Indonesian rainforest burns while government silent in climate talks

 Indonesian rainforest burns while government silent in climate talks

15 June 2009

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Indonesia —

Greenpeace today slammed Indonesia’s President Yudhoyono for his failure to stop deforestation and deliberately lit forest fires that are releasing millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and destroying critical habitats of endangered species like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger.

While the Indonesian delegation maintained a stoic silence at the critical UN-led climate talks in Bonn, Indonesia’s rainforests were burning and fresh clashes erupted between pulp and paper companies and communities trying to protect their forest lands.(1)

“Indonesia has the third biggest carbon footprint in the world because of the huge quantities of carbon released to the atmosphere when its rainforests and peatlands are destroyed. Unless President Yudhoyono stops deforestation now, he will be responsible for the consequences: runaway climate change,” said Bustar Maitar, forest campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Under Indonesian law it is illegal to clear land using fire, yet NASA has recorded 2,643 fire hotspots so far this year in Sumatra’s Riau province alone(2). Many of the fires are started illegally to clear rainforest for palm oil or pulp and paper plantations in areas that are rich in peat, which makes them particularly important carbon stores and a vital defence against climate change.

Many of the areas of rainforest currently on fire were recently slated for logging by Indonesia’s Minister of Forestry, MS Kaban. In April this year, Greenpeace asked Indonesia’s Corruption Commission (KPK) to investigate why Minister Kaban had allocated these important forest areas for destruction. In response, lawyers representing the minister have demanded the withdrawal of the complaint and threatened Greenpeace with legal action.(3)

“Indonesia is up with the US and China as one the worst greenhouse gas polluters in the world, but the US and EU member states must also take historic responsibility for causing climate change. They must not only cut their emissions but also repay their carbon debt by providing funds to countries like Indonesia for forest protection,” said Maitar.

As part of the deal to save the climate, Greenpeace is calling on rich nations to pay USD 140 billion a year by 2020 to developing nations so that they can mitigate and adapt to climate change. Tropical deforestation accounts for around 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the world’s trains, planes and cars put together. USD 40 billion of this fund must go towards forest protection in return for commitments to end deforestation.

Greenpeace is calling on EU Heads of State meeting in Brussels this week to agree to this fund and to put money on the table. It is also calling on all Heads of State to take personal responsibility for securing an effective climate deal by attending the Climate Summit in Copenhagen in December and guaranteeing a positive outcome.

Notes to Editor
(1) On 28 May, a protest in Rokan Hulu district, Riau, against the APRIL pulp and paper company over land tenure was brutally suppressed, resulting in the deaths of three community members and countless injuries, according to members of the community. Witnesses spoke of company security and local police using sticks impaled with nails against the protesters. Meanwhile 70 community members are reportedly still in jail following land conflicts with another pulp giant, APP (Asian Pulp and Paper), at the end of 2008.

(2) NASA/University of Maryland, 2002. MODIS Hotspot / Active Fire Detections. Data set. MODIS Rapid Response Project, NASA/GSFC [producer], University of Maryland, Fire Information for Resource Management System [distributors]. Available on-line

(3) On 5 May, the minister’s lawyers asked Greenpeace to issue a public apology and withdraw its request for a public investigation into possible corruption. Greenpeace responded on 10 June. It refused to withdraw the KPK dossier.

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