A new report ‘Too Much Hot Air‘, details the shocking climate change impacts of the Indonesian pulp and paper industry through damage to peatlands, and highlights solutions in the form of ‘paludiculture’, with examples of good practice from local communities. The report is a discussion document, and it concludes with questions about we can move to a more sustainable future for Indonesian peatlands.
The pulp and paper industry in Indonesia has extensive tree plantations on drained peatlands. After drainage, the peat oxidizes, releasing carbon in the form of CO2 into the atmosphere. Drained peatland contributes more than half of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions, which in addition to above-ground deforestation emissions, puts Indonesia among the world’s highest greenhouse gas emitters.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the Indonesian pulp and paper sector are estimated at 88 million tonnes of CO2 per year from peat oxidation, more than Finland’s entire national emissions. An additional unknown but probably even larger amount is released in periodic peat fire events, such as the one in 2015, which also caused life-threatening smog and haze.
Local communities in Indonesia are developing methods of managing peatlands in a responsible way, re-discovering traditional practices and experimenting with new methods of paludiculture, the practice of mixed crop production on undrained or re-wetted peat soils. However, the pulp and paper industry has not yet developed a corresponding paludiculture system at a sufficient scale to substantially reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and prevent excessive risk of fire and flooding. Urgent action is required to prevent a climate catastrophe.