Saturday, 29 November 2008

No turning back

COP investigators facing more road hazards on their way to check out a oil palm plantation and logging.

Palm oil round table 'a farce'

Personal note: Well done PanEco/SOCP and Greenpeace.

Palm oil round table 'a farce'

Greenpeace has branded the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) "a farce" following their failure to take action against members they say are destroying Indonesia's peat lands and forests.

By Ian Wood 28 Nov 2008

Tripa area of forest in North West Sumatra is home to the critically endangered Sumatran orang-utan.

Unilever developed a draft resolution calling for a moratorium on logging, but it was not included on the agenda.

A draft resolution calling for an immediate moratorium on logging in areas of high value protected forests did not even make it on to the agenda.

Before their recent annual meeting in Bali there was hope that the new resolution would have forced members to cease logging in important areas of forest as determined by new digital maps.

"The rapid loss of forests in Indonesia and the current climate crisis needs strong leadership from the global business community," said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace southeast Asia forest campaigner.

"However the RSPO has failed dismally to take up the challenge.
"'Sustainable palm oil' continues to be a farce while RSPO stands exposed as a weak and ineffectual industry body."

The coalition of members that make up the RSPO include NGO's such as WWF and Oxfam along with both producers and major users of palm oil.
Unilever is one of the world's largest purchasers of palm oil and has been under pressure from Greenpeace not to deal with companies who are destroying critical areas of rainforest.

Unilever's sustainable agriculture director, Jan Kees Vis, is also president of the RSPO executive board. Unilever did recently pledge to purchase only sustainable palm oil by 2015 but the argument over how this is certified continues.

Following pressure from Greenpeace, Unilever developed a draft resolution calling for a moratorium on logging in areas of high value forest that was due to be voted on in Bali last week.

However, to the dismay of many conservationists, the resolution was removed from the schedule of the RSPO meeting.

"If the RSPO had any integrity then it would have taken urgent action. For Greenpeace it is clear that the current RSPO standards are too weak, are not implemented and are clearly failing to address this rampant deforestation," said Tim Birch, Greenpeace international forest campaigner.
Recently a shipment labelled 'sustainable' palm oil arrived in Holland to coincide with the annual general meeting of the RSPO.

The 500 tons of palm oil was destined for Unilever and was cited as proof that sustainable palm oil was at last being produced.

However Greenpeace has produced a report which they say casts doubt on the company that produced the shipment.

It came originally from United Plantations who were the first palm oil producer to be RSPO-certified. Although the certification of United Plantations only applies to their Malaysian operations they are also under an obligation to ensure that their other interests meet certain minimum requirements.

This process, known as partial certification, was developed by environmental groups within the RSPO to ensure that companies could not attract buyers of sustainable palm oil from showcase plantations while destroying forests and peat lands elsewhere.

Greenpeace alleges that United Plantations and its subsidiaries are embroiled in a number of illegal non-compliant activities in Indonesia including deep peat forest conversion and land disputes with local community members.

United Plantations said the Greenpeace report was based on "misconceptions and misunderstandings".

In relation to the development of peat land they point out that RSPO criteria stipulates: "Planting on extensive areas of peat soils and other fragile soils should be avoided."

United Plantations claim that their estimated peat area in Kalimantan, Indonesia, amounts to 3,800 hectares which constitutes 11 per cent of their entire Indonesian land bank.

Of this total area of peat forest they say they have planted 604 hectares with palm oil which would fit in with the criteria of the RSPO.

Even with the advance of digital mapping and GPS systems the reality is that it is hard to monitor exactly what is happening in remote areas of Indonesia. Land ownership laws are confusing and often the palm oil companies have been granted their concessions by central Indonesian government.

United Plantations admit their properties contain a number of local communities who claim traditional land ownership and/or user rights. As part of the process in obtaining their operational permit they need to get the full consent of communities involved.

"This is arguably the most tedious and challenging part of land acquisition in Indonesia, because there is rarely consensus among villagers pertaining to trading of traditional land.

"Therefore land acquisition often necessitates negotiations directly with each family who owns a piece of land.

"It cannot be emphasised enough that villagers' approval are of utmost importance to the palm oil business. It takes merely one discontented villager to cause massive havoc in and around the estates," United Plantations said.

