Too Much Hot Air – Paper’s Climate Change Impacts in Indonesia


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 how we can move to a more sustainable future for Indonesian peatlands. Comments and responses are very welcome.

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 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.

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.

The discussion document, ‘Too Much Hot Air’ is available here:

Please add comments below or contact Sergio Baffoni:


NGOs send a letter to Asia Pulp & Paper


A group of nearly 60 Indonesian and international NGOs sent a letter to APP director, Linda Wijaya, to express their concern regarding a new possible supplier, PT. Bangun Rimba Sejahtera (PT BRS). According to a recent NGO report, the company has a concession laying up to 85% on land used by local communities for their livelihoods.

The report suggests that 100,000 people in West Bangka Regency could be affected by PT BRS operations, and that 21 villages (the majority of the affected villages) have expressed their opposition to the presence of PT BRS. The report finds that PT BRS has failed to undertake a credible Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process.

The concession, in order to be viable, must use lands claimed and used by local communities, consequently risks further igniting social unrest, undermining local livelihoods and creating serious land conflict. The NGOs ask APP not to choose PT BRS as supplier.

Please, find the letter here


Indonesian civil society writes to Banks: APRIL failing to implement its own policy


The environmental coalition Jikalahari and the network of local communities of Riau province, JMGR, have sent two letters to banks, one each to Credit Suisse and ABN Amro, to share some concerns over what is happening on the ground in APRIL’s concessions in the Riau Province (in Sumatra, Indonesia).

Credit Suisse has committed to help its customer APRIL to deliver a visible change in its activities. ABN Amro also has business with APRIL, and last May was involved in a new deal with this company for US$800 million, through a syndicated loan.

According to the local communities, the APRIL group and its subsidiary PT RAPP has been so far unable to implement its own policy, to comply with regulations in Indonesia regarding peat protection and peat management or to implement regulations regarding setting aside areas for local communities’ livelihood trees.

APRIL subsidiaries illegally keep building canals, planting in burned peatlands that should be restored, and even forbidding official inspection teams to visit their concessions. Social conflicts with local communities are not being addressed, as the company promised they would be, and its agreements are violated by the plantation companies.

Furthermore, business-as-usual peat management is draining large areas of peatlands in the Kampar peninsula, releasing huge amounts of CO2 every year and creating risks of new waves of fires. Last year’s peat fires caused the death of 5 Riau residents; 3 of which were children, and more than 87,000 people suffered from respiratory diseases, while the county suffered $935m of damage. Six APRIL subsidiaries have been investigated by the Police Department in relation with the fires, but still the company has failed to stop draining peat. This practice will also cause soil subsidence, leading to extensive flooding in the rainy season, while the dry season is affected by fires.

The civil society groups have asked the banks to make sure that their clients will be able to prove full compliance with laws and regulations, to promptly address social conflicts and to stop draining peat.

The letter to Credit Suisse

The letter to ABN Amro

Paludiculture workshop: local community solutions to sustaining peatlands in Indonesia


The Environmental Paper Network is helping to host a workshop in Indonesia to share knowledge about paludiculture, sustainable management of peat soils and solutions to the peatland degradation caused by the paper industry. Sergio Baffoni gives a flavour of the discussions.

There is a palm that produces bread, a vine to braid baskets, a grass to weave carpets.  For decades, local people have successfully planted crops that are native to peat wetlands, such as sago, rattan, jelutung, purun and other native plants, which assured their livelihoods and food security, while not threatening other sources of livelihoods, such as fishing and gathering. This culture is based on the natural environment, does not require the use of fire or drainage and keeps the soil healthy.

Even on degraded and drained peat lands, such as in areas deforested by government-sponsored projects or by plantation expansion, and even in areas devastated by fire, local communities have struggled to develop fire-free horticulture methods that prevent soil subsidence, flooding in the wet season and fires in the dry season.

This knowledge has cost years of experimentation and exhausting work, but almost nobody knows about it. This is why Wetlands International and Jikalahari, a network of environmental organizations in Sumatra, with the support of EPN and CLUA, have organised a workshop to compare local communities experience in paludiculture on peat.

