Greenpeace slams paper giant over loophole in fire-prevention policy

Greenpeace slams paper giant over loophole in fire-prevention policy

10 February 2017

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INDONESIA – A recent audit of a leading pulp and paper manufacturer in Indonesia has highlighted a significant gap in its sustainability policy, which the company says it is now working to address.

According to the audit conducted by Amsterdam-headquartered KPMG last year, short-term suppliers used by Asia Pacific International Resources (APRIL) — which boasts of pioneering sustainable forest management efforts in Indonesia — are not required to provide details of fires on concessions or of any related government sanctions.

The audit notes that 22 to 32 percent of the supply for APRIL’s giant pulp and paper mill in the central Sumatran province of Riau, one of the hardest-hit by the country’s devastating annual forest fires, is met by short-term suppliers.

Andy Tait, a senior campaign advisor at environmental NGO Greenpeace, said APRIL frequently seeks credit for its work on combating fires while “failing to be transparent about its entire supply chain.”

APRIL says its commitments cover “all current and future wood suppliers…as well as any future acquisitions or partnerships.”

But in reality, Tait says, the company is continuing to differentiate between short- and long-term suppliers, even as some of those defined by APRIL as being “short term” have actually been supplying the company for years, and at least one is owned by its parent company, Royal Golden Eagle (RGE).

One of APRIL’s short-term suppliers, the RGE-owned PT ITCI Hutanti, was named by Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry in late 2015 as one of 23 companies punished in administrative sanctions for that year’s forest fires.

Another of its short-term suppliers, PT Korintiga Hutani, is part of Korean-Indonesian conglomerate Korindo Group, which was the focus of a report last year into the burning of land in Indonesia’s Papua province.

“Our contention is that APRIL is seeking to portray itself in a better light by excluding reference to these [short term] suppliers on some key issues” such as forest fires, Tait explained.

Lucita Jasmin, APRIL’s director for sustainability and external affairs, said the company has defined short-term suppliers as those used on a temporary basis to “fill production gaps” until it can be self-sufficient.

She added that the nature of a supply relationship is not determined by a supplier’s ownership.

Jasmin confirmed that all of APRIL’s suppliers are bound by its comprehensive Sustainable Forest Management Policy 2.0, including its “No Fire” rule.

“While on the whole the core commitments have been upheld, we acknowledge that one of the opportunities for improvement noted by KPMG is the strengthening of the due diligence and monitoring of short-term suppliers,” she said.

APRIL says it has been addressing this since mid last year, following earlier recommendations from the panel of experts that oversees the implementation of its sustainability policy, by taking steps including revising supply contracts to increase compliance with fire prevention standards, and requiring short-term suppliers to report their forest management performance.

The company is also collaborating with the Rainforest Alliance to address ways of improving its forest and community operations in Indonesia.

In 2013, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) — a multistakeholder organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests — ended all association with APRIL after a complaint was jointly filed by WWF-Indonesia, Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network over the social and environmental impact of the company’s operations in Indonesia.

The new collaboration, which began in late 2016, will see Rainforest Alliance assume an advisory role for an initial period of one year, focusing largely on the changes APRIL needs to make to prepare for the process of re-association to the FSC, as well as more general efforts to improve performance, Stuart Singleton-White, director of external communications at Rainforest Alliance, told Mongabay.

While the exact details of the work are still being established, he said the issues surrounding short-term suppliers is an area of APRIL’s operations that Rainforest Alliance is “definitely interested in.”

Moving forward, “we will be not working behind closed doors. Along with APRIL, we will proactively communicate, both on specific field-level interactions with individual or multiple organizations, and at a public level so that stakeholders gradually gain more perspective on what we are doing,” he said.

“Actions speak louder than words, so both the Rainforest Alliance and APRIL will focus on the former more than the latter.”

The concerns over short-term suppliers highlighted in the audit have also led to questions over the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), which has certified APRIL under its Green Label scheme.

The SEC’s endorsement of APRIL has suggested its own failure to obtain complete information about the company’s supply chain, Greenpeace’s Tait said.

The SEC last month launched its enhanced Green Label scheme for pulp and paper products, which has also been criticized by environmentalists for being insubstantial and unclear.

Chong Khai Sin, head of eco-certifications at the SEC, said the new Green Label scheme “requires all paper products be sourced from sustainable plantations, regardless of whether it is short-term or long-term supply.”

The benefit of the enhanced criteria is that it requires a manufacturer’s entire supply chain to be assessed and audited, he said.

“If a company is found to be in breach of their undertakings, we will remove their right to use the green label on their products — and let the public know we have done so.”

APRIL’s Jasmin acknowledged that implementing the company’s sustainability policy throughout its operations is “an ongoing process”.

“Given the extent of the operations and the complexities in the landscape, this is understood by the company and our stakeholders to be a long-term, and continuous program of work for the company,” she said.

SINGAPORE, Feb 9 — People in Singapore are willing to cough up nearly 1 per cent of their annual income in order to guarantee the absence of transboundary haze for a year, researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have found.

In total, they are willing to pay US$643.5 million (RM2.8 billion) a year — large enough to make a “substantive impact on the problem” if used for land conservation and restoration, the researchers state in a paper published in February’s issue of the journal,Environmental Research Letters.

The paper’s authors, Yuan Lin, Lahiru Wijedasa and Dr Ryan Chisholm, wrote: “Our results indicate that Singaporeans experience sufficiently negative impacts of air pollution (in) their day-to-day life, or personal health during haze periods, that they are willing to trade off personal financial gain for improvements in air quality.”