They claim that the specific case raised by Greenpeace pertaining to land conflicts involved the falsification of land ownership documents by a villager who they also claim assaulted an employee of United Plantations.
There is certainly a growing demand for sustainable palm oil as many users do not want to be associated with the destruction of rainforest and the threat to endangered species including the orang-utan.

United Plantations say their 500 ton shipment that recently arrived in Europe was a major milestone and that the allegations made by Greenpeace are "unfounded".

A resolution put forward by the Swiss NGO PanEco to force the RSPO to act to protect an area of peat forest swamp in Sumatra was narrowly approved.
The Tripa area of forest in North West Sumatra is home to one of just six remaining viable populations of the critically endangered Sumatran orang-utan and contains millions of tons of carbon dioxide that is being released into the atmosphere as it is destroyed.

The palm oil company PT Astra Agro Lestari are running one of the concessions in Tripa that has about 6,000 hectares of virgin forest located on peat swamp. This is a legal concession granted by Indonesian central government some time ago.

PT Astra Agro Lestari supply Unilever with palm oil and under the terms of this resolution the RSPO is forced to write to PT Astra Agro Lestari and members that have business relationships with them to explain their concern regarding their activities.

Because Unilever is such a key member of the RSPO it is hoped that this could help persuade PT Astra Agro Lestari to move its concession to more suitable land.

More forest being destroyed.

More forest being destroyed. Photo: COP

Thursday, 27 November 2008

"Green" palm oil sales expected to pick up

Personal note: I remain deeply suspicious of the RSPO and its members and I share the view of Greenpeace below.

"Green" palm oil sales expected to pick up

Date: 27-Nov-08 Country: INDONESIA
Author: Aloysius Bhui

JAKARTA - Palm oil producers in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea may sell 1 million tonnes of "sustainable" palm oil next year, up ten-fold on 2008 although still only a tiny fraction of global sales, officials said.

Under fire from green groups and some Western consumers, the palm oil industry established the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004 to develop an ethical certification system, including commitments to preserve rainforests and wildlife.

RSPO palm oil sales have been slower than initially envisaged and if next year's target is reached would still represent only 2.6 percent of the total output of Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's top two producers.

"With just one and a half months left, sales of sustainable palm oil this year will not be as big as the certified output capacity," said Derom Bangun, a vice chairman of the RSPO.

The first sale of the certified products is due to hit the market this month with a shipment from Malaysia to Rotterdam.

The 500 tonne shipment was produced by United Plantations, with Unilever and Britain's third largest grocer J. Sainsbury among the buyers.
A host of products on an average supermarket's shelves contain palm oil, ranging from margarines and biscuits to lipsticks, shampoo and detergents.
The issue of "green" palm remains contentious and some conservation groups argue that the current voluntary rules are ineffective in protecting the environment.

At an RSPO meeting last week, Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono defended Indonesia's drive to expand palm plantations despite calls from some green groups for a moratorium.

"The government has its own program of preserving our forests; we aim to keep 60 percent of our forests in addition to allocated protected forests," the minister was quoted by the Jakarta Post as saying in a statement at the conference in Bali.

Greenpeace said in a statement that RSPO was failing to take action against members who continued to destroy swathes of Indonesia's peatlands and forests.

"Sustainable palm oil continues to be a farce while RSPO stands exposed as a weak and ineffectual industry body," said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest Campaigner.

Three planters -- Sime Darby Plantations Bhd and United Plantations of Malaysia, and New Britain Palm Oil Ltd of Papua New Guinea -- have so far been approved by the RSPO.

The three's combined certified sustainable palm oil output is 631,257 tonnes a year but they only started selling this month.

Additional output next year is expected to come from other companies to be certified, with at least four Indonesian companies -- PT Musim Mas, PT Phindoli, PT London Sumatra, and PT Sime Indo Agro having being audited and awaiting certification, said Desi Kusumadewi, a spokeswoman for RSPO Indonesia.

"We hope that in very near future, PT Musim Mas will get the certification. That will increase the output of sustainable palm oil," Kusumadewi said.
She said other Indonesian planters were expected to apply for certification next year, including PT Asian Agri.

Malaysia and Indonesia, home to more than 4 percent of the world's rainforests, produce nearly 85 percent of total palm oil.