Paludiculture means planting on water keeping the peat wet, using local species that grow naturally on peat. “We have done it for centuries,” says Syaripudin Gusar, from a village in South Sumatra. “Now palm oil and acacia plantations have taken all the land, and only 300 hectares of purun grass remains to our community, 7 hours by boat from the village.” But purun artisanal manufacturing is their identity, so they don’t give up.

“To plant without burning you have to find the right plant, the right species,” says Akhmad Tamuruddin, from Borneo. He arrived in Borneo 34 years ago, with other transmigrants. He was given a little piece of land in the middle of the nowhere, and nothing more. “We had to use fire to open it up. I used fire too, I have to admit it. But every time you burn the land, it goes down several centimetres. You have to burn it every time you sow, it’s half a meter in five years, it’s madness. So I stopped. It has been hard work, but now nearby areas are getting flooded every heavy rain, while my land remains dry.”

“We planted sago before independence,” says Abdul Manan from the Meranti Islands, in the Straits of Malacca. Sago is a kind of palm with a spongy centre that it is edible. “We do not need fertilizers, the ponds are full of fishes, we don’t have to dry or burn the peat, it’s not a monoculture. We make noodles, porridge, chips, and even sugar from it.” Then a company arrived and planted sago by cutting the forest, digging canals, drying and burning peat, followed by a pulp and paper company (connected to APRIL), which also started to cut the forest, dig canals, dry and burn peat. The villagers resisted, in order to protect their gardens, their forest and their traditional way of life. Now they are blocking the canals. They still produce sago.

In the workshop, other successful experiences of living on peat without destroying it are exchanged. Then villagers from different provinces ask each other how much it costs to work peat with mineral soil to avoid fire, whether it is possible to plant rattan between Rambutan fruit trees instead of between rubber trees, and how to commercialize sago. They are many pieces of local wisdom, and together they can become a systemic solution to preserve forest, climate and local development.

Industrial development followed a very different path. As well as the palm oil industry, the pulp and paper industry has developed a highly destructive model based on large scale monoculture of alien species, which requires peat degradation. Land that local communities managed according to traditional wisdom has been robbed, cleared and drained. Canals cut into the peat bogs have drained waste land areas, released huge amounts of CO2 and made them prone to forest fires and subsidence.

These industries should learn from the local communities, and change their silviculture model or leave the ground to other people who can manage it better for the future of Indonesia. After the peat fire crisis last year, which impacted the health of millions of people in Indonesia and neighbouring countries, leading to several deaths and releasing more than one billion tonnes of CO2, the pulp and paper industry cannot delay any longer.

Peat soil must be protected by keeping the water level high or by rewetting if drained. Peat has to be planted with local species that can survive in swamps. Among these there are species that can produce paper fibre. The monoculture model has to be turned into a new landscape-based mosaic approach, which includes restoration of natural forest, community based paludiculture and agroforestry, and paludiculture-based fibre plantations for papermaking.

For those unable to attend, we will be hosting a webinar on paper industry impacts on peatlands in Indonesia, by Bas Tinhout of Wetlands International, at 0900 UT on Tuesday 22 November 2016. Contact hag (@) for details of how to join the webinar.


New Indonesia mill raises doubts about APP’s forests pledge


A landmark commitment by one of the world’s largest producers of tissue and paper to stop cutting down Indonesia’s prized tropical forests is under renewed scrutiny as the company prepares to open a giant pulp mill in South Sumatra. To fanfare more than three years ago, Asia Pulp and Paper promised to use only plantation woods after an investigation by one of its strongest critics, Greenpeace, showed its products were partly made from the pulp of endangered trees.

Greenpeace welcomed the announcement as a breakthrough and the company, long reviled by activists as a villain, rebranded itself as a defender of the environment, helping it to win back customers that had severed ties. At the same time, it was pressing ahead behind the scenes with plans to build a third pulp mill in Indonesia.

When it went public with its plans for the OKI mill in 2013, APP announced it would produce 2 million tons a year and then earlier this year acknowledged the mill’s capacity could in the future increase to 2.8 million tons.

New research released Wednesday by a dozen international and Indonesian environmental groups estimates that APP will face a significant shortfall in its supply of plantation-grown wood after the new mill begins operating, even at a 2.0 million ton capacity. The company could then face a choice between using higher-cost imported wood or looking the other way as its suppliers encroach upon virgin forests.

