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APP wants Abbott to invest in Indonesian forests

The pulp and paper company that went from environmental zero to hero last year has now called on the Abbott government to invest some of its Direct Action funding into protecting Indonesian forests. Source: The Brisbane Times

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) pledged last February that there would be no further deforestation or peatland destruction in any aspect of its supply chain and invited Greenpeace and Australian-led The Forest Trust to monitor its performance.

So far, the company once accused by Greenpeace of “pulping the planet” has passed muster.

It has now extended the pledge and again teamed up with environmental agencies including a previous holdout, WWF, in a promise to restore or protect one million hectares of Indonesian forest from further degradation.

APP managing director of sustainability Aida Greenbury put this in context saying it was about the same size as the company’s entire plantation estate, and that APP controlled 2.6 million hectares of land in total.

Ten “landscape level” projects will preserve areas of Sumatra and Borneo where APP and its suppliers have forestry operations.

They plan to install wildlife corridors or buffer zones around national parks, prevent carbon-rich peat swamp from draining and conserve or restore areas of forest necessary for the survival of orangutans, elephants, tigers and swamp crocodiles.

Greenpeace’s south-east Asia forest campaigner Zulfahmi said APP’s move would “set an important precedent for conservation in Indonesia and beyond”.

Ms Greenbury said she hoped to see Australian climate-change money involved in such projects eventually.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s climate change white paper, released last week, provides money for spending on Australian soil alone, in contrast to Labor’s carbon trading scheme, which relied heavily on overseas credits, including from forests.

The Australian government recently closed its only large-scale Indonesian forest restoration project in Borneo because of cost blowouts and delays.

But Ms Greenbury said the American, Norwegian, German, Dutch and British governments were spending more than US$1 billion ($1.08 billion) to encourage forest restoration and protection in Indonesia, and the Australian government should invest too.

Her company owns Solaris Paper in Australia, and has lobbied the government in Canberra for a change in policy.

“I don’t think it would cost much money,” she said. “They should attach themselves to an existing platform where others are pitching in … they have got to start looking at climate change as a risk.”

Ms Greenbury said conservation initiatives needed to be large-scale because what happened outside an area of peatland conservation, for example, would affect the area inside it.

It was complex as different participants, landholders and local communities were involved.

“We are committed to zero deforestation now, but even if we deliver it perfectly and everyone else in the landscape in our area is doing whatever they want to destroy it … then we fail, and the landscape gets damaged, and that damages my concessions.”

She said her company had spent or foregone millions of dollars in the 14 months since the no-deforestation pledge was initiated, but she still believed it was in their commercial interests.

“Worldwide, the market for non-environmentally friendly products is diminishing, and everyone must realise sooner or later that there is no short cut any more,” she said.