from existing regulations under the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Environment, particularly the environmental impact assessment regulations. But there are some big gaps, such as the fact that only 12% of the forest has been gazetted. To fulfill the legal requirement you have to have gazetted area. So 88% is still not considered as legal. This is the government’s responsibility. The concessionaire has the obligation to propose and pay for the process of gazettement, the government and local government has to carry out the process. So the concessionaires argue they have fulfilled their responsibilities, so their concessions are legal. But from a holistic legal perspective there are still gaps.

Then there’s the long and intense debate about how the rights of indigenous peoples can be included as part of the legality system. Unfortunately there are very few regulations that recognise indigenous peoples’ rights in Indonesia. We’re trying to put all the international commitments from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but since UNDRIP has not been translated into Indonesian regulations, it’s difficult.

If it is found that a concessionaire does not comply with SVLK, there are no sanctions, there’s no revocations of permits. Instead, the concessionaire can start again, go back to square one and go through the procedure again. It is quite funny, because it is under Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade, but there is no enforcement.

It’s just like with APP. When we found that APP is using ramin, which is listed under Appendix II of CITES, the government just does nothing. They said that a limited quota of ramin can be traded under supervision, but because APP doesn’t have the necessary permissions to do so, it has already breached the law. The Ministry of Forestry says that if the case is proven then there will be administrative sanctions.

That’s the kind of thing that makes the gaps of law enforcement bigger and bigger. The danger is that SVLK becomes just a stamp that can be bought.

REDD-Monitor: Please say more about APP and the ramin case. Greenpeace wrote to the Ministry of Forestry and explained that you’d found illegally logged timber inside APP’s log yard. What was the response from the Ministry of Forestry?

Bustar Maitar: This ramin issue was already a public secret. Everybody who’s involved in the pulp and paper sector including the government officials and the company itself knew that it was happening. What has happened now is that Greenpeace has exposed the problem. This is not only happening at APP, but at other companies, including palm oil companies that are clearing natural forest in Sumatra.

Two days before we published the report, out of respect to the government to do its job, we went to the Ministry of Forestry saying we will publish this report to expose the illegal logging of ramin. What we were saying is that you are the authority and have the responsibility to take action. What should have happened when we published the report, because this is already evidence, is that the government should have acted immediately to impound the illegal ramin at APP’s mill and stopped the mill operations whilst they carried out their investigation.

The government has the authority because the ramin used by APP, is in breach of the 2001 law against logging ramin. There is an obligation for the government to go there and investigate. The government could have shown that it is really concerned about law enforcement, especially because it is not only national legislation this is involved, but also the international agreement on CITES. So far we haven’t heard anything yet from the government about the progress of their investigation.

REDD-Monitor: Do you know if the Ministry of Forestry has visited APP’s Indah Kiat pulp mill since your report was released?

Bustar Maitar: They invited us to a meeting last week. The week before they gave us a copy of a letter stating that they were going to visit the Indah Kiat mill. We pointed out that probably it’s already too late. We have heard that in days after we released the report APP started to clean up their ramin. The evidence we presented included GPS, laboratory analysis, photographs and everything is there in the report. They need to check on the ground. Last week, they hadn’t been to the field yet. Maybe they have now.

REDD-Monitor: In terms of implementing REDD, what do you think are the lessons learned from this whole illegal logging discussion?

Bustar Maitar: The REDD discussions started seriously during the UNFCCC meeting in 2007 here in Indonesia. Greenpeace was already involved in that discussion and we produced a document at the time, called TDERM, Tropical Deforestation Emissions Reduction Mechanism. Whatever it is called, REDD or whatever, what we would like to see is reduced deforestation and reduced carbon emissions. And of course, a key issue in this is illegal logging.