“APP, while it has been presenting itself as a champion of zero deforestation, is building one of the world’s biggest pulp mills,” said Christopher Barr of Woods & Wayside International, one of the organizations involved with the report.

“There will be a great deal of pressure to ensure it receives adequate supplies of wood to keep it operating at full capacity,” he said. “Our analysis shows the group’s existing planted area in South Sumatra is unlikely to produce the volumes of wood the mill is expected to consume at projected capacity levels.”

How the mill, which could operate for more than half a century, is fed will be a factor in the survival of Indonesia’s tropical forests and the endangered wildlife they shelter. More generally, the draining and destruction of peatlands for forestry or agriculture will over decades release vast amounts of carbon that could jeopardize Indonesia’s ability to meet its emission reduction targets under an international agreement due to be signed within days.

The report estimates that APP’s plantations in South Sumatra have never produced half of the wood needed to feed a 2.0 million ton a year pulp operation. That shortfall is compounded by devastating forest and peatland fires across Indonesia last year that destroyed more than a quarter of APP’s planted trees in South Sumatra, according to an on-the-ground survey by Hutan Kita Institute and other civil society groups.

The company said it would it respond to concerns about the mill.
APP is the crown jewel of the Sinar Mas conglomerate, one of Southeast Asia’s largest companies. For a time it was a pariah in financial markets after defaulting in 2001 on $13.9 billion of debt, which still ranks as the biggest default by a company from a developing nation. It has secured Chinese funding for the OKI mill.

The draining of peatlands, which make up the bulk of the concession land in South Sumatra that supplies APP, is a fraught issue for Indonesia’s neighbors. Record fires on peatlands and forests last year caused $16 billion of losses for Indonesia, according to the World Bank, and sent a smoky, health-damaging haze across the country and into Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

The mill and its plantations, meanwhile, affect the livelihoods of thousands of people who have lived for decades on land used by APP. The company is embroiled in hundreds of land use conflicts across Indonesia and has yet to reach an agreement with any community after vowing to settle such disputes in 2013

Once the new mill begins operating, “I think it will be even more difficult for communities to get their land back” said Aidil Fitri, of Hutan Kita Institute, which is advocating for two communities in conflict with APP in South Sumatra.

“Now they have OKI mill and we believe they need more lands for their plantations,” he said. “On the other side, the communities who have conflicts with APP need their lands back for their livelihood, to do agriculture, not for acacia plantations.”

Greenpeace forests campaigner Andy Tait said APP has maintained it will only supply the mill with plantation or imported wood. But he acknowledged that APP’s assessment that its plantation wood supply is adequate predates last year’s “horrendous” fires, which heavily affected the company.

“We don’t see any sign of APP pulling back from its commitments on no deforestation at this stage and it would obviously be commercial suicide for them to do so,” he said. “But this mill construction raises a number of critical questions that need to be addressed.”

Indonesia (AP)

NGO Letter: Peatland management of APRIL is not sustainable


A group of NGO sent a letter to the Indonesian paper giant Asia Pacific Resources Limited (APRIL) on peat management in the Kampar Peninsula. APRIL recently announced a peatland restoration project. However, at the same time, the cmpany is continuing to drain peatlands in the same region, for pulp plantations. The letter reminders to APRIL that science show their peat management system is not avoiding peat draining, with all the consequences of this (CO2 emissions, forest fires, soil subsidizing etc), and that industrial plantations on the peatlands of Kampar Peninsula are environmentally and economically unsustainable and irresponsible. The letter asks APRIL to abandon acacia plantations on peat and develop the use of alternative crops that require no drainage, and manage peatlands in an environmentally and socially way.
The letter is signed by Environmental Paper Network, Wetlands International, World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Action Network, Canopy, JMGR, Walhi Riau, Scale-up and Yayasan Mitra Insani.

Is Asia Pulp & Paper a responsible company?


We are often asked whether it is OK to buy paper from Indonesia, now that the biggest Indonesian pulp and papers have committed to a moratorium on rainforest logging. Here, Sergio Baffoni explains why it is still too early.