According to Hamburg-based oilseeds analysts Oil World's forecast, Indonesia and Malaysia's combined crude palm oil output may be 36.89 million tonnes this year and 38.4 million in 2009.
(Editing by Ed Davies)
© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The power of a bedtime chat in conservation

The power of a bedtime chat in conservation

Asep Saifullah, Contributor, Lampung The Jakarta Post 25th November

Aggressive campaigns might soon be something of the past. In Lampung, officials teach women to encourage their husbands to conserve forests.
Head of forest area management at the Forestry and Plantation Office in Central Lampung, Yusuf, said the involvement of women was important in the office's forest conservation program.

"Women often express their ideas to the men, who unfortunately are still felling trees in the forest.

"If we told the men directly that we must conserve the forest, it would be less effective. Instead, we explain the situation to their wives, who then talk to the men. We've found this strategy to be more effective," Yusuf said.
He also found women were good at organizing and managing.

With more spare time than men, who are mostly working out there in the fields, the women can be trained to manage the produce grown in village plantations, he said.

Yusuf regularly goes on the three-hour ride along the bumpy, pot-holed road to Sendang Baru village. Sometimes, he spends the night in villages to speaks with residents and track their progress in forest conservation.

During the trip, the official, who is spearheading a program to reduce conflict between the government and communities in forested areas located on the borders with villages, would also persuade the community to conserve the forests they live in.

The Central Lampung forest makes up only a tenth of the total area in the regency.

"That number is still far from what is required by the 1999 Forestry Law, which stipulates that 30 percent of the whole area be covered in vegetation. Therefore, after we succeed in preserving the existing forests, we will expand them," Yusuf said.

Watala, an environmental conservation organization, and the forestry office help village communities grow non-timber forest products without destroying the land they live in.

Villagers are encouraged to organize themselves into farmer groups and are trained in a range of skills -- from crop cultivation and animal husbandry to managerial and basic accounting skills.

A former head of the regency forestry office, Isyanto, said the cooperation between the regional agency and Watala was important.

"We still lack experience, knowledge, and managerial and proposal writing skills. Therefore, Watala's role is very important to facilitate the programs for this forest area," Isyanto said.

He said he believed efforts to foster cooperation among stakeholders on forestry issues had proven successful.

"If we did not collaborate with Watala, the trees in Sendang Baru forest would likely be gone by now," he said.

In Sendang Baru, Watala and the forestry office are assisting two women and four male farmer groups.

By taking advantage of existing agricultural businesses in the area, they train the farmers to make the best use out of the traditional crops and livestock they grow.

The program also introduced the participants to new sources of income.
Villager Masri said he was formerly involved in illegal logging practices until he joined the office's agricultural program.

Since joining the program with other villagers, he said they had caught illegal loggers several times, taking the loggers to the forestry police.
"Forest is the source of our livelihood, the place where we earns our living. Those conducting illegal logging will be caught," Masri said.

Sri Banon, the head of the women's farmers group Wanita Tani Lestari Organization, said the training from the Forestry and Plantation District Office had increased families' income.

"We were trained how to make banana crackers, coconut sugar and coffee powder. Now all of my family's needs can be fulfilled," she said.
"With our present income, there is no need to fell trees and face the risk of being jailed."

While the women in the farmers group manage the cultivation of semiprocessed products, another group is involved in fisheries and goat rearing as well as banana cultivation.

All the groups are trained in financial management, Yusuf said.
"If they need money urgently, such as for their children's books or school fees, then they can borrow from the collective fund."

It has been relatively easy to find markets for the farmers' products.
The bananas from Sendang Baru village, for instance, are now being sent to Muara Angke and Bintaro in Jakarta. Since the development programs began, production has increased to around three tons per week.

Muhammad Kubar, the second assistant for the economy and development at the Central Lampung regency administration, said the existence of new income sources had led to a decrease in deforestation in the project areas.
He said forest destruction was always caused by economic factors, either because poor communities cleared the forests to survive or because people who were more powerful wanted to make quick money.

"Those destroying the forest to survive are usually people who live in or around the forest. The only way to cope with this problem is to improve people's welfare," Muhammad said.

He also said the involvement of women in the forest conservation program was essential.

The image of a rural woman playing servant to her husband is outdated, he said, saying that most wives had plenty of power over their husbands and knew how to use it.

"In fact, women often forbid their husbands to fell trees in the forests during their bedroom talk."

Blitz poser

Tuesday November 25, 2008

Blitz poser

Nations see REDD in rush for carbon credits.

