"Though we welcome APP's new rainforest commitments as a milestone, the hidden story here is the controversial paper giant's long history of broken promises, land conflicts and human rights violations across its operations," said Lafcadio Cortesi, Asia Director for Rainforest Action Network. "APP will not be seen as a responsible company in the marketplace until its new commitments are implemented and resolve the devastating rainforest and human rights crises it has caused in Indonesia."
APP's new forest commitment, which went into effect February 1, extends beyond lands controlled directly by the company to cover its entire supply base - about half of APP's paper fiber comes from ‘independent' suppliers. The company says it will also defer clearing and conversion of natural forests and carbon-rich peatlands while conservation and carbon values are assessed. In addition, the commitment acknowledges the company's problems associated with land conflict, and recognizes indigenous and local community rights to land.
"Since building its pulp mills in Sumatra, APP has deforested an area of rainforest the size of Massachusetts," continued Cortesi. "APP has a long history of making and breaking environmental and social commitments. The real proof of APP's new commitment will be in how it proceeds with current plans to build what could be the largest pulp mill in the world in South Sumatra."
In 2004, APP promised to protect High Conservation Value Forests (HCVFs) and reach "full sustainability" as part of a legally binding US$6 billion debt "Master Restructuring Agreement" with Western financial institutions and Export Credit Agencies. As of March 2012, APP still remained in gross violation of this agreement.
Rainforest Action Network and its Indonesian partners are currently tracking dozens of cases of ongoing conflict between Asia Pulp and Paper, its wood suppliers and local communities across the Sumatran provinces of Jambi and Riau alone. (Raw data and background information on these cases are available on request.)
In one example http://www.kpa.or.id/?p=515&lang=en, which is representative of countless others, members of the Senyerang village in the Jambi Province of Sumatra have been embroiled in high-tension conflict with APP affiliate PT. WKS for many years. PT WKS cleared community gardens and forcibly displaced dozens of families. When the community took action to block log barges from reaching its pulp mill in November of 2010, police were called in and a community leader was shot dead. The land conflict and human rights violations in Senyerang remain unresolved and the community released a press release with an update on the conflict just last week. (View an English-translated version here http://understory.ran.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/PPJ-Press-Release_English.pdf, and a listing of grievances against PT WKS here http://understory.ran.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/PPJ-Press-Release-2_English.pdf.)
Rainforest Action Network has campaigned since 2009 to pressure APP to reform its destructive practices, including working with ten of the top publishing companies in the US to cancel contracts with APP until the company ends its central role in Indonesia's deforestation crisis.
Indonesia is home to some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world but it also has dangerously high rates of deforestation. Logging for pulp, along with the expansion of palm oil plantations, is a leading driver of this destruction. Indonesia is now listed as the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, after the US and China. An estimated eighty per cent of its emissions come from the conversion of peatlands and other natural forests.
APP's new commitment comes at a critical moment for Indonesia's forests. The two-year moratorium on deforestation decreed by President Yudhoyono in 2011 expires in May this year.