One of the problems though with illegal logging is that the government, and others, think only in terms of paper, permits and certificates. Communities don’t have paperwork, but a company like APP, just because it has a permission from the Ministry of Forestry, they say that it’s not doing illegal logging. But illegal logging should be understood from the full field of regulations. APP is cutting down ramin, for example. It’s illegal logging. APP is clearing natural forest in peatland more than three metres deep. It’s illegal logging. APP is clearing riparian zones. It’s illegal logging. Even if they already have a permission from the government.

In terms of the lessons learned, what we’ve seen is that especially in Indonesia, REDD is not addressing the real problem, yet. Why? Between 2006-2009 the rate of deforestation in Indonesia was 2.3 million hectares a year. That’s according to our analysis which was based on information produced by the Ministry of Forestry. The Ministry of Forestry says the figure is 1.1 million hectares a year. We believe that the rate of deforestation is still 2.3 million hectares a year.

REDD is not answering the real problems of deforestation, yet. As a learning process, maybe, how to colaborate with each other, how to solve the problem of the one map project, maybe that is one of the lessons learned that this country should have only one map, but in terms of how to address the real problem, I think it’s not there, yet.

We are arguing also that all parties, all stakeholders who are involved in REDD and the moratorium, should start to think how to really address the problem. Otherwise what is happening now with REDD, is simply a series of projects. And after the project period is finished, the people who are now working on REDD will jump to another new project. This is just what we don’t want to see. A project cycle that is not really addressing deforestation issues, indigenous peoples’ rights issues or the climate issue.

There are many REDD projects happening. These projects should integrate with each other. What many institutions are doing now is REDD projects that are quite similar to previous forest project initiatives that have already happened in Indonesia. We’ll end up only with reports. One project here, one project there, one project somewhere else and with lessons learned from the project sites. It just ends up with project reports saying this is what we did in the last three years. But nothing has really changed.

Yuyun Indradi: The other thing is that we are not addressing the supply and demand gap in the forest industries. If we keep letting industry expand until the forest cannot supply any more, what will we do? This is also about improving forest governance. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an illegal logging issue or REDD issue. If forest governance is good, law enforcement is strong, then with or without illegal logging, or SVLK, or REDD I think we can benefit from better forest governance.

REDD-Monitor: In recent years, Greenpeace did a big campaign against Sinar Mas and as a result of that campaign Golden-Agri Resources signed an agreement with The Forest Trust. Since then, Greenpeace has gone quite quiet on palm oil and you’re now focussing on Asia Pulp and Paper. Can you talk a bit about the Golden-Agri Resources campaign and what you think the implications are for REDD.

Bustar Maitar: Greenpeace campaigned for three, four years on palm oil focusing on Golden-Agri as a case study. The final commitment made by Golden-Agri in February 2011 includes a commitment to protect high conservation value forests and to zero development on peatland. This is something quite new in terms of the palm oil sector not only in Indonesia but globally. And they are committing for free, prior and informed consent, which means also that they have an obligation to solve social conflicts that are the result of their operations.

They are also committing to increase their productivity yield and committing to a provisional threshold on forest they will not clear, using 35 tonnes carbon per hectare as an indicator. Since then, Golden-Agri and TFT are doing field work to find out what 35 tonnes carbon per hectare looks like on the ground. They are measuring several of Golden-Agri’s concessions in Kalimantan. And what does 35 tonnes carbon per hectare look like on the ground? It’s more or less two trees per hectares. It’s quite degraded. So they will only develop in the area below 35 tonnes carbon per hectare and off course with proper consultation with local community..

This is really trying to combine the reality on the ground, ecological perspective and business perspective.

Greenpeace supports this commitment. Regarding the problems with laws and regulations, that is another thing that Golden-Agri should phase in to their commitment. And the government of Indonesia should carry out law enforcement.

Golden-Agri has committed to implement this across all their operations, not only in Indonesia. They will implement this in their future plantations in Liberia. For us this is something new and something we would really like to see that is implemented by the company itself with support from the TFT.

