Monday, 31 December 2007

Indonesia plant trees to save orangutans

Only time will tell if the Indonesian government will
keep its promise. In 1990 the then President signed
the Kinshasa Declaration, promising to protect orangutans
and their habitat: instead they sold of the habitat and
caused the deaths of many thousands of orangutans.
In fact, they are still doing so to this day.

Indonesia plant trees to save orangutans

By Ian Wood

At the Bali climate summit, Indonesia announced a new scheme aimed at protecting its orangutan population.

The plight of the orangutan, driven out because of deforestation and degradation of its rainforest home, has become a potent symbol of the battle to save the forests.
Fleeing from fires, dehydrated and denied access to clean water, they have in the past been driven to snatch cans of Coca-Cola from tourists.

The most recent survey of wild orangutans estimates that there are about 7000 remaining in Sumatra, and about 55,000 in Borneo. However the combined pressures of palm oil, logging and forest fires are having a catastrophic effect on many areas.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said at the launch of the project: "In the last 35 years about 50,000 orangutans are estimated to have been lost as their habitats shrank. If this continues, this majestic creature will likely face extinction by 2050. The fate of the orangutan is a subject that goes to the heart of sustainable forests... to save the orangutan we have to save the forest."

For anyone with an interest in protecting Indonesian rainforests these have to be welcome words.

The action plan has taken nearly three years to develop and has included various NGO's and the Indonesian forestry ministry. The American group The Nature Conservancy has represented the coalition of NGO's and has also pledged $1 million to support the plan. The bold target of the project is to save huge areas of forest scheduled for conversion to palm oil.
"One million hectares of planned forest conversion projects are in orangutan habitat," said Rili Djohani, director of The Nature Conservancy's Indonesia program.

"Setting aside these forests is an important step for Indonesia to sustainably manage and protect its natural resources. It benefits both local people and wildlife while making a major contribution towards reducing global carbon emissions."

Indonesia has made some progress in enforcing forest laws over the last few years and if this plan can be implemented it would be a landmark in Indonesian forest protection.

Dr. Erik Meijaard, a senior scientist with The Nature Conservancy, said:"It could lead to 9,800 orangutan being saved and prevent 700 million tons of carbon from being released."
Although Indonesia has already destroyed huge swathes of rainforest, it still has over 100 million acres left. Both scientists and Indonesian officials hope that the emerging carbon market could provide funds to protect important areas.

"Forest conservation can provide economic benefits for a very long time," said Dr. Meijaard. "If payments for avoided deforestation become an official mechanism in global climate agreements, then carbon buyers will likely compensate Indonesia for its forest protection. Protecting the orangutan will then lead to increased economic development in the country. Such a triple-win situation is not a dream. With some political will, it can soon be reality."

The other target of the project is to return orangutan housed in rehabilitation centres to the forest by 2015. There are currently over 1000 orangutan housed in care centres with more arriving on a regular basis. The majority are ready to be returned to the wild now but there are simply not enough suitable release sites. If carbon trading could achieve the aims of this plan, then these great apes could return to the forests where they belong.

Brunei Shows Commitment With Heart Of Borneo

Brunei Shows Commitment With Heart Of Borneo By Ben Ng

Bandar Seri Begawan - The Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative that took place earlier this year marked a historic declaration by Brunei Darussalam to preserve some 220,000 square kilometres of vibrant tropical rainforests, home to a vast array of unique flora and fauna.

Brunei, along with Malaysia and Indonesia, signed an agreement earlier this year endorsing the conservation and protection of one of the most bio-diverse and threatened tropical rainforests in the world.

"The decision to sign this declaration shows the depth of Brunei's commitment to the responsible management of its natural resources.

"The United States is proud to have already provided support for the Heart of Borneo initiative and hopes to continue its support in the future," said US Ambassador to Brunei, Emil Skodon, in a report published earlier this year.

The area protected by the project, which was first launched in March at a UN biodiversity conference in Curitiba, Brazil, includes parts of territories under the three governments in Borneo, reaching from the highlands along the Indonesian-Malaysian border into the lower-lying areas in Brunei.

According to the declaration, through their common vision of environmental conservation and with the ultimate goal of improving their people' welfare, the three countries pledged to work together to ensure the effective management of forestry resources, as well as to establish a network of protected areas, production forests and land use in their areas in a sustainable way.
"The goal is to keep Borneo's natural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations, as well as to fully respect the sovereignty over each other's territorial borders without prejudice," Forestry Minister MS Kaban told neighbouring Indonesia's media agency, Antara News.

The urgency to protect the earth's dwindling natural resources and habitats has even prompted the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to join forces with the governments of the three Asean member states at the national and local level to support the protection and sustainable development of forests in the region.

"The Heart of Borneo is one of the most biologically diverse habitats on Earth.
"Protecting this sanctuary would not be possible without the commitment and leadership of these three visionary governments," said WWF CEO Carter Roberts during talks earlier this year.

In recent years, the rates of deforestation have accelerated due to the large-scale land clearing for oil palm plantations and massive fires - the pollution from which regularly fouls air quality as far away as Thailand and Australia.

According to the WWF, the HoB declaration will formally end the plan to create the world's largest palm oil plantation in Kalimantan along Indonesia's mountainous border with Malaysia.
The plan, backed by Chinese investments, was widely criticised by environmental groups that said it was a cover for logging and would cause wide-ranging ecological damage to critical forest areas.

The loss of Borneo's forests is also having a global impact.
Carbon dioxide emissions from fires in the island's peat forests have made Indonesia the world's third largest greenhouse gas polluter, despite having the world's 22nd largest economy.
According to the WWF, Borneo's forests are some of the most bio-diverse on the planet.

The island is estimated to have at least 222 different species of mammals, 420 species of birds, 100 different types of amphibians, 394 different fish, and 15,000 plants, of which more than 400 have been discovered since 1994. Furthermore, surveys have found more than 700 species of trees in a 10-hectare plot, a number equal to the number of trees in Canada and the United States combined.

Today, only half Borneo's forests cover remains, down from 75 per cent in the mid 1980s.
According to the WWF, all lowland rainforests in Kalimantan would disappear by 2010 if the current deforestation rate of 1.3 million hectares per year - an area equivalent to about one-third the size of Switzerland - continues.

Moreover, forest fires, the conversion of forests to plantations, and logging are also driving the destructions of Borneo's forests.

As part of the initiative, Malaysia had declared it would protect more than 200,000 hectares of key forest habitats in Sabah for the protection of orangutans, elephants and rhinos.
Brunei has established two conservation areas and Indonesia has proposed a new national park of 800,000 hectares. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Malaysian minister says Indonesian press too open, insensitive

Malaysian minister says Indonesian press too open, insensitive

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar December 29.

The Malaysian information minister criticized the Indonesian press for being too open, saying the media here is insensitive to Malaysian politics.

Dato' Seri Zainudin said the Indonesian media was "too excited" by the freedoms it had been granted since the downfall of the New Order regime in 1998.

Speaking to journalists after a meeting with Malaysian students studying in Bali at the Wina Holliday Inn in Kuta, the minister criticized the Indonesian media for providing air time to Malaysian opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

In October, Anwar was interviewed on Metro TV's talk show Kick Andy. In the interview, Anwar spoke candidly about corruption and the suppression of the press in Malaysia, topics that are rarely covered by the mainstream media there.

"We view this as insensitive. We would never provide space for the opposition of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or someone anti-Indonesian in the Malaysian media," Zainudin said.
He asked the media in both countries to refrain from reporting on issues that could provoke negative feelings.

"The media should emphasize the positive and seek good things to report," he said. "After all, we want to create a good relationship between the two countries."

Indonesia has been ranked 100th out of 169 countries in the Reporters Without Borders' 2007 Press Freedom Index, while Malaysia ranked 124th, dropping 32 places from last year. It was Malaysia's lowest position in its media history.

In Southeast Asia, Cambodia topped the list (ranked 85th in the world), followed by Timor Leste (94th).

Indonesia's press freedom boomed after the downfall of Soeharto in 1998 and the closure of the Information Ministry, an institution that controlled the media in Indonesia, in 1999 by the then president Abdurrahman Wahid, and the passing of the 1999 Press Law, guaranteeing press freedom in Indonesia.

Zainudin said Indonesia was facing the "euphoria of freedom after being suppressed".
He added that in Malaysia the media has never been suppressed, while suggesting that Malaysia has a "guided" freedom.

Most Malaysian newspapers and electronic media outlets are controlled by the government or political parties in the ruling coalition. They also operate with a government license, which must be renewed annually. Internet news sites do not have these restrictions.

Contacted by telephone in Jakarta, chairman of the Indonesian Press Council Ichlasul Amal said Indonesian press freedom was in line with the spirit of reform and democracy and that the Malaysian media was the one that should be more open.

"There is a lot of information that the Malaysian public needs to know, but which is inaccessible. The news there has become homogeneous," he said.

Ichlasul said that in Indonesia, the biggest threat to press freedom was within journalists themselves. "A lack of professionalism and work ethics will jeopardize press freedom here. If journalists do not improve themselves, they will lose their credibility and the public's trust in them."

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Indonesia: Tree planting mandatory, cutting prohibited in RI action plan

Personal note: As you might guess, there is a catch to this government statement. I have highlighted it below.

Indonesia: Tree planting mandatory, cutting prohibited in RI action plan

The government has released a report on a plan of action covering the mitigation and adaptation efforts for climate change. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially launched the report during the recent climate conference in Bali.