IN THE far north of Indonesia’s Sumatra island lies a vast stretch of forest brimming with orang utans and rare Sumatran tigers and elephants. In a quirk of fate, a decades-long insurgency in Aceh province prevented illegal loggers from stripping the place bare.

Apart from its wildlife and timber, though, the forest is rich in another resource; the carbon locked up in the soil and very trees coveted by loggers – legal and illegal.

Keen to earn money from the forest, called the Ulu Masen ecosystem, the government of Aceh province joined a leading conservation group and the financial market to save it. In return, the province is set to earn millions of dollars through the sale of carbon credits to investors, with a portion of the cash flowing to local communities to encourage them to halt illegal logging and pay for alternative livelihoods.

Money from the initial sale of credits for this project is expected to flow in the coming months.

“I strongly believe there should be a market for carbon credits and forests. It’s about the only mechanism that could provide local incentives,” said Frank Momberg, project director for international NGO Fauna and Flora International, the group at the heart of the Ulu Masen forest conservation project.

The model is being studied and repeated across Indonesia and other tropical developing nations as the world turns to saving the remaining rainforests in the battle against climate change.

The United Nations-based scheme, called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, or REDD, could be worth tens of billions of dollars a year for developing nations, with rich nations buying forest credits to meet mandated emissions curbs. With so much money potentially at stake, banks and carbon trading firms are ramping up their interest.
Vested interests: In the battle against climate change, rich nations are paying Indonesia to keep its forests intact.

Local issue, global problem
But much has to be sorted out, such as how to ensure the forests aren’t cut down, how to accurately measure the amount of carbon saved over time, the best method to trade REDD credits and how to ensure local communities get a fair share of the money.

Satellite monitoring as well as developing national carbon accounting systems will be key, and so too will be avoiding “leakage” in which preventing deforestation in one area causes logging to occur in another.
Some conservation groups also fear rich nations will merely buy up vast amounts of REDD credits to meet their emissions targets while doing little to clean up their own industries.

Europe also fears a flood of cheap REDD credits could overwhelm its existing emissions trading scheme, depressing offset prices.

“For us the main point, from a trading stand-point, where REDD projects are difficult is on their permanence,” said Trevor Sikorski, director of commodities research for Barclays Capital in London.

“If it’s about deforestation but then that deforestation goes ahead in three years then that carbon would still be released into the air So it’s all about the reversibility of forests as carbon sinks and that’s the real core issue that has to be addressed,” he said.

Forests soak up vast amounts of carbon dioxide, acting like a set of lungs for the planet. But clearing and burning them is contributing to about 20% of all mankind’s carbon emissions that are warming the planet.

The UN aims to incorporate REDD into the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol from 2013. The idea is to complement an existing Kyoto scheme, called the Clean Development Mechanism, that allows wealthy states to invest in clean energy projects in the developing world in return for CO2 offsets called CERs. These are presently trading around Euros16 (RM74) per tonne.

Huge market
“The dimensions are massive. If you compare with a CDM project of 60,000 tonnes a year, these projects are sometimes 200 times bigger, so if this comes through, it’s going to be a huge market,” said Renat Heuberger, managing partner of global carbon project developer and advisory firm South Pole Carbon.

Indonesia has rapidly become the centre of REDD trial schemes in Asia because it still has large areas of forest, despite rapid deforestation. Fauna and Flora International has teamed up with Australia’s Macquarie Group to develop three REDD projects in West Kalimantan and Papua.

Investment group New Forests, headquartered in Sydney, has signed a deal with the government of Papua to protect 200,000 ha of forest that could save up to 40 million tonnes of CO2 being emitted over the project’s lifetime.

The Australian government has pledged A$30mil (RM75mil) as part of a scheme to protect 50,000ha of forest in Kalimantan and rehabilitate at least 50,000ha of drained peat swamp.

The Ulu Masen scheme aims to save 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 being emitted each year, or 100 million tonnes over the project’s lifetime.
To market the credits, the government of Aceh last year teamed up with US bank Merrill Lynch and Australian firm Carbon Conservation to sell the offsets, called VERs, into the voluntary carbon credit market.

Carbon Conservation is acting as a broker and joined Flora and Fauna International to develop the project. The project hinges on regular monitoring of the forest from the air and on the ground and the conservation group is running a programme to recruit and train 1,000 forest rangers, some of them ex-rebels from Aceh’s former GAM separatist group.