In terms of REDD in Indonesia, one of our key problems is to define what is degraded land and what is forest land. And this committment on not clearing forest with more than 35 tonnes carbon per hectare can help to define that. In terms of reducing emissions from deforestation, this will help, and it will hopefully help to find the right way to define degraded land.

So the corporate commitment is already there. It really depends on government support and, of course, also other industry players. Because many other palm oil companies are scared of the 35 tonnes carbon per hectare figure, especially if it is something that the government will think of as a policy. The figure of 35 tonnes carbon per hectare is already mentioned in the National Strategy for REDD. This is something that will impact the land bank. That’s why many oil palm plantation companies are trying to undermine this figure of 35 tonnes carbon per hectare.

If this is something that really happens and is something that the government takes on this is something that will help REDD implementation in Indonesia.

REDD-Monitor: You just mentioned the National REDD Strategy which I understand is waiting for a Presidential Decree, how much was Greenpeace involved in the drafting of the National Strategy?

Yuyun Indradi: Basically the latest National Strategy on REDD the draft was drafted by a group of people under the REDD Task Force team. They were appointed and mostly they are from industry sectors. As the coalition of NGOs from the Common Platform we also have a person who is involved. Through this person we gave our inputs to the discussion.

REDD-Monitor: What do you think of the draft National REDD+ Strategy?

Yuyun Indradi: So far, it’s acceptable. Even though, as a strategy it would not be easy to implement, it needs more details and need to be translated into law and regulations.

But there are many Presidential Decrees on many issues and while they could support each other, sometimes they also contradict each other. The question now is how to synchronise all these regulations so that this National Strategy on REDD can work.

REDD-Monitor: What’s Greenpeace’s opinion on the outcome of REDD from Cancún and Durban, especially the fact that the safeguards are behind the words “promote and support”?

Yuyun Indradi: We think that Durban was a failure. Unfortunately it’s back to REDD and safeguards being under national decisions or each country’s circumstances. The standards rely on the commitment of each country and how they are going to translate them into regulations.

In Indonesia at the moment there are two parallel processes happening, one in the REDD Task Force and the other in the Ministry of Forestry. In the REDD Task Force they are trying to develop safeguards that will be considered as part of the conditions for financing. In the Ministry of Forestry they are trying to set up a safeguard information system. It would be confusing if there are two set of standards developed by two different institutions. The proposal at the moment is trying to merge these two into one and then accept it as a national standard on safeguards. But it’s negotiations on both sides. Let’s see what happens. The last minute is often the most crucial for decisions in the process.

REDD-Monitor: There’s a lot happening on REDD in Indonesia. There are 40-odd projects, the President has come out in support of REDD, but at the same time there is very high deforestation, expanding oil palm, pulpwood and mining concessions. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about REDD in Indonesia?

Yuyun Indradi: For me, it’s a mixed feeling. I’m optimistic when I consider the progress on commitment at the Presidential level. But after this term the next President might withdraw all those declarations.

I’m quite pessimistic when the government is not trying hard enough to address the gap of supply and demand because that’s the root of deforestation. Instead of reducing production capacity the government encourages companies to increase capacity. But the raw material supply is not enough. Even with a lot of REDD projects, without addressing those particular issues in the forestry sector of supply and demand, then deforestation cannot be reduced, because the company will demand to convert more and more natural forest.

Law enforcement is also still poor. It’s a mixed feeling of optimism looking at the regulations, but pessimism looking on the ground at the failure to enforce the law.

Bustar Maitar: As I said earlier, what has happened in the last two years on REDD and on forest issues generally, is a huge step in terms of political commitment from the government. But looking at what’s happening on the ground and seeing that the problems are not really being addressed it’s difficult to remain optimistic.

In Indonesia we are only two years from a national election and President SBY will not run for a third period as President. So this is a crucial period for natural resources including forests. This year is the only window of opportunity to change something. Not next year. The President’s committment is there, it’s not really close to the election yet, so people can still think clearly what they should do for this country.