The plan of action on mitigation and adaptation covers the forestry, energy, agriculture, water resources, infrastructure and health sectors. Below is the first article focusing on the forestry sector.

Source: Copyright 2007, Jakarta PostDate: December 22, 2007 Byline: Adianto P. Simamora
The Forestry Ministry wants the government to issue a policy making it mandatory for each Indonesian citizen to plant a tree every year to store more carbon.

In its action plan, the ministry said anyone who wished to cut down a tree with a diameter of more than 10 centimeters had to secure a permit issued by the government. "And anyone who fells a tree has to plant two more trees," the action plan stated.

The director general of the forestry research and development agency, Wahjudi Wardojo, said planting trees was one of the most effective ways to mitigate climate change. "We hope local administrations set a rule requiring local citizens to plant more trees," he told The Jakarta Post on Friday. The ministry has set five targets for its mitigation action plan until 2009.

The targets are; to combat illegal logging, rehabilitate forest land and conservation areas, restructure the forestry sector especially for industrial aims, empower local communities living near forests and improve institutions monitoring forests.

The action plan states the ministry will rehabilitate 11 million hectares of damaged forests until 2009, 4,8 million hectares until 2012 and 16 million hectares for 2025. "The remaining will be rehabilitated until 2050," it says. The ministry also aims to reduce the deforestation rate. "We have targeted to reduce deforestation by 23.63 million hectares until 2009, 6.15 million hectares until 2012 and 10 million hectares until 2025," the action plan stated.

The ministry has targeted to reduce forest fires by 50 percent by 2009 and 75 percent by 2012. Wahjudi said in order to meet the targets, the ministry needed a national and international funding mechanism. "Without financial support from the international community, it will be difficult to reach the target," he said.

The Kyoto Protocol on climate change is an international binding treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions to combat global warming. The protocol allows developing countries to host afforestation and reforestation projects to reap cash under the Clean Development Mechanism. The Bali climate conference agreed to adopt the reduction of emissions from deforestation in developing countries (REDD) mechanism, which is aimed at providing financial incentives for protecting forests.

Climate experts have long admitted the importance of trees in storing carbon dioxide (CO2), the main contributor to global warming, from being released into air. The United Nations' report on climate change said deforestation contributed to around 20 percent of global emissions in the 1990s.

The report said global forests covered 4 billion hectares, or around 30 percent of the Earth's surface in 2005; containing about 638 gigatons of carbon. Indonesia -- the world's biggest forest country after Brazil and the Republic of Congo -- has 120.35 million hectares of forest. The ministry predicted the country's forests could stock up to 115 gigatons of carbon in 2005.

However, due to rampant illegal logging and land conversion, the country's forests have released a significant amount of carbon into the air. The ministry estimated that with a forest degradation level of 53.9 million in 2005, the forests 'suffered a loss' of up to 2.1 gigatons of carbon stocks.

The ministry said rampant degradation was mainly due to the creation of new regions, agricultural areas, plantations, illegal logging and forest fires. Wetlands International, an international environmental NGO, has listed Indonesia as the world's third-largest carbon emitter, due to a high level of forest degradation and the large number of forest fires in the country last year.

Originally posted at:

Friday, 21 December 2007

More rangers to hunt illegal loggers

Before anyone reads this and understandably thinks it is great news.
It is worth remembering this same Minister recently intervened in a
court case involving Indonesia's most notorious illegal logger.
Despite some 80 witnesses for the prosecution, because of this
Ministerial intervention the logger was freed and has since
disappeared - with police now seeking him for alleged money laundering.

Jakarta Post Online 21st December 2007

More rangers to hunt illegal loggers

JAKARTA: The forestry ministry plans to have 1,500 elite forest rangers by 2009 to protect forests from illegal logging.

Forestry Minister MS Kaban said his office would also procure speed boats and firearms and train rangers on how to use them.

He spoke at the inauguration ceremony of 300 rangers in Sukabumi, West Java on Wednesday.
He said "floating ranger stations" would also be set up.
Currently there are nearly 900 elite forest rangers divided into 11 brigades.

National Police chief Gen. Sutanto said Thursday that illegal logging activities had significantly decreased in recent years.

Logging syndicates had long benefited at the expense of the country's public wealth and the fight against them wasn't over, he assured.-- JP

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Big potential for biodiesel

The Star Online Sunday December 16, 2007 Malaysia

Big potential in biodiesel

KUANTAN: Malaysia has the potential to be the biggest biodiesel producer in the world, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

The Deputy Prime Minister said palm oil availability provided a huge advantage for the country against competitors.

“Already we have incorporated a masterplan under the East Coast Economic Region to turn Kuantan, particularly Gebeng, into a hub for a palm oil industrial cluster.

“Certainly, we have the potential and that is our long-term goal,” he told reporters after opening Mission Biotechnologies Sdn Bhd’s first biodiesel plantyesterday.

Najib said the plant would become the biggest in the country in terms of biodiesel production when its second facility goes into operation by next September.

“We expect worldwide demand for biodiesel to increase by leaps and bounds. This will in turn benefit the country and oil palm smallholders as the price of crude palm oil (CPO) would then be stable and at a very satisfactory level,” he said.

Najib said the price of CPO was about RM2,900 per tonne now and most analysts forecast it would not drop below RM2,400 per tonne.

Earlier, in his speech Najib said Malaysia was the world’s largest palm oil producer, with an output of approximately 15 million tonnes per annum.

“We achieve this with a mere 3.8 million hectares of plantations, and plans are in the pipeline to increase output by another 30% by 2010 to cater for export demand.

“The demand for biodiesel will triple to 30 million tonnes by 2010 and it is expected that biodiesel will account for some 20% of world diesel consumption by 2020,” he said.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Orangutans set for release to the wild

This article should probably be read with a GREAT deal of cynicism.
If the past is anything to go by, such promises from the Indonesian government are worthless. One example is the Indonesian government's signature in 2005 to the Kinshasa Declaration on Great Apes. By signing this they promised to protect the habitat of great apes: instead, they sold it off to palm oil companies.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 Jakarta Post

Orangutans set for release to the wild

NUSA DUA, Bali (JP): President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono launched Monday an action plan to conserve the country’s endangered orangutans and release those currently in sanctuaries back into the wild.

The president said that conserving the primate would also help protect the forest from deforestation and store greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

Under the program, which lasts until 2017, the carbon dioxide (CO2) stored through avoided forest deforestation could be traded on the carbon market and the money could then be used to conserve orangutans and boost the country’s economy, the president said.

“The core target of this plan of action is to stabilize orangutans and their habitat from now until 2017,” Yudhoyono said on the sidelines of the international climate change conference in Bali.
“By saving, regenerating and sustainably managing the forests, we are also doing our part in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, while contributing to the economic development of Indonesia,”

Over the last 35 years, the country has lost about 50,000 orangutans due to their shrinking habitat as well as illegal trafficking. Experts say the species will vanish by 2050 if greater action is not taken to protect the primate.

“I can think of no reason to ignore such compelling evidence of the importance of saving our forests…forests lost will not only kill the rich biodiversity, but also become the source of 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions,” the president said.

The national action plan for conserving orangutans consists four strategies namely orangutan conservation management, policies, partnership development as well as funding strategy.
The Nature Conservancy, as the world’s leading conservation organization, has pledged US$1 millions in aid to support the action plan.

“As much as one million hectares of the orangutan habitat, scheduled for conversion to palm oil plantations, will be saved through implementation of the action plan,” said Erik Meijaard, senior scientist with the Conservancy.

“This could lead to 9,800 orangutans being saved and prevent 700 million tons of carbon from being released.”

Meijaard, who is also a science advisor for orangutan conservation science program (OCSP), said the world’s emerging carbon market would make conservation financially viable.

“If payments for avoided deforestation become an official mechanism in the global climate agreements, then buyers will likely compensate Indonesia for its forest protection. Protecting orangutans will then lead to increased economic development in the country. Such a triple-win situation is not a dream. With some political will, it can soon be reality.”

The United States has said that it will commit to $2.8 million in new funds to support biodiversity and climate change activities in Indonesia, including the orangutan habitat conservation.

The Forestry Ministry data reveals there are currently over 6,650 Sumatran orangutans and 55,000 Borneo orangutans in the wild.

The Indonesian government has long come under pressure from the international community to protect orangutan species and prevent rampant trafficking of the primates.

To make it worse, forest fires and land clearing have been an added threat to the orangutan population.

The ministry says deforestation has directly and indirectly led to the death of 3,000 orangutans per year since the 1970s. (Adianto P. Simamora)

For peat’s sake

Tuesday December 11, 2007 The Star Online, Malaysia

For peat’s sake

Peatland is increasingly making way for oil palm plantations. But with climate change being linked with the destruction of this vital carbon sink, rehabilitation of the land is in order.

INITIALLY, there was vehement denial. But, increasingly there is gradual admission. The facts that peat is a vital carbon sink and that disturbed peat is a significant source of carbon emission are being accepted by the oil palm industry.

Expansion of landbank by major industry players is the order of the day. More land – forested or degraded – is being converted into plantations. Spurred by escalating crude palm oil (CPO) prices and the hype over biofuel, oil palm ventures are spreading rapidly across Sarawak, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Peat swamp forests, a feature of lowland forests, especially in Sarawak and the Riau, Jambi and Kalimantan provinces of Indonesia, are prime targets.

Although the industry has set up the voluntary compliance body called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to tackle the harmful effects of their activities which include clearing, burning and draining of the water-logged forest that spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, there remain some quarters within the industry that are reluctant to assume responsibility for their actions.

