Pulp & paper giant retires plantations to curb emissions

One of the world's largest pulp and paper manufacturers has today (13 August) pledged to immediately retire some of its commercial plantation areas in a bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions. edie editor Luke Nicholls reports from Jakarta.

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) will stop sourcing wood from five active plantation areas in Indonesia – totalling around 7,000 hectares – to protect the nation’s carbon-rich peatlands. 

This is the first time that a business has retired plantations on tropical peatland for conservation purposes – a move Greenpeace labelled a “potential game-changer” for mitigating global climate change. 

‘Urgent steps’

Announcing the pledge at a press conference in Jakarta this morning, APP’s managing director of sustainability Aida Greenbury said: “We believe it is an unprecedented commitment. 

“The retirement of active plantations is not an easy decision for any business to take, but we believe that taking urgent steps to protect remaining areas of peatland forest, as well as reducing and avoiding climate emissions from peatlands, must be a priority.”

Today’s commitment is the first phase of APP’s new peatland restoration plan: a ‘science -based landscape approach’ to the group’s planation areas, which involves the development of high-tech maps of the landscape using an aircraft-deployed remote sensing technology called LiDAR.

The LiDAR mapping, led by Dutch organisation Deltares, will provide further recommendations on how APP can minimise the impact of drainage in other peat landscapes across the country; reducing forest loss and carbon emissions. 

Around a quarter of of Indonesian peatland where APP’s suppliers are located – 4.5 million hectares – will be analysed, with the resulting maps and further peatland retirement actions expected to be announced by the company in 2016.    

Laggard to leader

Bustar Maitar, global head of Greenpeace’s Indonesia Forest Campaign, said: “[APP’s] announcement that it is taking immediate action to retire a number of existing commercial plantation areas and restore them to peat swamp forests sets an important benchmark.

“Greenpeace calls on other plantation companies to take similar urgent action and work together to ensure all of Indonesia’s peatland landscapes are properly monitored and protected.”

APP is Indonesia’s largest pulp and paper company, with an annual products capacity of more than 19 million tonnes. The group was previously vilified by green groups and NGOs for its lack of action on deforestation and suspected illegal timber use. But in 2013, APP launched an ambitious and wide-ranging Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), which included a promise to end to the clearance of rainforests throughout the company’s supply chain.

The company has since emerged as a leading voice for the pulp and paper industry on deforestation and other key sustainability topics. Today’s announcement falls under one part of the FCP – ‘to introduce carbon evaluation and control measures for APP’s plantations.’

Underpinning all of this is the Government of Indonesia’s ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 26% and 41% by 2020. Aida Greenbury hopes the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris will provide a solid foundation on which the private and public sectors can help to reach such targets. 

EXCLUSIVE: edie video of APP’s sustainability progress

edie is currently on a visit to APP’s operations on the island of Sumatra; to see how the company is taking action to fulfil its deforestation commitment and gain a first-hand experience of the complexity of Indonesia’s landscape. Stay tuned for video highlights of the trip.

Luke Nicholls, in Jakarta

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