Seeing redd
Community development was also key, said Momberg. This meant ploughing part of the proceeds directly back to the estimated 130,000 people who live around the forest to develop sustainable biofuel production, biomass power generation, mini-hydro power projects as well as promote growth of alternative cash crops.

Failure to do so would mean villagers returning to illegal logging. An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 villagers were involved in the lucrative trade around Ulu Masen, according to a 2006 report by World Bank-backed Aceh Forest and Environment Project.

“If you don’t involve the local communities in either an alternative business or something that is good for them to actually preserve that forest, there’s no long-term suitability of that project,” said Pep Canadell, executive officer of the Global Carbon Project. “It’s critical and I haven’t really seen a package of interesting possibilities,” said Canadell, a member of an Australian government advisory panel on REDD.

Some conservation groups, such as Friends of the Earth, fear placing a greater value on forests risks a jump in land rights abuses by governments and corporations in the rush for carbon credits, threatening the livelihoods of indigenous communities. More than a billion people worldwide depend of forests for their livelihoods, so REDD is a huge threat to them if not managed properly, the group says.

Flora’s Momberg said the key was to limit the direct involvement of national governments in funding schemes for local communities. REDD schemes should also meet stringent verification standards to ensure permanence, community involvement and protection of forests’ biodiversity.

“If everything is vested in the national government, that’s where you will find it very difficult to have that fair level of participation at the community level,” said Jeff Hayward, of US-based conservation group Rainforest Alliance.

“Fundamental to verification criteria is who owns the carbon, what rights do they have, how have they decided upon the use of those rights, how fairly are they being compensated, are they informed,” said Hayward, manager of the alliance’s climate initiative.

Momberg said interest in REDD investments has jumped since the UN formally backed the scheme last December. “I’m getting phone calls every month from investors into REDD. The appetite for REDD and voluntary carbon credits was non-existent two years ago.” – Reuters

Plans to protect forests could do the opposite, warns Friends of the Earth

Plans to protect forests could do the opposite, warns Friends of the Earth

• Alarm sounded in run-up to UN climate change talks• Corruption and threat to indigenous people feared

Alok Jha, Tuesday November 25 2008 00.01 GMT

International proposals to protect forests as a way of tackling climate change could displace millions of indigenous people and fail to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, environmentalists warn.

In a report to be published on Thursday, Friends of the Earth International (FOE) will argue that current plans to slow the decline of forests by making rich countries pay for the protection of forests in tropical regions are not fit for purpose, as they are open to abuse by corrupt politicians or illegal logging companies in the parts of the world where the money will end up.

Forests lock up a significant amount of carbon and cutting them down is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, currently accounting for around 20% of the world's total.

Deforestation also threatens biodiversity and the livelihoods of more than 60 million indigenous people who are entirely dependent upon forests.

Working out a way to protect forests will be one of the key issues for next week's UN climate change summit in Poznan, Poland, which marks the start of global negotiations to replace the Kyoto protocol after 2012.

Government representatives at the meeting will consider adopting the "Redd" mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries, which is based on the idea that richer countries could offset their emissions by paying to maintain forests in tropical regions.

The idea has some of its roots in the 2006 review of the economics of climate change by Nicholas Stern, who said £2.5bn a year could be enough to prevent deforestation across the eight most important countries. But Stern argued that for such a scheme to work institutional and policy reforms would be required in many states with protected forests, such as Indonesia, Cameroon or Papua New Guinea.

In principle FOE agrees that forests could be included in climate change targets, but argues that in its current form Redd is fraught with problems. The group says the proposals seem to be aimed at setting up a way to profit from forests, rather than stop climate change.

"It refocuses us on to the question, who do forests belong to?" said Joseph Zacune, a climate and energy coordinator at FOE. "In the absence of secure land rights indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities have no guarantees that they'll benefit from Redd. There's increased likelihood of state and corporate control of their land, especially if the value of forests rises."

At the climate talks next week FOE plans to lobby for forests to be kept out of carbon markets, and for land rights to be enforced as the basis of any future forest policy. "We want some kind of mechanism to stop deforestation," said Zacune. "If there was to be agreement it would have to be developed through a joint process with other forest conventions and human-rights instruments, like the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples."