At a recent workshop addressing the sustainability issue of oil palm plantations, certain parties – notably plantation companies from Sarawak, such as Sarawak Oil Palm Bhd (SOPB) – questioned the accuracy of a widely referred study associating peatland destruction with climate change.

The Wetlands International report entitled Peat-CO2: Assessment of CO2 emissions from drained peatlands in South-East Asia estimates that 1,400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) were emitted by peatland fires across the region each year between 1997 and 2006, with an additional 600 million tonnes per year being emitted from peatland decomposition caused by drainage.

Detractors were sceptical of the 632 tonnes per ha per year used as the emission average, considering it “too high”. The researchers reckoned the figure was “fairly conservative”, given that the emission range was between 355 tonnes and 874 tonnes in 2006.

There is also dispute over the rate of oxidisation according to different peat types. But the basic conclusion that disturbed peat is an emission source is no longer doubted.

Sarawak is expected to attract the bulk of oil palm plantation investment over the next decade and, already, one million hectares have been earmarked to produce the priced commodity for the next three years.

Towards this end, the RSPO executive board has commissioned a detailed study on carbon emission rates from degraded peatland that will likely result in another criterion for minimising greenhouse gas (GHG) emission. Already, one of its 39 criteria forbids development of oil palm on peat soil from November 2005, taking into account that both virgin and degraded peat swamp forests have high conservation value.

Others criticised the so-called unfair and disproportioned attention on oil palm in the light of emerging information that temperate peatlands were also developed for soyabean, the commodity’s arch-rival in the global edible oil market.

Until indisputable data is obtained, some suggested that the industry should go ahead with conversion of peatland to accommodate expansion plans.

Peat expert Faizal Parish of Global Environment Centre acknowledged that all over the world, the valuable carbon store is being threatened by drainage and fire – the largest single source of carbon emission from the land use sector (3.5 billion tonnes per annum) – but it has been most dramatic in this region in the last decade.

The Mega Rice Project in Central Kalimantan continues to release carbon through its network of 4,600km of drainage canals and frequent peat fires.

Parish noted that cultivation of corn for ethanol production in the United States and soyabean plantations in China are the culprits of peat destruction and carbon emitters too. Soya is much less efficient in terms of land use compared with oil palm – to produce one tonne of soya oil requires at least five times more land area than palm oil.

Redemptive role
Far from being doomed, Parish said the industry is in a unique position to play a key role in combating global warming.

Threat to the environment: A worker watering seedlings at an oil palm nursery in Kasongan regency in Kalimantan. Booming world demand for palm oil for food and biofuels has led, and continues to lead, to forests being cleared, peat wetland exposed and carbon released.“We should not take the findings negatively. We should focus on opportunities arising from the findings instead. Imagine the Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) transforming into the Malaysian Peatland Offset Association 30 years from now,” envisioned Parish of the carbon-offset potential of companies operating on peat.

He said oil palm growers possess the labour skills and resources to rehabilitate degraded peatlands. ”Instead of digging ditches, block them. Instead of cutting, replant.”
So, instead of trading in CPO, the future for oil palm growers could be trading in carbon instead.
MPOA head of research and development Chew Jit Seng said the industry needs time for the carbon offset business idea to sink in.

Under the right hydrological conditions, peat swamp forests that cover a mere 3% of the earth’s surface can continue to act as net carbon sinks. It is estimated that the forests store 42,000 mega tonnes of carbon, equivalent to 70 times the current annual global emissions from fossil fuel burning.

“We encourage those plantations on peat to adopt best management practices already applied by some companies. This includes a good water management regime, for a start,” Parish urged, adding that plantations should implement the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria (P&C) towards sustainable palm oil production as soon as possible.

The RSPO P&C was rolled out in 2005 and underwent a two-year trial by various companies in Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, Colombia and Ghana. The implementation is paving the way for certification of sustainable palm oil.

Avoided deforestation is the buzzword in the current battle to curb further carbon emission that is contributing to climate change. The World Bank has announced a US$250mil (RM850mil) investment fund to reward countries that keep their forests intact, hence trading in carbon credits earned from peatland rehabilitation is on the cards.

Developing countries, especially Indonesia, which has 25 million ha of tropical peat forests, is eyeing the huge carbon offset potential. Deforestation, peatland degradation and forest fires have put Indonesia among the world’s top three largest emitters of GHG.

Carbon release from peatland in Indonesia represents 58% of global peatland emission and is almost twice the emission from fossil fuel burning in the country. Oil palm cultivation is the major culprit for the conversion of peatland in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

In Malaysia, about 10% of the 4.2 million ha planted with oil palm is currently on peat soil, while the rest are grown on mineral soils. Of the 400,000ha, the largest area or 75% is in Sarawak.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Indonesia Begins Plan to Save Orangutans

Indonesia Begins Plan to Save Orangutans

The Associated Press Monday, December 10, 2007; 7:43 AM

BALI, Indonesia -- Indonesia has begun a 10-year program to save endangered orangutans from extinction by protecting tropical jungle habitat from logging, mining and palm oil plantations, its president said Monday.

The plan, revealed on the sidelines of the Bali climate change conference, aims to preserve up to 2.5 million acres of forest on the Indonesian half of Borneo island.

As many as 50,000 orangutans have been lost over the past 35 years due to shrinking habitat, and "if this continues, these majestic creatures will likely face extinction by 2050," Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said.

"To save orangutans, we must save the forests," he said.
Two thirds of Borneo's 74 million acres of primary forest have already been destroyed and environmental groups say the remainder is disappearing at a rate of 300 football fields per hour.
The Nature Conservancy, a coalition of non-governmental groups, pledged $1 million to the program, which "could lead to 9,800 orangutans being saved," said Erik Meijaard, a senior ecologist for the coalition.

Dutch to deny palm subsidies until green levels met

Dutch to deny palm subsidies until green levels met

Reuters Monday December 10 2007
By Niluksi Koswanage

CAREY ISLAND, Malaysia, Dec 10 (Reuters) -

The Netherlands warned on Monday it will not renew subsidies for palm-based biofuel until global producers meet its environmental requirements.

The world's biggest palm-oil producers, including Malaysia and Indonesia, may take about two years to meet the needed levels, Dutch Environment Minister Jacqueline Cramer said, following a meeting with Malaysian Commodities Minister Peter Chin.

The Netherlands, the largest consumer of palm oil in the European Union, will renew its subsidy system for green energy next year, but will mandate stringent criteria to help limit environmental damage.

The Netherlands fears the destruction of tropical forests for palm oil cultivation will increase greenhouse gas emissions, worsen plant loss and reduce animal diversity.

"Until the problems are solved, there will be no subsidy for palm oil," Cramer told reporters at Carey Island palm estates, some 100 km from Kuala Lumpur.

"We hope to solve the problem in two years."
Global demand for biofuels has soared as countries look for alternatives to fossil fuels to fight climate change and solve energy security problems.

"It makes no sense to use palm oil for bio-energy purposes while the carbon dioxide produced is more than what we are actually trying to save, particularly when you cut down peatforests," she said.

The Netherlands is particularly vulnerable to climate change fuelled by carbon-dioxide emissions as two-thirds of its territory lie below sea level.
(Editing by Michael Roddy)

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Indonesia destroys forests as Bali looks for solution

Indonesia destroys forests as Bali looks for solution

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor, in Jambi, Sumatra

Three miles down a dirt road into a supposedly protected rainforest in central Sumatra, the whine of a chainsaw burst out from the trees.

We had reached the front line in the conflict over illegal logging in the tropics - finding a solution to which is likely to be the ultimate test of any pious agreement about saving tropical forests in Bali next week.

On our way down the forest tracks that had been turned into mousse by the rain, it became clear that we were entering disputed territory.Little forest was left near the road and some of it had already been burned by migrant settlers ready for the planting of rubber and oil palm.

The first sign that we had stumbled on illegal loggers themselves, was an unassuming pile of roofing timbers, skilfully cut straight with a chainsaw and dropped off for collection by the side of the road.Our convoy stopped while the black-uniformed forest guards examined the evidence and lit clove-scented Indonesian cigarettes. Then the illegal logger, who had gone silent, struck up again.

And two guards set off into the dusk in a determined manner, after a word from Sean Marron, head of the Harapan Rainforest project, set up by a consortium of conservationists - the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Burung Indonesia and Birdlife International.

This time the guards would just issue a warning but next day they would return from two other sorties against loggers in the trees grinning and bringing confiscated trophies such as chainsaw and a set of motorcycle keys. In this part of Sumatra's rapidly dwindling rainforests, the illegal loggers are beginning to face resourceful opposition.

But is it already too late? Or could hundreds of projects based on this one be replicated around the tropics under some Bali agreement, funded by the First World's increasing willingness to offset the carbon we emit?

Harapan, which straddles the border of two provinces near Jambi in central Sumatra, is a piece of lowland rainforest the size of Greater London. It's name means "hope" in Indonesian and the project is intended to bring a grain of hope to those, in Indonesia and abroad, who despaired that they would ever see an end to rainforest destruction.

Harapan's 250,000 acres are the first logged concession to be taken over with the explicit aim of ecosystem restoration. In a sign of how seriously this is being taken by Indonesian central government - which this week also announced plans to seize the funds of illegal loggers - the law was recently changed to make this a valid use of a logging concession.

Harapan was selected by Burung Indonesia after a survey of several exhausted concessions showed its degraded forest was unusually rich in species. These range from mammals such as the Sumatran tiger, Asian elephant and clouded leopard and seven species of primates, to 235 species of bird, some 37 of them globally threatened with extinction.

