The pulp and paper industry in Indonesia has extensive tree plantations on drained peatlands. Drained and dried peat is a particularly high source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through its oxidation and increased susceptibility to burning. As a result Indonesia is among the top GHG emitters globally, more than half of the emissions coming from degraded 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.

As outlined in the EPN report, ‘Too Much Hot Air‘, greenhouse gas emissions from the Indonesian pulp and paper sector are estimated at 80 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. Addressing these issues will require widespread re-wetting and restoration of peatlands and adoption of new production practices by the pulp industry.

Local communities in Indonesia are developing methods of managing peatlands in a responsible way, rediscovering 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.

While environmentally and socially risky paper sources exist throughout the globe, Indonesia is home to some of the world’s last intact rainforests and also some of the world’s largest and most criticized producers for deforestation and conflict over land rights.  Conservation of the tropical rainforests of the islands of Indonesia is a global priority for our climate, endangered species habitat and for communities that have rights to them.

The lush rain forests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra are the only place in the world where elephants, tigers, rhinos and orangutans coexist. But these exceptional forests suffer from what may be the world’s fastest deforestation rate, threatening the survival of those species and causing massive carbon emissions. More than 6 million hectares of natural forest were lost from 2002-2012. Since 1985, Sumatra has lost more than half of its forest cover, leaving less than 13 million hectares. With only about 400 Sumatran tigers and fewer than 2,800 Sumatran elephants left in the wild, this last remaining habitat is critical to the survival of these species. The pulp and paper and palm oil industries account for the vast majority of deforestation in Sumatra.

Indonesia: Climate change and peatland management