Greenpeace would like to maximise this year to really push for the change in terms of forest management in Indonesia. Forest management in Indonesia has to include mining, pulp and paper, logging and also palm oil sectors. We don’t know yet what the second revision of the moratorium map will look like when it comes out in May, but that will really be a key indicator of whether we are making progress or not.

Also the global market is changing now. The demand for sustainable products is quite high. We can see that there has been acontraction in customers for APP products. It means that there is no way for companies based on the natural resources sector not to transform in a sustainable way. Otherwise, after a while they will lose the market. But this is not only about the market, this is really about how to address the problem on the ground.

I am still optimistic, but there is a lot of work to do. Rather than blame each other, let’s come together to solve the real deforestation issue. Greenpeace itself will be playing a key role, especially in exposing the role of large companies in deforestation on the ground as well as encouraging government to take action to improve forest governance.

This interview is the sixth in a series of interviews with key REDD actors in Indonesia. REDD-Monitor gratefully acknowledges funding from ICCO for this project.

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  1. And for balance:

    Greenpeace Has Positioned Itself Outside the Game. Terms like “Illegal Logging” Are Damaging the Environmentalists’ Standing. When NGOs like Greenpeace use terms like “illegal logging” to describe APP’s activities, followers of events in Indonesia’s forestry sector just switch off. Companies like APP do not log illegally. They would be shut down immediately if they did. Terms like “illegal logging” do not frame the debate accurately, and that’s why campaigns using such terms gain no traction. Greenpeace’s recent ramin “revelation” was a classic example. The mill involved cited the presence of the ramin in its application to the Ministry of Forestry and then showed the ramin to the Greenpeace investigators. But, Greenpeace announced the “find” like the mill (well, they actually said APP) was caught red handed. Such reports are presented far too sensationally. It’s why those who understand the situation have stopped listening to Greenpeace.

    Why Is Greenpeace Making a Meal of Such Hollow Victories? Let’s look at Greenpeace’s recent “successes”. Greenpeace is quick to claim that a number of major companies have cut ties with APP and then it lists these companies over and over in its online campaigning. People shouldn’t read Greenpeace’s summaries of these companies’ statements. They should read the companies’ versions of the statements. They nearly all include a caveat which suggests, to the business-eye at least, that the statement was made simply to get the Greenpeace representative out the door without him calling Greenpeace’s militant arm into action against the company. But, just for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Greenpeace’s claims are accurate, and these companies have suspended their contracts with APP. These “wins” must be close to meaningless from Greenpeace’s “save the planet” perspective. APP sells to 65 countries on six continents and has an annual production capacity of 10 million tonnes. Danone’s annual sourcing of 7,000 tonnes of paper from APP represents only 0.07% of APP’s current annual output. Therefore, Greenpeace would have to persuade another ten Danone-sized companies into suspending their contracts, and it still would not have affected 1% of APP’s business. Moreover, APP is expanding. It is branching eastwards not westwards. And, the eastern market is growing rapidly. APP is not “on the ropes” as environmentalists allude. It is about to build a new mill (the world’s biggest) in southern Sumatra.

    Environmentalists Like Greenpeace Are Not Operating at the Right Level. Quite simply, Greenpeace is not pulling the right levers. The organisation might as well be throwing its followers’ money straight down the drain. (We fully expect Greenpeace knows this. Our suspicions are that Greenpeace, which is struggling to maintain its membership, is attacking APP just to keep itself funded for a real campaign in whole different field.) Anyway…
    Companies like APP only harvest forest for which they have been granted permission by the Ministry of Forestry. Greenpeace’s real issue is whether permission ought to have been given from an environmental perspective. And that’s exactly the area that this debate ought to be focused on. In our opinion, the environmental considerations in this process are not given a loud enough voice, and, even if they were, the official government bodies who can influence such matters are not good at talking to each other. This is the level where environmentalists like Greenpeace ought to get involved. Shouting from the side lines after the laws have been passed is futile. Greenpeace did not seek involvement in Indonesia’s REDD+ Task Force, and it did not contribute to the recent SVLK talks. Instead, it chooses to criticise from afar and achieves nothing (with the possible exception of keeping itself afloat).