Scientific thinking had assumed that in degraded forest tigers would exist at a lower density than they do in primary forest. In fact, because there are many more wild pigs at Harapan in the once-logged forest, there were far more Sumatran tigers than officialdom had expected.

The riches of Harapan's interior were evident on a nine-hour journey we made through it one day this week.

In the depths of the forest, in part that had been clear-felled in the 1970s, we saw the tracks of a young tiger, together with those of a Malaysian tapir, a leopard cat and a porcupine.

There was also dung from a less recent visit from wild elephants, now sprouting little clumps of green from the seeds contained within.

While we waited for the 4x4 vehicles to winch themselves out of trench-sized waterlogged ruts - the Harapan consortium has decided to leave the roads unrepaired to deter logging lorries - we trained our binoculars on a greater corcal (a relative of the pheasant), red jungle fowl, a Rufous bellied eagle and (a favourite of mine) a greater racket-tailed drongo, which is black and white with two trailing tail feathers like a bird of paradise.

It was therefore depressing to think that forest on a neighbouring concession has by and large all the same species.

It is shortly to join other surrounding forest in being logged, thus beginning a cycle of commercial exploitation and official neglect which has destroyed all but 600,000 hectares out of Sumatra's 20 million hectares of lowland forest and put millions of hectares of land to waste.

Sumatra has lost a staggering 80 per cent of its old growth forest in an orgy of logging, both legal and illegal, over the past 30 years, putting it in a league occupied only by Kalimantan - Indonesian Borneo - and the eastern Amazon.

The cycle of destruction, which so far affects only Harapan's north east corner, works like this. A failure of officialdom to enforce the rules in logging concessions means too much timber is taken out.

A similar failure to enforce land rights, despite the fact that the government owns all forest land, often the result of corruption at all levels, means illegal loggers move in, often in collusion with illegal squatters.

The squatters, often economic migrants from overcrowded Java who can get here on a bus, are often taken advantage of by unscrupulous local leaders who use them to annex large areas of land for themselves and while charging the squatters fraudulently for their supposed rights to the land.

This appeared to be the game three miles inside Harapan's north eastern boundary, where a new mosque had been built, three walls of a school and 100 new homes. The quality of the building in this Wild West town was high, far higher than that employed by local subsistence farmers, whom the Harapan project tolerates if not actively encourages.

The strategy was clear: if the homes and the school could be occupied, then local government could be persuaded effectively to legitimise the land-grab, annexing in the process 12,000 out of Harapan's 250,000 acres. Our first illegal logger was one of this vanguard.

Harapan has been asking the police to intervene for more than two months. This did not at first happen. Then, with Bali on the horizon and questions likely to be asked, the police launched three raids in a week.

Out of 300 illegal loggers with chainsaws operating in the forest, 200 have now gone and the co-ordinator of the new settlement on the north east flank is in jail. More ominously, police seized a lorryload of illegal timber, only for it to be seized back at gunpoint by soldiers who were on the side of the loggers.

There could be more nervous moments to come for Harapan's ornithological backers, who find themselves playing in a very big league.

When the former forestry company that ran the concession tried to displace illegal loggers and squatters, it found its camp under attack from men armed with parangs (bush knives) who burned it down, together with bulldozers and other machinery.

For this reason, Sean Marron places his faith in discussions, rather than confrontations, building a constituency among the locals by training them as guards, and an insistence that any real enforcement will be done by the police. The forest police, however, whose expenses the consortium have undertaken to pay, have yet to turn up.

These are still early days for Harapan, for it only got going in May, but it is so unusual that it is already being used as an example 950 miles away in Bali this week - as a possible model for using money from the rich North to fund the preservation of rainforests in the poor South, through carbon credits.

Sir Nicholas Stern, who has visited Harapan, will be in Bali next week. He thinks that saving the annual conflagration of the rainforests and paying for their regeneration is the cheapest way of stopping the release of millions of tons of carbon each year.

A study by the University of Michigan estimates that carbon credits could generate $515 million a year for the Indonesian government, nearly double the $258 million it currently gets in tax revenue from logging and palm oil.

I asked Sean Marron and his Indonesian colleague and head of operations, Muhammad Zubairin whether they thought this would work.

Marron did not much like one of the ideas going the rounds in Bali this week which is that there should be a global fund which could reward Indonesia if the amount of green on the satellite pictures increases each year.

He did not think the money would get to the right place.
A series of bottom-up projects, on the other hand, which bought up degraded forest and allowed it to regenerate?

A better idea, he thought, provided it had sufficient money to buy out the man on the chainsaw who tends to earn relatively little out of logging.

If these were purely commercial deals, there would be no guarantee that companies would go for forestry that would save existing rainforest and rare and endangered species. They might prefer commercial forestry projects. On the other hand, conservationists might use the money to pull off projects that would not otherwise happen.

It was left to Mr Zubairin a canny former oil plantation manager, to enter a note of caution. He said: "We've had a lot of assistance for projects in the past but only some have really been successful. It all depends on whether there is good governance and alternative economic opportunities for local people. It is not just a question of funding. If we don't all share the same genuine commitment it is going to be tough."

In other words, negotiators in Bali are going to have to think as much about the developing world issues of tackling corruption, poor law enforcement and land rights for the poor as about climate.

Fight to save tropical rainforests of Sumatra

Fight to save tropical rainforests of Sumatra
By Charles Clover, Environment Editor, in Jambi, Sumatra; 8/12/2007

Deep in the rainforest of Sumatra, an experiment is being conducted which could save the world's tropical forests from destruction.

Eighty per cent of Sumatra's rich lowland forest is estimated to have been destroyed in the past 30 years

Less than 900 miles from Bali, where United Nations talks on climate change are taking place, Sean Marron is taking on the illegal loggers whose activities are leading to a big increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Mr Marron is head of the Harapan Rainforest project, a logging concession bought by a conservation consortium involving Burung Indonesia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Birdlife International.

Eighty per cent of Sumatra's rich lowland forest is estimated to have been destroyed in the past 30 years. Deforestation in Indonesia accounts for about two thirds of its greenhouse gas emissions, making it the world's third largest carbon dioxide polluter. Between 2000 and 2005, an area of forest equivalent to 300 soccer pitches was destroyed every hour.

Harapan, which straddles the border of two provinces near Jambi in central Sumatra, is 250,000 acres, roughly the size of Greater London. It is the first logged concession to be taken over with the explicit aim of ecosystem restoration.

hough made up of previously-logged forest, Harapan is unusually rich in wildlife, with gibbon monkeys and birds such as the Rufous bellied eagle and the Greater rocket-tailed drongo in abundance. The Sumatran tiger, Malaysian tapir, porcupines and elephants share the habitat.

The cycle of destruction, which so far affects only Harapan's north east corner, is brutally simple. A failure of officialdom to enforce logging rules means too much timber is cut down.
When timber companies move out, illegal loggers move in, often in collusion with illegal squatters. But while the forest is squandered, vast areas of degraded land go unused.

"We have come here for a better livelihood and to change our destiny," said one man in a lavish new settlement illegally built on Harapan's land.

"We are poor, the legal status of this land means nothing to us."
Harapan had repeatedly asked the police to evict the squatters over the past two months. The police launched three raids in a week.

Of an estimated 300 illegal loggers with chainsaws operating in the forest, 200 have gone. But an indication that the old ways are not over was the seizure by police of a lorryload of illegal timber last week. It was seized back at gunpoint by soldiers on the side of the loggers.

Mr Marron still places his faith in a presence on the ground, rather than confrontation, and an insistence that enforcement must be done by the police. Harapan has only been going six months, but it is being talked about in Bali as a possible model for using billions of pounds generated in carbon credits paid by the rich North to fund the preservation of rainforests in the poor South.

Mr Marron's Indonesian colleague, the head of operations, Muhammad Zubairin, said the survival of forests is not just a question of money. The former oil plantation manager said: "It all depends on whether there is good governance and alternative economic opportunities for local people."

But he said corruption and land rights for the poor had to be tackled as well as climate change, or the vicious cycle of illegal logging would continue.

Demand for palm oil sets off wave of deforestation

Demand for palm oil sets off wave of deforestation

Pekanbaru, Indonesia - Muymunah is 75 and has seen a lot in her long life, but she's never experienced anything like the burning of tropical forests in Sumatra.

"Everything is burning here. Everything," said the Indonesian woman who farms land along Indragiri River on Sumatra. She gestures to a field, saying two years ago it was a lush forest. Now there's nothing there but charred stumps. When she notices one smoldering, she calls her daughter, who brings a bucket of water and puts out the flames.

In this region of Indonesia as elsewhere in the country, the forest is disappearing at a breathtaking rate. The environmental organisation Greenpeace estimates 300 football fields are destroyed every hour. The reason is palm oil, which is in demand in part because it is added to diesel fuel to make it more environmentally friendly.

Along the Indragiri River the tropical forest grows on a layer of thick turf. In order to ease the transport of valuable timber after it is felled, loggers dig canals. As a result the water level drops and the turf dries out.

"When the trees are gone, the ground temperature increases to as high as 70 degrees" Celsius, said Indonesian forestry worker Jonotoro. The slightest spark is enough to cause a huge fire.
"It burns like a pile of matches," said Michael Stuewe of the environmental organisation World Wildlife Fund. And it has emerged as an enormous climate issue for Indonesia. Because of the destruction of the forests Indonesia has become the third-largest source of carbon dioxide emissions caused by human activity, behind the US and China.