Another problem is that, under Redd, there is no clear definition of what constitutes a forest: the UN includes single-species plantations such as those for palm oil or other agriculture, which are often grown in areas cleared of virgin rainforests. "Even at their best, they store 20% of the carbon that intact forests do," said Zacune. "This means designing forest policies to match the amount of trees cut down due to the expansion of plantations."

FOE's conclusions echo those of the Rights and Resources Initiative, an international coalition of global NGOs which argued that the rush to protect forests could have unintended consequences.

In two reports published in July the RRI warned that the money aimed at protecting trees might end up in the hands of central government officials in areas of the world where they were closely tied to illegal logging and mining activities.

"It is widely acknowledged that poor governance and corruption also need to be addressed if deforestation is to be stopped," said the FOE report. "The question is whether Redd can address these issues, and how it links to existing established processes intended to deal with illegal deforestation (which includes illegal logging and illegal forest conversion to agriculture). Furthermore, would the use of a Redd fund rather than carbon markets improve governments' ability to reign in such illegal activities?"

To counter such problems, Zacune said, the best way to manage forests was to devolve responsibility to locals - an idea proposed by the Pacific nation Tuvalu. "The idea is that they would provide incentives for protecting and retaining their forests. It's the communities and indigenous people who have managed the forests for generations that should be in control of the forest."

Zacune also warned that protecting forests should not become a way for rich countries to pay their way out of reducing emissions. "We need to tackle consumption of agrofuels, meat and timber products which drive deforestation."

Tony Juniper, a sustainability adviser to the Prince of Wales' Rainforests Project, said: "The market is one approach among several possible funding mechanisms. For example, major finance could be mobilised via the auctioning of pollution credits under the EU's emissions trading scheme, or taxes on aviation fuel."

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said forest carbon trading was a useful way to pump money into deprived forest communities: "Deforestation threatens the rights of millions who depend on forests. The carbon market is a likely source of finance for reducing deforestation and we want to work with like-minded countries to achieve the deepest deal possible."

Monday, 24 November 2008

Govt told to act against illegal logging, fishing, mining

Govt told to act against illegal logging, fishing, mining

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 24th November

Contributions to state income from the exploitation of natural resources will remain lackluster unless efforts are intensified to curb illegal activities in the forestry, mining and fishery sectors, a report says.

Illegal logging, mining and fishing are not only badly hurting the environment, but they are also causing trillions of losses in potential state income, Greenomics Indonesia said last week.

In the report, executive director Elfian Effendi said illegal logging and fishing alone caused Rp 60 trillion (about US$5.35 billion) in losses to the nation every year, which could have been used to pay the nation's mounting debts.

"Non-tax revenue from the forestry, mining and fishery sector cannot pay the nation's debts, for instance, because they account for 0.92 percent, or Rp 9.5 trillion of next year's budget of around Rp 1,000 trillion," he said.
"It is ironic how the three sectors play such a small part in the budget, yet illegal practices in those sectors keeps ruining the environment."

Under the 2009 state budget, the government will spend around Rp 165 trillion to pay back the nation's debts -- both principals and interests -- while the non-tax revenues from the three sectors only make up around 6 percent of it.

Moreover, Elfian added, the majority of the revenue will be disbursed to producing regions as part of a so-called revenue sharing scheme between the central and local governments.

"For example, in the 2009 budget, the central government will receive around Rp 2.4 trillion from the three sectors, because some Rp 7.1 trillion out of the total revenue must be transferred to the regions," he said.

Accelerating debt payments means the government could allocate more funds to more productive activities to help boost economic growth.
Elfian said that unless the government acts more aggressively to reduce illegal logging, fishing and mining, the country would continue to suffer a rapidly deteriorating environment and an inability to gain greater economic gains from the three sectors. (dis)

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Orangutans in zoo nightmare.

Orangutans have been in kept these cages 24/7 for nine months. Imagine, if you can, what it must be like for these intelligent animals. Once upon a time they lived in the forest. Now their location is a national zoo in Indonesia.

The cruelty goes on and on.

Crammed into tiny cages with nothing to occupy their inquisitive minds.

Charities and YOUR money

UK Charities.

If you are curious to know more about the finances of a UK charity this link will take you to a web site. The rest is easy.
When looking at such finances on this web site or anywhere else, it might be an idea to not attach any importance to percentages spent on administration etc. Why? Because there is no golden rule on how these figures are arrived at, thus leaving room for possible creative accounting by some charities.

