Another Scapegoat APP

Green Economy Concept

In a press release last Thursday, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) stated that the presence of mixed tropical hardwood fiber ( MTH ) in their products did not come from primary natural forests in Indonesia.

APP has become a target of Greenpeace because of its actions in continuing the conversion of tropical forests and peatlands for acacia plantations. Not because this giant paper company is still destroying ‘tropical natural forests’ in Sumatra, as APP has implied.

Conversion of timber forests—varies widely depending on the level of degradation—and peatlands into plantations can result in substantial carbon emissions and high wildlife loss. Orangutans and endangered tigers have so far fared better in timber forests than they have in industrial plantations.

APP is also seen trying to deceive consumers in the matter of MTH, which in Indonesia wood fiber only comes from trees in natural forests. Last year, APP insisted that the MTH found in their packaging used to come from recycled fiber. Even with MTH, they say, it’s impossible to test the outer layer of the packaging—which usually doesn’t use recycled fiber.

However, paper testing experts contradict APP’s claim. It is still possible to separate the outer packaging and test for MTH. In the case of APP packaging, it was proven that MTH was not found in the recycled lining. This indicates, that natural forest fiber is in packaging as Greenpeace had touted in the campaign against APP in 2011.

In response to this packaging debacle, Alan Oxley, an APP advocate, was tasked with demonstrating that fiber certificated under the Forest Steward Council (FSC) standards could contain MTH (APP lost its FSC certificate in 2007). MTH is indeed found in recycled fiber under the FSC certificate. 

In the last press release, APP stated, “The presence of MTH fiber does not indicate whether it is harmful to the environment or not. It is very likely that the MTH fiber comes from legal and environmentally friendly sources,” although it has not been specifically stated whether it is from legal or environmentally friendly sources.

Scapegoat APP

Half of the dozens of APP companies were accused of being involved in illegal land clearing in 2007. However, the case was closed in late 2008 under pressure from Police officials. APP recently blamed its suppliers for its use of Ramin, a tree species blacklisted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)– (but not illegal to cut).

The Ramin issue arose following an investigation by Greenpeace which collected evidence of Ramin from APP’s factory, PT Indah Kiat Mill, in Sumatra. APP has not denied the accusations when a Forestry Ministry official stated that APP was not involved in the Ramin case. The basis for the objection is not stated. Darori, who denies Greenpeace’s accusations, did not answer the phone calls.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the lion’s share of APP’s natural forest fiber comes from its suppliers, who were subject to the Indonesian government’s natural forest conversion moratorium as of 2015 (APP’s concessions due to expire June 1, 2012). The target of eliminating the conversion of the government’s natural forest in 2015 is the same as the target previously announced by APP. This promise doesn’t help. APP failed to meet its no-deforestation targets in their previous supply chains: 2004, 2007, and 2009.

Why Indigenous People Groups Refuse REDD and the Green Economy Concept?

It was reported from the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that indigenous peoples who joined the Mother Earth Kari-Oka Púku group declared themselves against a carbon payment scheme known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) including the concept of low carbon development or known as the green economy (Green Economy) which ignores the rights of indigenous peoples.

In this Rio+20 meeting, indigenous peoples’ groups from all over the world are again actively lobbying to reaffirm the recognition of their rights, respect for culture, and respect for the diversity of the local economy they have.

Even though they have received recognition about their existence at the international level as stated in the UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration of Rights Indigenous People), until now, the constitution and various laws at the national level, so far the existence of indigenous peoples have generally not been recognized. in the national constitution.

In their statement, indigenous peoples reject all forms of global capitalism that enter their customary territories with the permission and blessing of the local government. Indigenous peoples call for the concept of FPIC (Free Prior Inform Consent), or: Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, which is a prerequisite that must be enforced before an investment project in indigenous peoples’ territories must be implemented.

With the implementation of FPIC, indigenous peoples have the right to obtain as complete information as possible, before implementing a project, and to be free without pressure ( free) to express approval or reject a project in their territory. Acknowledgment of FPIC, automatically states recognition of the existence of a group of indigenous peoples.

Without recognition of indigenous peoples groups, it has been proven that investment from global powers has damaged their territories and the environment, including expansion and over-exploitation by mining companies, oil and gas exploitation, logging forests for timber exploitation, and forest clearing. into giant-scale plantations and the development of industrial forest plantations and the construction of giant dams.

Regarding the implementation of REDD and REDD+, indigenous peoples groups insist on rejecting the guise that states that sustainable development and solutions to climate change can be carried out through an economic regime approach including a low-carbon REDD management regime.