The cutting, burning and processing of the trees also exposes the forest floor, which in its natural overgrown state stores an enormous amount of CO2 - six to nine times more than a typical forest.

Indonesia, host of the world climate conference now under way on the resort island of Bali, plans to make protection of tropical forests an important topic during the meeting. In particular, Jakarta wants to be financially compensated for taking steps to protect the forests.

The compensation would have to be at least as lucrative as granting licenses to deforest, said environmental economist Fitrian Ardiansyah. The problem is that while the central government in Jakarta has passed a number of laws to protect the forest, local officials can be bribed to ignore them.

Muymunah knows nothing about those shenanigans. She sees only that nothing is as it was before the diggers arrived. The village community council is planting everything possible to help the ground recover. But nothing thrives on the dry and scorched turf.

When the palm oil companies announced they wanted to convert the fields into plantations, the residents of Kuala Cenaku were skeptical, though the deal was attractive. Lands belonging to a village typically got 40 per cent of the profit, they were told.

The diggers arrived two years ago and the trees disappeared. The village didn't receive a cent. The company torched the land last year, causing respiratory problems throughout the village for weeks. The residents are furious, said village leader Mursyid M Ali. Black sludge flows from the turf into the Indragiri and fish catches are down. Mursyid wants to hear nothing more about palm oil, which he said grows poorly on the land around Kuala Cenaku.

Jonko Virta, a Finn who manages a business line worldwide for the paper and pulp company April, admits the turf isn't exactly desirable from a paper-production perspective, but demand worldwide for paper is huge.

The pulp factory's annual supply of wood is equal to 10,000 hectares. The pulp is manufactured into all sorts of paper products - from facial tissue to diapers - and the company constantly submits applications for licenses to cut trees. But companies like April do not see themselves as destroyers of forests or carbon dioxide reserves.

Replanting trees is as natural as a baby suckling from its mother, said Virta, who proudly gives tours of the huge Palalawan plantation about an hour's drive south of Pekanbaru.
"We plant two million acacias here every year," he said. The company owns 91,000 hectares which have been planted with acacia trees since 2001. Acacia's grow about 2 centimetres a day and can be cut after six years.

Virta considers the company a steward of nature, though he admits the best approach for the forest would be to cover it with a glass dome and leave it alone. But that would not be economical, said Virta's environment manager Eliezer Lorenzo. People whose livelihood is the forest also live here, Lorenzo said. There must be a balance between people, planet and profit.

The real villain in the forests of Sumatra are contract loggers who without regard to the water supply have dug deep trenches to ease the transport of logs, said Virta. Conversely, April has built 1,000 dams to prevent the water table from falling more than 50 centimetres, Virta said.

In return for future licenses April promises to preserve the few bits of forest still intact. It wants to create plantations around these forests as a way to protect them against illegal logging.

Environmentalists look upon the proposal skeptically. Three years ago April built a 20-kilometre-long road near the natural preserve Tesso Nilo near Pekanbaru. The goal was to better connect the company's forests to its factory, but from a helicopter it is easy to see brown areas near the road, revealing the work of illegal loggers who also use the motorway.

One of the illegal loggers is Beni Nainggolan, whose house is less than 10 metres from the edge of the road. He, his five brothers and parents are one of about 30 families that moved to the area from northern Sumatra after hearing of the opportunities in logging. Typically, the families pay middlemen a nominal fee for access to the forest, then clear away the trees, sell the logs and plant palm oil trees.

These small operators, however, are not the ones causing major damage, the WWF says. But when the large companies come because cheap labour is available, that is the real problem.

The Nation Newspaper, Thailand

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Bog barons: Indonesia's carbon catastrophe

Bog barons: Indonesia's carbon catastrophe

Last Updated: 2:01pm GMT

The continued destruction of peatland forests will greatly accelerate climate change, writes Fred Pearce. So what is the solution?

I am standing in the heart of the world's second largest tropical peat swamp, the Kampar bog in central Sumatra, watching the swamp's water drain away along a small canal.

Across the western side of the bog there are dozens more drains. The peat bog is bleeding to death before me.Until five years ago, Kampar was a true bog with water at the surface, and it was covered by a rich rainforest in which Sumatran tigers roamed. A huge dome of peat, up to 15 metres deep, had built up over the past 6,000 years as woody debris fell into the swamp. It contains several billion tonnes of carbon.Now this part of the Kampar bog has been clear-felled, and the canals have been installed to turn it into plantations. As water levels fall beneath the blackened and treeless wasteland, the peat is drying and decomposing, releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per square kilometre than do many cities.

I watched as workers planted acacia trees for paper and palm oil trees destined to make biofuels to help reduce Europe's CO2 emissions. Yet draining the peat will release 30 times more CO2 than will be saved by replacing fossil fuels with biofuels - an irony that is hard to stomach.

The fact that European countries can meet their Kyoto protocol obligations by sponsoring activities that have helped turn Indonesia, of which the giant island of Sumatra is a part, into the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases is a savage indictment of the perverse incentives created by the protocol.

The world's governments are assembling on the Indonesian island of Bali to discuss what should follow Kyoto. The fate of peatlands like Kampar will be an important topic.

The Indonesian government is expected to argue that the very companies destroying the bogs should be awarded carbon credits for stopping the haemorrhaging of even more carbon. But can the region's great despoilers really become its saviours?

The destruction of tropical peatland forests is a disaster for many reasons, not least its global impact. Peat holds many times more carbon than the forest above it.

Marcel Silvius, a tropical ecologist at Wetlands International, estimates that in south-east Asia, 130,000 square kilometres of peatland forests have already been cut down and partially drained.

As a result, an average of 2 gigatonnes of CO2 is being released each year through burning and decomposition. That's equal to 8 per cent of the total annual global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels - and 90 per cent of it comes from Indonesia alone.

Here, forests are being cut and the peat drained to make way for two crops: palm oil trees for food and biofuels, and acacia to make pulp for paper.

This is happening fastest on Sumatra, and most intensively of all in the central Sumatran province of Riau. Until the late 1980s, Riau was 80 per cent jungle. Today it's just 30 per cent.

Palm oil is used for cooking and as an ingredient in everything from shampoo to biscuits. Global production has been soaring and Indonesia now produces a third of the global crop. In Riau, palm oil plantations already cover more than 15,000 square kilometres - a fifth of the province - with another 5,000 square kilometres planned to meet the expected demand for biofuels. Local politicians see this as boosting both industrial and rural development.

That may be true, but in climate terms, razing rainforests to grow palm oil for biofuels is madness. Clearing a hectare of tropical forest releases between 500 and 900 tonnes of CO2. Since turning a hectare's worth of palm oil into biodiesel saves approximately 6 tonnes of fossil CO2 emissions a year, it will take 80 to 150 years of production to offset the one-off emissions from trashing the forest.

That is bad enough. If the forest is growing on a peat bog, however, the CO2 losses are far greater and continue far longer.

During a drought in 1997, when fires set by farmers in Sumatra burned out of control, the peat bogs produced most of the smoke that blanketed vast swathes of south-east Asia. Later studies suggest that the burning peat accounted for as much as 40 per cent of human CO2 emissions that year.

What is only now becoming clear is that burning is not the only threat. With or without fires, the draining of peatlands is causing massive emissions of CO2.

The critical process here is oxidation. As long as peat stays wet, the acidity and lack of oxygen preserve organic matter, allowing the peat to build up. But when water levels fall and the peat begins to dry, the organic matter starts to break down. The loss of forest accelerates the process by exposing bare peat to the tropical sun. Emissions continue until any peat above the water table is gone.

Where water is drained to a depth of a metre, typical for many palm oil plantations, about 10 centimetres of peat disappears every year. This emits between 130 and 180 tonnes of CO2 per hectare each year.

So, including the one-off releases from deforestation, each hectare of peatland drained for palm oil will emit between 3750 and 5400 tonnes over the next 25 years, according to Jack Rieley, a tropical peatlands specialist at the University of Nottingham.

Even if the palm oil is used as biofuel, a hectare's output will save only 150 tonnes in vehicle emissions over the period, meaning 25 to 36 times as much carbon will be emitted as is saved.
Yet when I went to see Ang Boon Beng, head of a research station run by palm oil company Asian Agri, he suggested that the peatland plantations absorb carbon. This ignorance extends to the authorities.

At the plantation department in the provincial capital of Pekanbaru, they told me that peat less than 3 metres thick does not emit CO2 when drained.

During my travels, however, it became clear that palm oil is not the biggest problem. The main driver of deforestation and peat-bog draining here is the voracious appetite for timber, and the big players are two giant pulp mill owners.

One company is Asia Pacific Resources International (APRIL), part of RGM International, an empire owned by Singapore-based magnate Sukanto Tanoto. APRIL's rival is the Sinar Mas Group dynasty founded by Eka Tjipta Widjaja, which owns Asia Paper and Pulp (APP).
APRIL and APP have built two of the world's largest pulp mills in the jungle near Pangkalan Kerinci - now a town of 50,000.

On the way to Kerinci, I passed 44-wheel "road trains" carrying acacia logs, which run on company roads because they are too heavy and dangerous for public roads. They supply APRIL's mill alone with 22,000 tonnes of timber a day, much of which is turned into the company's main paper brand, PaperOne.

Having logged thousands of square kilometres of easily accessible forests, the two companies have moved on to swamp forests. Some 60 per cent of APRIL's concessions are now on peat.
The companies are installing huge networks of canals to gain access, clear-felling the forests and replacing them with acacia trees. Acacia grows spectacularly well here - up to 25 metres in five years, at which point they are harvested. The companies can sell their products cheaply, outcompeting others around the world.