Looking at how much money they have in their bank account at year-end might be interesting. More than anything, does the charity in question REALLY do what it claims to? If you are giving it your hard earnt money you might want to make it your business to find out.

For US charities please click here.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Troubled Indonesian tycoon to drop cabinet post: spokesman

personal note. A Cabinet Minister with a lot of money and investments in the palm oil business.
Troubled Indonesian tycoon to drop cabinet post: spokesman

JAKARTA (AFP) — Indonesia's billionaire Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie will leave the cabinet next year, a spokesman said Friday, as the global economic crisis continued to batter his business empire.

"He has no interest in returning as a minister for the term 2009-2014," Bakrie's spokesman Lalu Mara Satria Wangsa said.

He refused to explain under what circumstances Bakrie would leave.
"He will go when his job is finished. He's not resigning, it's just that he has no intention to continue the next term," he said.

The tycoon and political powerbroker would continue to be a member of the Golkar party, the main group in the ruling coalition under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, he said.

Bakrie denied reports that he was interested in taking over from Vice President Jusuf Kalla as head of Golkar ahead of elections next year.
"That's not correct. The focus of Golkar is to continue efforts to win the legislative elections," the spokesman said.

Bakrie's family business empire, ranging from construction to coal and palm oil, has been hit hard by the global credit crisis and the slump in commodity prices.

Shares in the group's companies have nosedived by as much as 90 percent as it struggles to pay off 1.2 billion dollars in debt due next year.

Until recently, Bakrie was considered the richest man in Indonesia with a family fortune estimated by Forbes Asia magazine at 5.4 billion dollars.
He told this week he wanted to spend more time with his family and his charity.

"I have already contributed five years of my time. Now, I'd like to play with my grandchildren," he was quoted as saying.

He dismissed allegations of a conflict of interest and suspicions he is using his political influence to try to save his family's faltering business empire.
"Me? Never. Never. I am no longer a businessman. I know what (my family) is doing but I'm not a businessman at all," he said.

"Life is tough at the moment for everybody," he added, referring to the economic downturn.

One of his companies allegedly triggered a devastating mud volcano while drilling for gas in East Java two years ago, killing 13 and displacing more than 36,000.

Help is on the way

The Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP) Ape Crusader team on their way to rescue colleagues in the photos below. The truck in the front was kindly donated earlier this year by the trustees and supporters of the UK based Orangutan Appeal. http://www.orangutan-appeal/
All in a days work for COP.

When saving orangutans you need many skills and inexhaustible patience.

Both men and machines take a beating when you are an investigator for COP. Further comments in next caption below.
The bike was donated about 12 months ago by the supporters of the Australian Orangutan Project
and it was eventually repaired after this eventful day.

Between a rock and a hard place.

It's midnight in Central Borneo at a forest track location with two COP investigators receiving help with their damaged motorbike.....often the only transport that can reach remote areas. - even so, COP must now try and raise money for another, even more robust motorbike. Breaking down in these remote locations is dangerous.

Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP) educators reaching out to forest communities.

We can only try to imagine the effort involved with transporting people and equipment to forest villages. (See above photos for recent transportation examples) You have to take a generator, etc with you - there's no local electricity. The rewards are always a large and enthusiastic audience to learn about and the consequences of deforestation happening all over Borneo.

Reaching out to an enthusiastic audience.

COP always finds plenty of interest and enthusiasm within forest communities. No one living there wants to see their forest (local supermarket) destroyed.

Learning about orangutans and rainforests should be a pleasant and memorable experience.

COP team members making learning about orangutans and rainforests a fun experience for school children.

United in wanting to save orangutans

The work of COP includes the vitally important element of talking to schoolchildren in rural as well as forest areas about the importance of saving their rainforests.

Jakarta: Palm oil drive to continue

The Malaysian Insider 20th November

Jakarta: Palm oil drive to continue

JAKARTA, Nov 20 - The Indonesian government has defended the country's drive to expand oil palm cultivation, resisting demands by environmentalists who say it is destroying the country's natural forests and peatlands.

Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono has said that Indonesia would still retain 60 per cent of its forests, in addition to the 23 million ha already marked out as protected forest.