The concept of REDD, which was seriously discussed for the first time in Bali at the 2007 UNFCCC meeting, is an attempt to find a solution to a braking mechanism for global emission rates by offering financial incentives to countries that are proven to be able to preserve their forests as the lungs of the world. Until now, REDD and REDD+ have become controversial concepts because of their dubious concepts and implementations.

It is suspected that carbon compensation payments are laden with negotiation and manipulation practices, whereby the concept of new carbon payments will be paid by the relevant parties after an approved verification. Likewise, REDD does not guarantee that the funds that are compensated will bring people’s welfare. It is also feared that it will cut off indigenous peoples’ access to managing their forest resources, including the stigma of criminalization of indigenous peoples.

Costly Lessons for REDD

As a country trying to implement REDD+, -a system that encourages the international community to pay for reducing deforestation rates-, the above case highlights the very real difficulties on the ground, especially in efforts to reduce the loss of carbon-rich forest cover that should not be logged.

The REDD+ scheme demands the implementation of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent /FPIC (Consent based on Free Prior Information) from community members whose land will be used in the project, including demanding a fair distribution of compensation payments that will be received by the community because they are no longer allowed to cut trees.

But on the ground often local people have few livelihood options and insufficient resources to invest in legal matters. As a result, they are forced to harvest trees.

During the last 3 years, many valuable and expensive lessons have been learned in efforts to create decent results in the areas of avoided deforestation, forest and peatland conservation, and restoration efforts. Avoiding deforestation and restoring peat forest areas is a new paradigm that stakeholders are trying to implement. An experimental process in nature, and it is quite natural that some mistakes are made.

We learn from situations where many things go wrong. The first restoration ecosystem concession was established in 2005 and managed by PT Restorasi Ekosistem Conservation Indonesia (REKI) in Jambi.

World's Forests

Currently, the concession site is suffering from encroachment by illegal loggers and the development of illegal oil palm plantations. REKI has also been accused by NGOs of neglecting the community’s rights to their customary territories. In addition, the area is threatened by the construction of a 51-kilometer road which is planned to cross the restoration area for coal hauling.

Another valuable lesson came from the Riau Tesso Nilo National Park (TNTN). Tesso Nilo is managed through a collaboration between the Ministry of Forestry (Kemenhut) and WWF with the common goal of protecting biodiversity in the national park area. It is supported by funds from several foreign donor agencies.

But now Tesso Nilo is suffering from encroachment, illegal logging, and illegal settlers who have turned parts of the national park into oil palm plantations.

Learning from Tesso Nilo’s experience, it turns out that the collaboration between the Ministry of Forestry and WWF alone is not strong enough to prevent substantial encroachment into the national park. It also appears that law enforcement in conservation areas and restoration areas in the regions has not been given proper priority.

On the one hand, the holders of logging concessions, timber plantations, and ecosystem restoration are responsible for the areas assigned to them. They are required to comply with state laws, including preventing and fighting fires, safeguarding their areas from illegal logging practices, and land use conversion.

The task of law enforcement needs to be strengthened through a local welfare approach to ensure that in the long term, a win-win solution in carrying out sustainable development can be carried out.

Learning from the rampant deforestation in the examples above, the Ministry of Forestry needs to increase the capacity of concession holders to be able to effectively protect their concessions and carry out poverty alleviation activities.

The government, therefore, needs to require companies like RMU to demonstrate commitment and work plans to demonstrate their capacity to manage and protect an area of ​​203,570 ha before the concession license is issued.

Since the company does not have a long history of managing forests and peatlands, the Ministry of Forestry can make reductions in the concession area requested by the company, after learning from situations elsewhere.

From the Ministry of Forestry’s point of view, it is wiser to take a phased approach, through the size of the area that can be managed by interested parties and regular review of company performance.

Comparing President Yudhoyono’s commitment to protecting Indonesia’s forest and peatland areas with the RMU’s request for a 203,500-hectare restoration permit, -as has been done by Ford-, is unfair.

Ministry of Forestry

An area of ​​63 million hectares of primary forest and peatland is now legally protected under the Moratorium Policy. Instead of putting pressure on the Indonesian government through international media or by advocating from Hollywood actors, it would be better for companies to demonstrate sufficient capital and human resources to manage their forests and peatland ecosystems.

Protecting forests and peatlands is not cheap. Learning from the cases above requires an integrated approach based on social, economic, and ecological understanding. Transparency at the highest level must be embedded in efforts to realize good governance.

That means improving coordination between the central and regional governments, including helping to create positive economic incentives for local communities and other stakeholders.

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