Acacia, however, can grow on peatland only if it is kept drained. Peatland scientist Jonathan Bathgate, who works for APRIL, is candid about the carnage his company has wreaked in recent years. He explained the loss of peat to me as we cruised canals in a newly exploited patch of western Kampar, passing barges carrying timber out of the bog.

This 100-square-kilometre patch is likely to be the first of many to be drained across the 4000-square-kilometre Kampar peatland in the next few years. Its surface has collapsed by more than a metre in the past five years, resulting in carbon losses of about 1800 tonnes per hectare.
And if development continues as expected, the peat surface could go down by over 5 metres within 25 years, according to an unpublished report for APRIL by the UK-based consultancy ProForest.

Some say that the loss of forest and haemorrhaging of CO2 from peat bogs is a reasonable price to pay for the development of the world's fourth most populous country.

After all, western countries long ago razed their own forests and drained many of their swamps. Why shouldn't tropical countries do the same?

Moreover, even taking into account deforestation and peat loss, Indonesia's CO2 emissions per head remain below Europe's and are half those of the US.

From the number of mud-spattered Land Cruisers travelling the logging roads of Riau, it is clear that much wealth is being generated. But this is a "wild east" where there are many losers as well as winners.

I saw that on the banks of the Indragiri river on the edge of the Kerumutan peatlands. Here, Kuala Cenaku, a community of 7,000 people, has for centuries harvested rattan and honey, cut a few trees and planted rubber trees on what they regard as their lands.

Then last year loggers arrived, claimed the land had been given to them by the government, and cut down the forest for 5 kilometres south of the river.

Kuala Cenaku's forest is now a wasteland of charred wood on drying peat. In places the Duta Palma group has planted palm oil trees. Yet community head Mursyid Muhammad Ali said his people had scared off the planters and are determined to take the land back. At the jetty, I saw a boatful of new rubber seedlings for restoring the forest.

Days later Greenpeace sent in volunteers to block up the drainage canal dug by Duta Palma, but it was likely to be a token effort - the intact forest beyond the charred lands is set to become an APRIL concession.

Something remarkable is happening at the pulp giant, however. Wary of the future of its timber supplies and its worsening reputation, the company - unlike rival APP - has begun talking to environment groups.

For several years, APRIL and the environment group WWF have been engaged in an experiment to combine exploitation of forests round the Tesso Nilo national park in central Riau with conservation of the park itself.

According to WWF's Michael Stuewe, Tesso Nilo has greater biodiversity than almost any other lowland rainforest worldwide.

But it is besieged by migrants looking for land to grow palm oil. The idea is to create a "ring" of acacia plantations round the park that could be policed to protect it.

As I travelled along this ring, though, it was clear that things were not going well. A new road built by APRIL seemed to be attracting migrants.

I met three young men squatting at the roadside. They said they had come 18 months before from northern Sumatra. The head of a village along the road, Kusuma, had sold them 6 hectares for about $2,600. Now they were planting palm oil.

A bit further on, three more men were living in a small hut, with a similar tale. Such unofficial, often illegal development extends deep into the national park, where an entire village has been built.

As we drove around, my WWF guides were reluctant to stop and talk to locals. Five months before, one of them had been beaten up by a gang.

Earlier, two of APRIL's staff were murdered during protests against new rules banning trucks carrying illegal logs from boarding a ferry owned by the company.

With the Tesso Nilo park now almost divided in two by the illegals, some regard it as a lost cause. The new front line in Sumatra is the coastal peatland. Here, too, APRIL has concessions and wants to surround the Kampar bog with a ring of plantations.

Some accuse APRIL of putting up a green smokescreen while it trashes another rainforest. The company insists it is sincere. Only it can save Kampar, with its carbon, its tigers and the few dozen indigenous Akit hunter-gatherers that live there, APRIL claims.

"If nothing is done, the parks will all be gone in 10 years," says Jouko Virta of APRIL, who is credited with the "greening" of the company. "The government should use us to protect conservation areas in return for being allowed to make productive use of the rest."

It's not just about keeping migrant farmers and illegal loggers out. The company also claims its engineering expertise can reduce emissions.

It wants to close as many of the canals draining the bog as possible, and then maintain water levels as high as is possible while still allowing acacia to grow. "We believe that we can cut CO2 emissions by 80 to 90 per cent by minimising the dry zone," says Virta.

At WWF they remain unconvinced. "I don't believe them," says Stuewe. "They have failed in Tesso Nilo and they would fail again in Kampar. Both APRIL and APP have built roads into the Kampar dome, into the heart of the biggest carbon store in southeast Asia. They are stakes into the heart of the bog."

Some think the only solution is to conserve all of Kampar by shutting the roads and closing the canals. What about the government? Indonesia is a democracy, but one mired in corruption and with confused and contradictory laws.

Arguably, neither APRIL nor APP should be allowed to work on most of the peatlands at all. According to Indonesian law, nobody is allowed to exploit land where the peat is more than 3 metres deep.

Yet the government has awarded logging and plantation concessions on such land. Bathgate admits that many APRIL concessions are on peat 6 to 8 metres deep. Are those concessions invalid? Or does a concession trump the law? Nobody knows.

The next steps to resolving Kampar's future could come during the negotiations in Bali. At the conference, Indonesia is planning to make the case that any successor to the Kyoto protocol should reward countries in the developing world with carbon credits for avoiding carbon losses from deforestation and drained peatlands.

Just as rich countries and companies can get tradeable credits for cutting emissions, the idea is that developing countries should get credits for avoiding future increases. It has strong support from many countries.

"The world has to provide incentives for Indonesia to preserve its peatlands," says the country's head of forestry research, Wahjudi Wardojo.

For him, the nearly 2 billion tonnes of CO2 a year being released from the country's peatlands are a massive bargaining chip.

And companies like APRIL argue that the prospect of revenues from carbon credits would justify reducing their own emissions and managing land already leaking carbon into the air.
In all, an estimated 155 gigatonnes of CO2 remains locked away in the waterlogged peatlands of south-east Asia. That's as much as the entire world's fossil fuel emissions for the past five years.

There's no doubt that the continued destruction of peatland forests will greatly accelerate climate change. The question is: does the world trust the barons of the bogs to protect them in future as well as they have wrecked them in the past? And if not, what's the alternative?

This article has been reproduced with the permission of New Scientist Magazine © Reed Business Information.

New bill vows stiffer action for protected species trade

2007/12/06 - New Straits Times, Malaysia
Dewan Rakyat

New bill vows stiffer action for protected species trade

STIFF penalties and jail terms await persons convicted of trafficking in protected flora and fauna once the International Trade in Endangered Species Bill 2007 is enforced.

Individuals caught for offences under the bill run the risk of being fined between RM100,000 and RM1 million, and corporations, between RM200,000 and RM2 million. Jail sentences for the offences can go up to seven years.

The bill tabled regulates the export, re-export and import of endangered species through permits.A similar arrangement has also been put in place for those breeding protected species or those transporting it. A new authority is being formed to handle matters related to the issuance of permits.

The International Trade in Endangered Species Bill 2007, tabled by Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk S. Sothinathan for its first reading yesterday, was in accordance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora which Malaysia acceded in 1977.

The bill also seeks to make it an offence to produce animals bred in captivity or artificially propagated plants or animals without the approval of the relevant authorities. Whistleblowers or informers would be rewarded for help in connection with detection or seizures involving endangered species, the bill stated.

The bill also proposed that informers be given protection.

The agency to be established to implement provisions in the act would come under the purview of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry. It would also serve as the lead scientific authority with regard to the technical and scientific aspects involving endangered species.

Biofuels - a solution worse than the problem?

Biofuels - a solution worse than the problem?

By Fred Pearce
Last Updated: 2:01pm GMT 05/12/2007

Are biofuels turning into the Frankenstein's monster of climate change? Will this apparently clever solution to the fossil fuel problem end up being worse that the original problem? I fear so.

The check list of problems raised by the current boom in growing corn and palm oil, sugar cane and rape seed, for biofuels is growing impressively long.It turns out that growing corn in the American Midwest takes about as much energy - for making fertilisers and processing the crop - as is saved by replacing petrol on the forecourt. And there is worse.

I was on the Indonesian island of Sumatra a couple of weeks ago, watching them drain peat bogs and clear rainforest so they can grow more palm oil for us to burn in our car engines.

Trashing rainforests is bad enough. But peat bogs are the accumulated, unrotted remains of thousands of years of forest growth. Draining them causes all that concentrated carbon to oxidise, releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.

Bog boffins I spoke to - like Jack Rieley at the University of Nottingham - say the drained bogs will release 30 times more carbon dioxide than will ever be recouped by burning the palm oil back in Europe.

This is madness. Sheer madness. It is also a perverse incentive created by the Kyoto Protocol, which measures the emissions cuts from car engines in Europe, but not the bog emissions in Indonesia.

Another big problem is that growing biofuels takes a lot of land and huge amounts of water, neither of which the world has to spare.

I just got my hands on a detailed mapping study by forestry expert Sten Nilsson of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. His unpublished findings show that most of the land that countries want to convert to biofuels is already earmarked for conservation or forestry or, mainly, agriculture.

And researchers at the International Water Management Institute in Sri Lanka warned recently that China and India risk famine if they proceed with their biofuels plans, because they don't have enough water to grow both fuel and food.

The same body estimates that replacing a quarter of the world's fossil fuels with biofuels would double global demand for irrigation water. At a time when climate change will escalate water shortages.

