New report says pulp companies and government are not transparent with restoration plans for fire-prone peatlands, and its analysis shows the restoration obligations of pulp producers APP and APRIL. 

In 2016, the government of Indonesia announced a new regulation aimed to protect peatlands in response to the massive fires that burnt 2.6 million hectares of peatlands, killing 19 people, releasing 1.75 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent and causing losses for US $16.1 billion. The government mapped peatlands, and decided to protect half of them, including large areas in Sumatra and Kalimantan that had been drained for industrial pulpwood plantations (hutan tanaman industri, HTI) and palm oil estates over many years. The areas designated for protection cannot be developed – and if already converted, cannot be re-planted after harvest – while the companies have the duty to restore them.

To comply with the new legislation the plantation companies had to revise their long-term and annual management plans. However, these new management plans have not been made public, despite repeated requests by Indonesian NGOs. This lack of transparency prevents the public from being able to monitor the restoration of peat ecosystems in HTI concession areas.

A new report released today by Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan presents an analysis to determine the restoration obligations of Indonesia’s two largest pulp producers, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL).  The Ministry’s map of peat functions contained in Ministerial Decree 130 of 2017 on the Delineation of an Ecosystem Function Map for Peatlands was overlaid with the HTI pulpwood concessions reportedly supplying wood to APP and APRIL.

The analysis found that 12,000 square kilometres of pulpwood concessions – an area over 16 times the size of Singapore – are now to be protected and restored: almost 1.8 million ha for APP suppliers and around 400,000 ha of concession for APRIL suppliers (respectively 30% and 25% of the companies’ suppliers plantation bank).

Both APP and APRIL have made corporate commitments to responsibly manage their plantation operations on drained peatland areas, but little progress has been made in peat restoration. According to a previous analysis by the Environmental Paper Network, APP and APRIL are responsible for respectively 44 million and 19 million tonnes of CO2 from drained plantations. To put these figures in perspective, excluding fires and downstream emissions, the pulp and paper industry in Indonesia therefore emits more greenhouse gases than the country of Norway.

Since both companies have continued expanding their production capacity and wood consumption, the need to protect peat creates a risk that they will seek new sources of wood from other areas by using the government’s “land swap” policy, and most likely in Kalimantan and Papua where large areas of natural forest remain. The policy was aimed to compensate plantation companies for the loss of their land with new areas on mineral (non-peat) soil. Previously, Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan analysed the provisional peat-swap maps exposing that 40% of the the new land was on natural forest, therefore exposing that the peat-swap scheme was leading to further deforestation.

The Koalisi Anti Mafia Hutan calls on:

1. APP and APRIL and/or the Ministry of Environment and Forestry to immediately release the revised annual work plans (RKT) and five-year work plans (RKU) for all pulpwood suppliers, showing detailed management plans for peat protection and restoration zones that have been approved by the Ministry.

2. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry to revoke the “land swap” policy.

3. APP and APRIL to publish maps of its suppliers’ current planted area in each HTI concession.

4. APP and APRIL to adopt accountable plans to phase out completely their use of wood fibre sourced from drained peatlands and the management of peatlands under their control for commercial plantations.

Read the full report and maps, HERE.