    The Forestry Sector Has a Role to Play in Indonesia’s Development. The likes of Greenpeace often need reminding that the forestry sector contributes $21 billion to Indonesia’s GDP, and over 18 million Indonesians are dependent on the sector for work. There is a balance to be struck here. Indonesia is a new democracy, whose resources are needed to play a role in its development. Greenpeace should never forget that 50% of Indonesians live on less than $2 worth of goods and services a day and that agriculture contributes 15% towards Indonesia’s GDP (compared to 4% in Australia and less than 1% in the UK). The forestry sector won’t be switched off or changed at the whim of a western NGO.

    The Likes of Greenpeace Need to Raise Their Game. Greenpeace needs to raise its game. It needs to seek representation in government-level think tanks (as it did to some effect in Germany with renewable energy) and, within the context of Indonesia’s development strategy, add more weight to the environmental arguments. The rules in the government’s moratorium on deforestation are absolute proof that the environmental aspects needed a louder voice at government level far earlier in the process. That was the environmentalists’ goal to score, but they were too busy jeering from the cheap seats. But, it might be too late. Groups like Greenpeace are starting to lose their voice in Indonesia. The consistent over-emotive talk of tigers and orangutans and biased donation-seeking, over-simplified reports are undermining their positions to the extent that some of their executives were thrown out the country. In terms of positioning themselves to influence, that’s about as far away as they can be from where they ought to be.

    Blackwashing APP is Growing Tiresome. Greenpeace also fails to mention the million trees a day that companies like APP and APRIL plant every day (yes, a million trees a day) as part of their sustainability programmes. They also fail to factor in the carbon sequestration of plantations in their calculations. They also fail to mention all the community projects that companies like APP undertake (e.g. bringing clean water to millions of Indonesians). Instead, Greenpeace pulls out its “Greenwashing” knife, and accuses APP of covering up its tiger-killing activities. Well, blackwashing is a term that observers of this story need to start using. Because that’s all Greenpeace is doing. Everyone knows it. They just haven’t given it a name yet.

    Greenpeace Has Positioned Itself Outside the Game. APP and APRIL and all the others are operating within the law. Let’s all be clear on that point. They’re just better at tuning the law to their needs than Greenpeace is. But, then again, they would be. Greenpeace chooses not to operate at that level.”

    From CPR-Indo

  2. @ DonKD

    Whether or not the Ministry of Forestry has granted permission, APP’s supplies of wood from tropical forest are not harvested, they are mined – the ecosystem does not recover – and often from deep peat. Much of the tropical forest from which APP’s wood supplies derives appears to have been allocated improperly and court cases against those alleged to have been involved in such allocations – including Provincial Governors – have been dropped for implausible reasons. There is much pressure from within Indonesia to re-open a major court case which relates not only to APP but also APRIL. Corruption is illegal whether normal business practice or not – and whether taken into account by Timber Legality Assurance Systems or not.

    If the proposed large mill in southern Sumatra were fraudulently financed, then its output would necessarily be illegal. Investors remember that they lost their proverbial shirts when financing APP’s mills (and the related capital flight). Other investors (from Singapore to the USA) have lost very large sums recently by speculating in the shares of a number of “forestry” companies operating in China which have now been delisted from stock exchanges allegedly for fraud or other malpractice. Even China has become wary of providing finance or investment guarantees to socially and environmentally damaging projects. Perhaps above all, one should ask where the pulpwood for that mill is likely to be grown – APP already supplies its pulp mills in China with pulpwood from Kalimantan and there is likely to be a limit to much further expansion in their imports from Vietnam. And finally, if recession does not make that mill redundant, the imperatives of climate change should! Consumption of unsustainable consumer goods must decline, which will cause readership of consumer-oriented magazines and other forms of advertising to decline and will also affect the market for packaging leading to increased substitution of waste paper for virgin fibre in Europe and North America. Paper is a twilight (because largely gratuitous) industry.