Already, biofuels are starting to crowd out food crops, and raise food prices, according to a report in the last few days from the International Food Policy Research Institute in New York. And recently the European Union suspended all set-asides for 2008, so we can grow more biofuels like rape - sounding a death knell for some native birds.

Now I still like biofuels - in moderation. There is wasteland out in the tropics where palm oil can be safely grown. And closer to home we can turn all sorts of farm, forestry and household waste into fuel that will genuinely help the climate.

Let's make use of that used chip fat and straw and woodland clippings. And memo to greens: You should be in favour of waste incinerators, if they are hooked up to the power plants.

But planting the world with biofuels and sucking the rivers dry to keep our tanks topped up? That way starvation and madness lie. And it might not even prevent global warming.

Masidi denies no action taken on palm oil firms


Masidi denies no action taken on palm oil firms

Kota Kinabalu: Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun regretted the "sweeping statement" by Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin that the State Government had failed to take concrete action against palm oil refineries in the Kinabatangan area.

According to Masidi, Bung Mokhtar had failed to notice that the Government had taken positive measures to reduce pollution in the Kinabatangan river.

He said inspections were carried on refineries along the Kinabatangan River, claiming that Bung Mokhtar failed to make his presence felt, despite being invited.

He pointed out that the Department of Environment (DOE) had issued 52 summonses and 35 directives to the palm oil refineries in the Kinabatangan area on the proper disposal of their affluent wastes, between 2006 and 2007.

Masidi said this in a statement, Wednesday, responding to a recent report in a national daily in which Bung Mokhtar claimed that the State Government had failed to address the problem of indiscriminate disposal of affluent wastes by palm oil mills along the Kinabatangan River.

In late October, this year, the DOE revoked the licence of a public-listed company in the Kinabatangan area for failing to improve the management and proper disposal of affluent wastes, he said.

In addition, legal action was also instituted against some refineries in Sabah, he added.
However, he pointed out that the National Water Quality Index (Ikan), in 2006, showed that the water quality of the Kinabatangan River was still under Category 2, classified as "clean".

Masidi assured that his Ministry was prepared to provide the necessary briefing on the actions taken and effective enforcement in environmental protection, based on the feedback by the DOE and Environmental Protection Department, before anyone could hurl baseless and inaccurate allegations.

He also disclosed that the DOE would be carrying out studies on rehabilitation prospects of the Kinabatangan River through an allocation of RM2 million, under the 9th Malaysia Plan, early next year.

The studies are aimed at providing the necessary strategies and action plans towards improving the water quality of the Kinabatangan River.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

World Mulls Paying for Forest Protection

World Mulls Paying for Forest Protection


BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — For years Irwandi Yusuf fought for the independence of Aceh province. But now he's at the forefront of another struggle: trying to save his homeland's forests by selling the carbon they contain.

Yusuf, who was elected governor after the 2004 tsunami ushered in an era of peace in the province, has traveled the world hawking the innovative plan to potential investors, including Starbucks and Goldman Sachs.

Indonesia is one of several tropical countries, including Brazil, pushing proposals at the ongoing U.N. climate talks in Bali that offer up their forests as stocks of carbon for wealthy nations or companies to buy to offset their emissions of greenhouse gases.

In effect, it means they get paid to stop chopping down their trees.

"The world needs the forests of Aceh," said Yusuf, who was in jail when the tsunami hit but managed to escape seconds before it engulfed the facility. In total, some 160,000 people in Aceh were killed.

The 47-year-old said he had no firm offers yet, but hoped to announce prospective investors at Bali along with his counterpart from the eastern Indonesian region of Papua, which is also home to vast stretches of rainforest.

He is pledging to spend future proceeds — projected to be several million dollars — on more forest rangers and creating jobs for people who live close to the protected areas.

With forest-clearing fires and peat land degradation in tropical countries responsible for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions — much of them from in Indonesia — any project that slows deforestation would be a major boost in the fight against climate change.

Trade in carbon credits began in 2005 under the Kyoto climate change protocol, which committed wealthy nations to cut down on greenhouse gases but also allowed them to offset them by investing in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries.

Under current rules, companies can earn credits for investing in tree planting projects that absorb carbon dioxide, but not for avoided deforestation ones like the one Yusuf is proposing.
Most current projects involve investing in technology to reduce emissions from factories or power stations.

Government representatives meeting in Bali in hopes of launching negotiations for an agreement replacing Kyoto will be considering whether and how to include avoided deforestation projects in any new accord.

Many expect provisions for avoided deforestation credits to be included in a new deal.
"Pretty much all the major players that have opposed it in recent years are now supporting it in principle," said Johannes Ebeling, a consultant at EcoSecurities, a company that sources emission reduction projects. "It is hard to imagine an agreement where it is not included in some way."

Any post-Kyoto regime would not go into effect until after 2012, but credits from protected forests projects are already traded on voluntary markets that have arisen for projects not recognized under Kyoto or for investors in the United States, which has not signed up to the deal.

A preliminary endorsement of avoided deforestation at the Bali talks would boost confidence in the nascent industry because buyers could expect their credits would one day be legally recognized as offsets.

Most current or prospective buyers are speculators or companies or multinational agencies seeking ways to offset their carbon emissions in creative ways, often for public relations purposes.

In one of the first avoided deforestation deals, mining company Rio Tinto invested in a project in Australia in 2006 that paid farmers not to clear vegetation that will abate approximately one million tons of carbon dioxide over a period of 120 years.

Environmentalists, the United Nations and many Western governments, which have failed to stop rampant logging in Indonesia over the last 20 years despite well-funded campaigns, are proponents of avoided deforestation projects.

"Nothing is going to work unless there is cash on the table," said Frank Momberg, from Fauna and Flora International, a conservation group working with Yusuf on the plan to sell credits from 1.85 million acres of virgin forest in Aceh.

Several recent studies including one by the World Bank have shown that at current carbon prices land owners in tropical countries can earn more money selling offsets than by logging or planting oil palm.

Most objections to avoided deforestation focus on the difficulties of implementing and regulating the projects. These concerns are amplified in Indonesia, which is wracked with corruption and poor governance.

Debates are raging over how to best to establish a baseline, or average level of deforestation over a set period of years, to measure any progress in protecting forests, as they are on ways to accurately measure carbon levels in forests.

There are also concerns on who would receive the funds — the national government or individual landowners — and how to ensure loggers do not simply move to another region, thus negating any effect on emissions.

Papua moves to ban all log exports

Papua moves to ban all log exports

Mark Forbes December 6, 2007

PAPUA will ban all log exports from next month, in a radical move to preserve one of the world's largest remaining tracts of untouched forests.

Governor of the Indonesian province, Barnabas Suebu, told The Age that the Bali climate change conference should endorse funding the anti-logging moves, due to its impact on reducing global warming.

Mr Suebu said he had already imposed a moratorium on issuing new logging licences and would present legislation next month withdrawing all licences, as loggers had been destroying Papua's forests illegally. Licences would only be reissued under strict conditions, he said.

All forest concession holders would have to develop wood processing facilities in Papua, as the ban on raw log exports would remain in place. They must also agree to plant five trees for every one they cut.

The "Chinese mafia", operating out of Malaysia and mainland China were responsible for rampant illegal logging in Papua, Mr Suebu said. "I think the mafia of illegal logging is well organised."

At least 7.2 million cubic metres of timber was being cut in Papua a year, rapidly shrinking its 42 million hectares of forests, which has the highest level of biodiversity in the world. Papua was receiving almost no income from the logging, he said.

Mr Suebu revealed a new decree for forest preservation, which he had just signed along with the Governor of the neighbouring province of West Papua.

The proposals had also been submitted to the Indonesian Government, but Mr Suebu stated he had the authority to implement them under new regional autonomy laws.

"From January 2008, we will stop all logs going out of this island," Mr Suebu said. "We will not export timber from Papua."

The total prohibition on log exports was justified as local communities received only $US10 ($A11.50) for a high-quality log, he said. Once the log was smuggled to China and processed, it was worth $US1500.

Small-scale timber processing industries would be established in Papua so local people could benefit from logging, he said, despite the reduction in tree felling.

About 65% of Papua's forest cover would be totally protected, including at least 15% of the forests earmarked for logging. The world, through the Bali conference initiatives, should compensate Papua for the move, he said.

"I am the governor for all creatures in Papua, for the ants, for the birds, for the trees and I have to protect them. Without them there will be no life for all of us."

Mr Suebu said he was expecting vocal protests from timber interests, but the moves would have a dramatic impact and would work, he predicted.

Papua's ports would be patrolled and 1500 rangers were being trained to enforce the laws.
The Forest Minister in Jakarta was opposing the moves to withdraw logging licences, said Mr Suebu. Once Papua ensured the laws would stand up to legal challenge, they would be passed.
"In the end, we have to save our forests and manage it in a sustainable way and make money to eradicate poverty, that is the goal of this policy," he said.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Soap makes you green

Soap makes you green

Ben Rooth, Manchester Evening News 4/12/2007

A SOAP manufacturer based in Ramsbottom has devised a winning formula to help prevent the wholesale destruction of rainforests.

Technicians at Kay's , based in Kenyon Street, have worked in partnership with leading cosmetics firm Lush to invent the world's first commercially available palm oil-free 'soap base'.

Global demand for palm oil - a major component of soaps and cosmetics - is currently fuelling the clearing of ancient rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia to make room for new plantations.

