Indonesia — Just eight months before Indonesia hosts the United NationsClimate Change Conference in Bali, a Hollywood movie star launched a campaignhere over the weekend against rampant forest destruction in Indonesia, includingillegal logging and the slash-and-burn practices used to open land for palm oilplantations.
Hollywood movie star Daryl Hannah strongly advocates a boycott of palm oilproducts that are produced by companies that use slash-and-burn practices inopening their palm oil plantations. Hannah, who came here to represent formerU.S. vice president Al Gore from the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP), called on international consumers to reduce their dependence on palm oilbecause aggressive palm plantation expansion has been too costly for the globalenvironment.
Although the actress did not directly point her finger at Indonesia, the countryis known for its inability to stop slash-and-burn practices over the last 10years. Indonesia is the world’s second largest producer of palm oil afterMalaysia and in just a matter of years it is widely expected take overMalaysia’s position. Addressing the UN Global Business Summit for theEnvironment over the weekend, the star of several films, including Splash andKill Bill, urged consumers “not to buy products from slash and burnproduction”.
For the second time since 2006, the UNEP gave the annual Champion of the Earthaward to international environment workers and activists. This year the sevenrecipients included Al Gore, Jordan’s Prince El Hassan Bin Talal and Brazil’sMarina Silva. The UNEP event itself was sponsored by giant chemical company Dowand Singapore-based fiber, pulp and paper producer Asia Pacific ResourcesInternational Holdings Limited (APRIL). Its subsidiary PT Riau Andalan Pulp andPaper is one of the world’s largest fiber, pulp and paper producers.
Meanwhile, Indonesia, in the words of former minister of the environment EmilSalim, has never paid serious attention to eradicating the annual haze threatdespite growing international protests from its neighboring countries. Emil hasalso warned that it will be very embarrassing for Indonesia if it does not domuch to eradicate forest fires before the climate change conference in Bali inDecember.
“Our political elites are too busy with their political agenda. They haveno interest in handling the forest fires,” Emil said on the sidelines ofthe UNEP conference.
The World Bank, the British Department for International Development, and theconsultancy company Peace have declared Indonesia the third largest greenhousegas emitting producer after the United States and China. Much of the gas isreleased in the destruction of the country’s tropical forests, which usuallyinvolve slash-and-burn and peatland fires.
Nicholas Stern, the author of the Stern Review on the Economics of ClimateChange, last month called on developed nations to provide about US$10 billionper year to stop forest destruction in developing countries, especiallyIndonesia.
APRIL president A.J. Devanesan said the forest fires could only be resolved ifeffective measures to curb the roots of the hand-made disaster were available.
“We need to fix good commercial value to the wood (which will be burned).It can be sold as biomass because Japan and EU are buying biomass… We need tofix good, viable commercial values to all land clearing residue,” Devanesansaid on the sidelines of the conference.
Will Indonesia be able to eventually overcome the annual forest fires? Thegovernment can say anything to belittle Hannah’s campaign, but it needs to beaware that with its status as the world’s third most polluting nation, it willbe easier for the movie star to persuade consumers to follow her stance.