On February 5, 2013, after decades of environmental and social conflicts in Indonesia, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) announced a new Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) including a commitment to zero deforestation. Over the past many years, APP has been criticized for its practices which led to the clearing of millions of hectares of rainforest, the destruction of tiger habitat, displacement and human rights violations of indigenous and rural communities, as well as the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere due in large part to the conversion of peatlands into industrial pulp plantations. In April 2014, APP expanded its commitment to include the protection or restoration of a million hectares of Indonesian rainforest. Then in February 2015 APP announced a new implementation plan to address issues raised by an independent evaluation. Actions were announced in August 2015 by APP on the development of peatland management standards, high-tech LIDAR mapping of peatland , and removal and restoration projects on 7,000 hectares of plantations.

APP’s commitments represent a great opportunity to address its legacy of environmental and social impacts and to change its future practices away from deforestation. However, implementation on the ground is slow and in some cases barely non-existent. An independent evaluation by the Rainforest Alliance, as well as recent reports by other NGOs, have shown gaps and serious challenges that will require more time to be addressed.

These reports revealed that, while APP suppliers’ own deforestation and new peatland development has stopped, deforestation by third parties continues in many of their concessions. Additionally, numerous social conflicts remain unresolved and improved peatland management and landscape restoration plans have yet to be developed. These independent reports on APP’s performance during the last two years, and future monitoring by NGOs, should provide good direction for continued learning and improvement by APP.

The following unresolved issues have arisen within recent months:

  • The magnitude of unresolved social conflict emerged tragically with the murder of the farmer union activist Indra Pelani in February 2015 by security guards contracted by APP. In June, Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission found gross human rights violations transpired with this case, indicating that significant risk of additional legal violations remains.
  • The Rainforest Alliance evaluation found that the company is failing to stop third party deforestation, which is still widespread in set-aside forest, inside APP and supplier concessions.
  • About half of APP’s plantations are located on peat soil that, once drained, is highly inflammable. The unaddressed heritage of decades of bad peatland practices, combined with third party deforestation and with a long dry season, has made APP plantations one of the sources of the fires that have been ravaging Sumatra and Borneo. The fires have created a smoke and haze crisis that is affecting the entire South East Asian region. It has impacted the health of millions of people in Indonesia and neighboring countries and has led to several deaths. The crisis has also caused schools to close around the region, shut down air transport, and released each day more greenhouse gasses than the average daily emissions from all of the USA. Investigations in Indonesia have reportedly led to the arrest of an APP affiliated concession manager (Bumi Mekar Hijau) while authorities in Indonesian and Singapore (under the Transboundary Haze Pollution Act) have opened legal investigations into APP.

NGO stakeholders have been discouraged by the pace of progress on key issues and by recent changes in stakeholder engagement formats. The ongoing fires, the unresolved social conflicts highlighted by Mr. Pelani’s murder, the ongoing deforestation by third parties, the gaps reported by the Rainforest Alliance evaluation and the company’s expansion plans are worrying developments that risk jeopardising the credibility of APP’s forest policy.

On 6 October 2015, Environmental Paper Network co-ordinated NGOs came together to send an open letter to APP expressing their concerns and proposing a broader set of recommendations.

APP’s answer to this letter is unsatisfactory, essentially reiterating the many steps that have been announced in the past months, without giving any new response to NGO concerns and recommendations. APP’s willingness to act on these recommendations and demonstrate change on the ground must be the measure that paper customers and investors adopt in their scrutiny of APP’s performance. Until such changes are independently verified, APP poses too many social, environmental and governance risks to do business with.

NGOs send a letter to Asia Pulp & Paper: urgent a reform of APP structures and practices


A group of NGOs sent a letter to APP director, Linda Wijaya, after a stakeholder engagement forum in Jakarta on October 5th. At the forum, APP presented information on how it is attempting to implement its Forest Conservation Policy and associated plans, and NGO’s raised the issues contained in this letter and sought assurances from APP that it will increase its efforts to quickly reform its structures and practices. The signatories made clear to APP that their re-engagement is not an endorsement of the company’s policies and practices and should not be used by the company to promote its products in the market place or seek additional finance.
Download the letter here.