Lush is about to place its new range of palm-free soap, called `Greenwash', throughout its 88 shops and also has plans to use Kay's new soap base across all its other ranges by next year.

Alan Rogers, who part-owns Kay's, said that the new soap base could be worth £250,000 to the company over the next two years if it proves successful with Lush's customers.

"It took us several months to work out an a way of creating a natural base involving sunflower, rapeseed and coconut oils," he said. Sourced "Both sunflower and rapeseed oils are sourced from Europe and while the coconut oil comes from Indonesia and its production is not linked to the destruction of rain forests.

"We finally carried out successful tests in July and are delighted that the new base could help reduce the amount of rainforest that is cut down."

The family-owned business, which has been based at the same premises in Ramsbottom since 1885, was also the first UK company to produce `vegetarian' soap in 1970. Lush currently uses 250,000 kilograms of palm oil a year and the firm estimates that it will cost them £125,000 a year to switch to the new soap base over the next 12 months.

"Lush has always been proud of its ethical sourcing policies, and when our buying team witnessed the rainforest destruction in Sumatra first hand we recognized that immediate and drastic action was required," said Hilary Jones, director of ethics for Lush.

"We don't believe that palm oil can be sustainable at current levels of consumption, which is why we spent so many long months in the lab cracking the formula for a palm-free soap base.

"Lush's turnover last year was £144m and the firm has three shops in Manchester - in the Arndale Centre, the Trafford Centre and Market Street - as well as 85 stores across the rest of the UK and 495 globally.

Indonesia Could Net US$2 billion From Forest Conservation

Indonesia Could Net US$2 billion From Forest Conservation

The Jakarta Post,- November 30, 2007 By Urip Hudiono, Jakarta

If it is rapacious business interests that are destroying our forests, then perhaps it might be ingenious business responses that could help save them-- especially if such "commercial conservation" can generate as much money as exploiting the forests.

In the Indonesian context, there may be up to US$2 billion in potential annual revenues that could be generated just by preserving the country's forests and offering them as a carbon-dioxide (CO2) "sinks" on the global carbon-trading market.

"We should think of forests beyond timber, rattan and minerals. The most valuable aspect of a forest is actually its ability to retain and absorb carbon (CO2). That's what many people don't quite grasp yet," Laode M.Kamaluddin, regional director of the non-profit Borneo Tropical Rainforest Foundation (BTRF), said during a workshop on forest carbon-tradingThursday.

"So, our forests should be seen as manageable and durable asset, and no longer just as an exhaustible commodity."Building on this "business-like mind-set" regarding the carbon value of forests, Laode said Indonesia should not miss out on the already existing-- and growing -- carbon trading market to raise funds for better managing and conserving its forests, and doing so in a "business-like manner".

This includes establishing professionally managed bodies for forest conservation projects, which could work closely with local communities, and ensure that the projects turned out as profitable as if the forests were used for commercial purposes.

"The aim is to show that the benefits of conserving forests are comparable to those of exploiting them," Laode said.

Studies show that a hectare of preserved forest can provide a sink for between 90 and 400 tons of CO2, while a ton of CO2 can fetch between US$3and $20 on the carbon market.

If calculated using median figures, Laodepointed to how just one million hectares of forest in Kalimantan, Aceh,Papua or any other of Indonesia's provinces could fetch up to Rp 18trillion (US$2 billion) alone.

As a rough comparison, the government only expects to take in Rp 2.3trillion in royalties and fees from forestry concessions.

Royalties andfees from mining, some concessions for which are located in forest areas,are expected to come to Rp 4.8 trillion.Indonesia has some 88 million hectares of rainforest, the world's third largest area, yet is estimated to be losing up to 1.8 million hectares each year due to illegal logging and forest fires.

Such risks mean thatforest-related carbon projects in Indonesia are only worth between US$5 and10 per ton of CO2 reduction.

The Swiss-based BTRF, Malinau regency in East Kalimantan and the U.K.-based Global Eco Rescue (GRE), have entered into a public-private partnership to conserve 325,000 hectares in the area worth an initial 325,000 euros.

The Malinau project is expected to serve as a pilot project in setting amore accurate "carbon value baseline" for others in Indonesia. It comes on the heels of BTRF's and GRE's one-million-hectare project in Brazil's Amazon forest, and 500,000-hectare project in Malaysia's Sabah.

Malinau regent Marthin Billa said the project was also expected to promote a culture of preserving forests and benefiting from their resources, as shown by the Dayak people, who only remove as much wood and rattan as they need, and clear forest land using responsible methods.

Forest conversation projects can at present only be offered through the voluntary carbon market (VCM), as they are not part of the Kyoto Protocol'sclean development mechanism (CDM), which only includes reforestation as an emissions reduction method.

The carbon market was born from the CDM, which allows developed nations to invest in green projects in developing countries in exchange for their required emissions reduction quota.

The international conference on climate change, which Indonesia will host next week in Bali, is expected to discuss the inclusion of the proposed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) mechanism forthe 2012 post-Kyoto Protocol agreement on emissions reduction -- combining reforestation methods with conservation.

Navy Foils Timber Smuggling to Malaysia

Navy Foils Timber Smuggling to Malaysia

The Jakarta Post - November 29, 200By Indra Harsaputra, Surabaya

The Navy's Eastern Fleet announced Wednesday it had successfully foiled anattempt to smuggle timber from Kalimantan to Malaysia.

"The fast patrol boat from the Navy base in Tarakan, East Kalimantan,conducted a night operation on November 25. During the operation it managedto intercept a ship with suspicious cargo in the waters near Batu Putih,Berau regency, East Kalimantan," fleet spokesperson Lt. Col. Toni Syaifulsaid.

The Navy's officers boarded the ship and found 150 logs of blackAmara wood.

"The ship's skipper couldn't produce the proper documents for the timbertherefore we have placed (the crew) under detention and towed the ship tothe Navy base," Toni said. The ship was identified as the Uru Cina, amotorized wooden ship flying the Indonesian flag.

The skipper and his creware currently being interviewed at the Navy base.The Navy says the skipper has told them that the ship was on its way toTawoa, a port city in Eastern Malaysia."Timber smuggling is common on the border areas of Indonesia and Malaysia,"Tony said.

"To prevent similar attempts in the future, the Eastern Fleethas ordered two Navy bases, Tarakan and Nunukan, which lie in the borderareas, to increase the frequency of their patrols," he said.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Hidden colony of orang-utans is discovered in the forests of Borneo

Hidden colony of orang-utans is discovered in the forests of Borneo

By Daniel Howden. The Independent
Published: 03 December 2007

Conservationists working to combat deforestation on the island of Borneo have uncovered a "hidden colony" of 800 orang-utans in an area under imminent threat from the expansion of the palm oil industry.

The previously uncounted apes have been found in the Sungai Putri, a tract of rare peat swamp forest in the West Kalimantan province of Indonesian Borneo. But the area has recently been rezoned by local government and concessions for palm oil plantations could be sold at any time.

Frank Momberg, country director of the conservation group Flora and Fauna international, is part of a group of scientists and environmentalists who were studying the massive carbon deposits in the area when they came upon the colony. "Local people knew of course [that they were there]," he said. "But no scientist had ... recorded this population before."

Mr Momberg is leading an urgent effort to protect the 57,000-acre forest and guarantee a future for the orang-utans and other endangered species in Sungai Putri, as well as the millions of tons of carbon it secures.

Borneo is divided between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, and is at the epicentre of deforestation worldwide. Half of all tropical timber used on the planet comes from this one island. Peat swamp forests like Sungai Putri are among the most important carbon sinks on the planet, yet vast areas of them have been drained in recent years for conversion to agricultural land, releasing millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

The swampy floor of Sungai Putri, thick with decaying trees and rich organic matter up to 11m deep in places, is not only a dense, deep carbon sink, says Mr Momberg, but the "most efficient terrestrial ecosystem for the sequestration of carbon".

Deforestation accounts for one-fifth of all carbon released into the atmosphere and Indonesia's slash and burn policies have already seen the country become the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

It has also meant massive habitat loss for Asia's only great ape. The orang-utan could be the first great ape to be made extinct. The "man of the forest" used to be common throughout Asia but now survives only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. There are some 7,000 Sumatran orang-utans left and the estimated population of 40,000 remaining on Borneo is also in steep decline.

Delegates at the climate talks in Bali will be asked to radically expand the Kyoto Protocol which would see countries like Indonesia rewarded for avoiding further deforestation.

If the proposals, backed by scientists, environmentalists, developing nations and a growing business lobby, can be agreed, areas such as Sungai Putri could be worth millions of dollars and play a key role in combating climate change.

But the quick returns offered from palm oil mean the threat to the forest remains real and 70 per cent of Sungai Putri could be wiped out within five years.

"Farmers use fire to clear the land and fires are already burning at the edges," said Mr Momberg. "Illegal logging is ongoing with small scale but continuous degradation of the forest."
Help may be at hand from a new kind of conservation effort.

A green investment company, Carbon Conservation, has been working with local communities, Flora and Fauna International and local government to bring in outside funding. They are setting up a scheme under which private-sector investors put in money which is used both to protect the forest and offer alternative incomes to local people. In return investors get carbon credits for the area which has avoided deforestation.

At the moment the market for the voluntary credits is small but that could change overnight if the UN talks deliver an international framework deal.

Dorjee Sun, the chief executive of Carbon Conservation, said that negotiations were well advanced. A leading investment bank and others were just waiting for a signal from Bali.
"The private sector is showing the way by buying voluntary credits, now it's over to the governments in Bali," he said. "It's time for them to just do it."