    Indonesia does not need to export wood-based products – less than 10% of Indonesia’s export revenue derives from that industry and, along with palm oil, the industry is highly damaging to Indonesia’s international reputation. Neither industry alleviates poverty except for migrant workers (driven by poor social policy) and on a GDP/capita basis (- a vacuous statistic because it does not take into account sustainability).

    Finally, only the most naïf commentator would not expect APP and APRIL – like most large corporations around the world – to have influenced not only the law and its implementation, but also the policy and practice of the Ministry of Forestry (which is notorious particularly for its stance concerning the moratorium on allocating logging or clearance concessions). Unsurprisingly, more members of the certification body LEI are associated with APP than any other company.

  3. Hi Chris, the new audit report released by the Indonesian state audit board (2012) reveals that PT BPP, one of APP’s subsidiary operating in South Sumatra, has cleared natural forest outside its concession. The audit report concludes that the forest clearing operation is ilegal. Thanks. Elfian

  4. @Jenny – Thanks, but does this have anything to do with Greenpeace, REDD or Indonesia? Also, I’m afraid my Italian is not great…

  5. @DonKD – Thanks. Your comment, “Companies like APP do not log illegally,” made me laugh out loud. Meanwhile, I’m sure that if Greenpeace ever wants your opinion, they’ll rush to ask you. You’re obviously a real expert.

    Just out of curiosity, when you say “We fully expect Greenpeace knows this,” who else is included in the “we”?

    APP managed to run up debts of more than US$13 billion. As part of the debt re-structuring package, the company agreed to be fully sustainable by 2007 (which meant using only plantation timber). APP failed to meet even this weak definition of sustainability.

    WWF is about corporate-friendly as it’s possible for an environmental NGO to be. They seem happier working with companies than campaigning against them. Yet in the case of APP, even WWF is critical. Here’s what Rod Taylor, Director of WWF International’s Forest Programme had to say recently about APP:

    “Even in legally binding agreements with government-backed credit institutions around the world, APP has demonstrated that its promises cannot be trusted…

    “In just the last couple of months, it’s been revealed that APP and affiliates have cleared inside a self-declared tiger sanctuary, that the company has made claims about sustainability certifications that its certifiers reject, and that protected timber species are present in supplies to its pulp mills.”

  6. In terms of Golden-Agri’s operation, the data obtained from the Ministry of Forestry (2012) shows that three companies of Golden-Agri still felled natural forests in West Kalimantan (Kapuas Hulu). It means that GAR’s operation still left deforestation footprint. Thanks Chris.

  7. Just a quick reply.


    Ref: “Much of the tropical forest from which APP’s wood supplies derives appears to have been allocated improperly..”

    Oh, come on. It’s negligible amounts at worst. What was it last year? Some ramin logs (if they even were pulped and not quarantined) and some still-being-debated encroachment into a self-proclaimed sanctuary. APP produces 10 million tonnes of pulp a year. “Much of” is far far too strong. In fact, it’s biased. Looking at @Elfian’s post, it looks like GP’s golden child GAR were worse offenders. The rest of your post is equally disingenuous.

    @Chris Lang:

    Do you mean the same WWF whose president has just been on an elephant shooting holiday? That aside, You shouldn’t laugh out loud. You should recognise you have something called attentional bias. That means you focus only on the events you see. You back this up with something called availability bias, which means that you use stories that come to hand easily as evidence. All this feeds your preconception about APP. That’s called confirmation bias. You don’t see your biases because you have blind spot bias. That means your biases prevent you from seeing your biases. It’s also called the Dunning Kruger effect. You’re right. I’m not claiming to be an expert in forestry, but I know enough about emotive language and biases to spot you need to come back more towards the middle, else your viewpoint will lose its value. WWF’s method is better than Greenpeace’s. Greenpeace just “make sh#t up”, I’m afraid. They’ve just been caught doing the same with their claims against Apple. Keep up the good work, but open your mind to the idea that Greenpeace is blackwashing APP to meet its own ends.