Transboundary haze is a long-standing problem in the South-east Asian region, largely caused by the drainage of carbon-rich peatland as well as companies and farmers in Indonesia using fire to clear land.

Singapore experienced its worst haze episode in 2015 from September to November, with the Pollutant Standards Index hitting hazardous levels.

Since then, Indonesia has renewed efforts to prevent fires, although a state of emergency was declared last month in Riau province over forest and land fires.

The economic impact of haze pollution here has been estimated using cost-benefit analysis before, but the researchers said that the figures could be an under-estimate because they exclude impacts — such as non-hospitalisable health effects — that are difficult to infer from economic data.

The 2015 haze episode was estimated to have cost Singapore S$700 million (RM2.19 billion) in losses.

The NUS researchers surveyed 390 people in public areas from November 2015 to February 2016 on their willingness to pay, should the Singapore Government be able to guarantee good air quality year-round.

The participants, from various age and income groups, were given options ranging from 0.05 per cent to 5 per cent of their annual income, after they indicated if they were willing to support such a haze mitigation fund.

The average person’s willingness to pay was an estimated 0.97 per cent of his/her annual income.

However, about three in 10 respondents were unwilling to pay even the minimum option of 0.05 per cent of their annual income.

Wijedasa said that one of the solutions proposed for the haze problem is payments for ecosystem services.

“This could take the form of richer nations aiding better land management and restoration by making regular payments.

“Indonesia has estimated that it needs US$2.1 billion to help restore two million hectares of peatland in (the country). They have currently only received US$50 million from Norway and US$17 million from the United States.

“Could this shortfall be filled by Singapore (and other countries in the region)?”

Tan Yi Han, who is not involved in the study and is co-founder of non-governmental organisation People’s Movement to Stop Haze, said that the findings are helpful and “should motivate the Singapore Government to spend on measures to prevent haze, such as a subsidy on certified sustainable palm oil, as well as aid to support peat restoration and protection efforts in Indonesia”.

His organisation’s survey last year found that more than nine in 10 respondents were willing to pay more for certified sustainable products to help mitigate the haze, Tan said.

Most were willing to pay 5 to 10 per cent more.

Consumers game to chip in to avoid any haze include Steven Lim, who is in his 40s and self-employed. How much he is willing to contribute would depend on the amount needed to make an impact.

“Maybe S$10? Multiplied by many individuals, it would be a lot,” Lim said, preferring that the money goes to the Indonesian government.

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El capitán del primer batallón de la Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME), Emilio Arias, ha descrito como “dantescos” los efectos del incendio forestal en el paraje natural de la Sierra de Gata (Cáceres), aunque ha sido optimista en cuanto a su extinción al darse una situación “bastante favorable” en estos momentos. Fotogalería ALCALDE 11 Fotos La Sierra de Gata, tras el incendio “El incendio se dio por estabilizado y ahora mismo sólo hay pequeños focos que se reactivan por lo que la situación es bastante adecuada para intentar extinguir el fuego”, ha explicado Arias en una entrevista en COPE. Arias ha descrito como “dantesco” el efecto del fuego en una zona “donde el terreno era precioso”. El mando único del Plan Director del Infoex decidía este lunes mantener activo el Nivel 2 de peligrosidad en el incendio de Sierra de Gata ante las previsiones de viento y altas temperaturas. Las mismas predicciones indican que habrá una mejoría a partir de las primeras horas de la noche del lunes, según ha informado la Junta de Extremadura. Más de 200 efectivos se mantienen en la zona. Intentar llegar a la normalidad es “un tanto difícil”, y que ahora hay que hacer valoraciones de los daños El incendio declarado el pasado jueves ha arrasado unas 7.500 hectáreas de alto valor agrícola, ambiental y paisajístico, de ahí que el Gobierno regional haya iniciado ya la evaluación de los daños y comenzado a preparar la recuperación de la zona. El director general de Medio Ambiente, Pedro Muñoz, ha afirmado que el incendio ha causado un “desastre” desde el punto de vista medioambiental ya que ha arrasado miles de hectáreas de pinar, olivar y pastos, además de haber producido cuantiosos daños materiales en algunas poblaciones. La asociación conservacionista SEO/Birdlife ha denunciado que el incendio afectó gravemente a especies amenazadas y a espacios protegidos de la Red Natura 2000, incluidos robledales, madroñales y castañares centenarios. Todo el área afectada es una zona ornitólogica de interés mundial. Por su parte, el alcalde de la localidad cacereña de Hoyos, Óscar Antúnez, ha alabado la participación ciudadana en el municipio para ayudar a los operarios del plan Infoex como “lo bonito dentro de la tragedia” y ha añadido que el “sentir general” de los ciudadanos de Sierra de Gata es de “frustración e indignación” tras el incendio forestal. El alcalde ha señalado que ha podido hablar con los vecinos de la localidad y que los “más afectados” son los que han perdido fincas o casas de campo, sobre todo una familia que ha perdido su domicilio de vacaciones habitual, que era una casa “recién reformada”. Asimismo, Óscar Antúnez ha indicado que intentar llegar a la normalidad es “un tanto difícil”, y que ahora hay que hacer valoraciones de los daños, tanto la Mancomunidad de Municipios de Sierra de Gata como la Junta de Extremadura, para ver qué ayudas se pueden proporcionar y de qué modo, además de cuáles serán los medios disponibles. Por último, el primer edil de Hoyos ha explicado que los vecinos, “más allá de la lamentación”, deben intentar hacer “una vida normal”, aunque ha considerado que es muy difícil “dado el paisaje que tenemos”, ya que casi el 90% del término municipal está calcinado, ha indicado.

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