APRIL announcing a new forest conservation


Indonesia second biggest pulp and paper company announced today an immediate moratorium on logging in natural forests. After many years of environmental and social conflicts, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) announced the end of deforestation, together with a number of measures that will improve its previous forest policy.
Environmental organizations, with different tones, welcome the move but remain cautious, waiting to look how the policy will be implemented on the ground. They also suggested some issues that need to be addressed during the implementation, and Environmental Paper Network will facilitate this process.

According to Riau network Jikalahari, the new commitment seems to be stronger that the previous policy, but it still remains weak on transparency. In fact, it is still not clear wether HCV assessments, environmental impact assessments and supplier list will be shared with stakeholders, as required by the national scheme GN PSDA. Furthermore, a major effort is needed in social conflicts resolution Also peat restoration requires further steps: APRIL should comply with the new regulation on peatlands protection and best management, and i can even be pioneer in its implementation. Given past experience, an extra effort to ensure its full implementation and prevent breaches are needed.

Greenpeace highlighted the progresses, stressing that APRIL has agreed to a number of new conservation measures, including using the High Carbon Stock Approach to identify and protect forest areas remaining in their concessions. The company has also agreed to protect forested peatlands and has established a Peat Expert Working Group to help its develop international best practice for managing peatlands to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“We commend APRIL for agreeing to end its deforestation, although we will be watching closely to make sure that today’s announcement leads to real change on the ground,” said Bustar Maitar, Head of Greenpeace’s Forest Campaign in Indonesia. Greenpeace added that now the government must now act to reform the forest sector so it works for people and the environment.

While also optimistic, WWF is still cautious on APRIL’s full and strict implementation of its policy and intends to closely monitor progress in partnership with stakeholders such as NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest. “This strengthened commitment by APRIL is an encouraging step along the pathway towards responsible and sustainable production,” said WWF Indonesia’s Aditya Bayunanda. “The enhanced Sustainable Forest Management Policy announced today is APRIL’s response to longstanding calls to quit deforestation by civil society groups. WWF hopes APRIL can fully implement this commitment considering its potentially positive environment and social impacts,” added Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia.

The Rainforest Action Network welcomed APRIL announcement to transform its business model by eliminating deforestation, expansion into peatlands and human rights violations from its operations and supply chains, as well as action to address and remedy its legacy of adverse social and environmental impacts. “In moving forward, APRIL must also address its legacy of land conflict, deforestation of critical species habitat and peatland conversion. We will be watching APRIL to see whether the company can transform its corporate culture and demonstrate transparency including independent monitoring and verification of its performance on key issues. In its operations and before any expansion, APRIL must go beyond paper promises to proven outcomes, demonstrating to its customers, investors and to the communities and landscapes that have been harmed by its operations that it is accountable for and will remedy past and prevent future adverse impacts.” said Lafcadio Cortesi “RAN urges customers and investors to assess their business relationships with APRIL based on demonstrated and independently verified outcomes on the ground. Paper policies must be translated into action and improved results for communities and forests on the ground”

APRIL press release

Royal Golden Eagle (RGE) Forestry, Fibre, Pulp & Paper Sustainability Framework

Financing APRIL in Indonesia is not acceptable


As we have highlighted in recent posts, Asia Pacific Resources International Limited (APRIL) is responsible for substantial deforestation in Indonesia, causing social conflict and greenhouse gas emissions. In partnership with BankTrack, our pulp finance working group has researched the main banks involved with APRIL and then systematically contacted them asking them to divest. You can read our research results on BankTrack’s blog here: 

April-Banks(Note: values for ABN Amro, China Development, CITC, Santander and West LB are estimated based on the assumption that banks took an equal share in one loan, for which individual bank contributions are not known. Also, note that West LB has been succeeded by Portigon Financial Services AG as of June 2012.)

This work has recently achieved good coverage by the media, see for example, here:

Some of the banks have assured us that they will have nothing to do with APRIL, and today we are very pleased by the announcement by Santander (see  that they will make a withdrawal from their association with APRIL unless the company stops deforesting. Santander has recently been the target of a Greenpeace campaign. This video shows why.

We will continue to support our member organisations in their campaigning to ensure that banks have policies to avoid financing forest destruction, and to divest from the worst perpetrators, such as APRIL. Watch this space.