  8. @DonKD – Just out of curiosity, let’s apply your analysis to your own comments. Your only source of information is the company (attentional bias). You focus only on events that the company wants you to see. You make no effort to provide any evidence to back up the company’s statements (availability bias). This feeds your preconception that APP is “sustainable” (confirmation bias). You don’t see your biases because you have blind spot bias (Dunning Kruger effect).

    You probably haven’t noticed (because of the above), but it’s not just Greenpeace that is critical of Asia Pulp and Paper. WWF, Eyes on the Forest, Friends of the Earth UK, World Rainforest Movement, Human Rights Watch, CAPPA, Down to Earth, Environmental Defense Fund and Rainforest Action Network have all criticised of APP.

    Here are a couple more examples that you might be interested in. A report published by the Center for International Forestry Research:

    Romain Pirard and Rofikoh Rokhim (2006) “Asia Pulp & Paper Indonesia: The business rationale that led to forest degradation and financial collapse”, CIFOR, Working Paper No. 33.

    And in 2007, the Forestry Stewardship Council dissociated itself from APP. Here’s the statement they put out at the time:

    Forest Stewardship Council dissociates with Asia Pulp and Paper December 2007

    The Forest Stewardship Council dissociated from working with Indonesian based Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) in October 2007. The Forest Stewardship Council has a duty to protect the good will and integrity associated with its name and logo for consumers and for our trusted partners and members. The FSC Board of Directors decided that association with APP would threaten the good will and faith invested in the name Forest Stewardship Council and the years of support and participation by companies that are truly committed to the pursuit of responsible forest management globally.

    There is substantial publicly available information that suggests that APP, a Sinar Mas subsidiary, is associated with destructive forestry practices. Reports from WWF, Greenpeace, Eyes on the Forest and many other independent sources suggest that APP is actively conducting forestry practices contrary to FSC Principles and Criteria. As a result, the FSC Board of Directors decided to end the use of the FSC name and trademarks by APP and subsidiaries in which APP is the majority shareholder.

    The FSC Board of Directors limited the scope of dissociation to only those entities that APP controls by majority. Certificate holders affected by this decision will no longer be able to sub-license and use the FSC trademarks. Where affected entities demonstrate through substantial verifiable evidence that they do not fall within the scope of this decision, the FSC trademark sub-licenses will be promptly reinstated.

    As a way to ensure that the FSC continues to develop solutions in a transparent way to the problems facing the world’s forests FSC has determined that it will develop a formal policy that will govern how it handles any future issues similar to this. A draft of a proposed policy has been circulated for public comment and a revised draft is scheduled to be released shortly with more opportunity for public comment to be submitted.

    If you have further questions about the dissociation of Forest Stewardship Council from working with Asia Pulp and Paper, please contact Salem Jones in the Trademark Department at FSC: s.jones (at)

  9. Wrong on just about every account, Chris, but good try. Actually, my information is the information provided in the environmentalists’ reporting. I just see what they’re reporting for what it is (particularly the scale). Go and do some research on who’s talking about environmentalists spinning facts, and you’ll end up with a list longer than yours. Your list of people in agreement constantly report each other’s stuff. That’s called circular reporting. They’re not separate sources. (You also need to go and look up ‘availability bias’. You got that wrong too.) Actually, your 2007 FSC story is a great example of availability bias. And, don’t get me started on FSC. Go and Google how well they’re doing across the globe…when they’re not shooting elephants. (Excuse the cheap shot – no pun intended)

  10. Seriously though, Chris. This is the best site by miles on deforestation issues. It is far fairer than others’ sites, and the arguments far more cogent. It has dragged me a little towards the environmentalists’ position. I recognise that I’m having a go at you for the over-emotive reporting of others.