Besides, he told an annual meeting on sustainable palm oil in Bali earlier this week, any moratorium on deforestation, as environmental group Greenpeace recently demanded, was beyond the government's control.
Yesterday, a forestry official said Indonesia will plant 100 million trees this year to limit deforestation.

Global demand for palm oil - which apart from being used in cooking and food products, is also increasingly being used as an alternative biofuel - has seen more land being cleared for bigger plantations.

Environmentalists say the rapid deforestation threatens the survival of native wild orang utans in the forests.

The expansion of oil palm cultivation often creates thick haze - caused by companies and farmers using slash-and-burn methods to clear the land - that can spread to the skies above Singapore and Malaysia.

The minister's remarks immediately drew a sharp response from environmentalists.

Arif Wicaksono, Greenpeace's political adviser in Indonesia, said Anton's statement contradicted a commitment made by the government last year, when it said new crops would not need to be planted on natural forest.
"If they say 'no' to a moratorium, that means Indonesia intends to destroy its forest in the name of palm oil," Arif said yesterday.

"They shouldn't use new land, as they can use the existing, degraded lands to grow their new crops."

The government says only 6.8 million out of the country's 133 million ha of land - or about 5 per cent - have been planted with oil palm.

But non-government organisations say the figures are much higher: According to independent monitor Sawit Watch, a further 18 million ha have been cleared, on top of the land already planted.

Last week, Greenpeace stopped several shipments of palm oil from leaving Indonesia.

Anton, however, had noted the economic necessity of oil palm cultivation.
Palm oil serves as one of the main drivers of Indonesia's economy. Last year, the country earned US$7.9 billion from palm oil exports, up from US$4.8 billion the previous year. Palm oil accounted for about 7 per cent of the country's total exports last year.

Indonesia is now the world's largest crude palm oil producer. It churned out 17.4 million tonnes last year and is expected to produce 19.8 million tonnes this year.

The agriculture ministry projects oil palm cultivation to expand to cover 7.7 million ha next year, up from an estimated 7.16 million ha this year.
But analysts point out that with crude palm oil prices falling as a result of weakening global demand, this is not the right time to talk about expansion.

Indeed, some oil palm growers are already cutting back expansion plans. Astra Agro Lestari, Indonesia's largest publicly-listed oil palm grower, earlier this year set a target to grow 30,000 ha of new oil palm trees in the year, but is now planning to trim it to 20,000 ha.

"Low crude palm oil prices and high fertiliser prices have been our reasons for the cut," head of investor and public relations Tjahjo Dwi Ariantono said.

Next year's expansion plans, he added, would depend on the price of crude palm oil futures. He said: "If it falls further, then we have to put a brake on expansion so that we won't be throwing away the cash money thatwe have." - The Straits Times

No worry over logging

Wednesday November 19, 2008 The StarOnline, Malaysia

No worry over logging

KUALA TERENGGANU: The Terengganu government will not compromise on the impact to the environment caused by logging in the Tembat and Petuang forest reserves for the construction of two dams fringing Kenyir Lake.

“There is no need to worry as efforts are in place to safeguard the environment,” Menteri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said said recently in response to concerns from World Wildlife Fund Malaysia over the logging.

It was reported last Wednesday that the endangered Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tiger faced an uncertain future as 6,130ha of forests, the size of 7,000 football fields, was being cleared.

Details in an Environmental Impact Assessment released recently showed that the state had also proposed the logging of adjacent forests, an area double the size of the forest reserves.

The logging poses a threat to wildlife and risks polluting rivers as the Tembat and Petuang forests reserves act as water catchment areas for Kenyir Lake.

WWF also expressed concerns over erosion due to logging in the catchment areas leading to a decrease in freshwater fish such as kelah.
Ahmad said that efforts were being made to protect wildlife.

These include the establishment of an elephant sanctuary with the co-operation of the National Parks and Wildlife Department, which will relocate endangered animals in the area.

Ahmad explained that the logging was to prevent the area from being submerged when the second dam was built in 2012.

He referred to 1986 when the Kenyir dam was completed and 60,000ha of forest was inundated, causing loss of revenue.

“The trees have to be felled. Otherwise, there will be a repetition of the Kenyir incident,” he said.

If the trees were not chopped, they would degenerate under water, and it would be costly for the state to retrieve them later, he said.

“We are gaining logging revenue, which will be channelled into the state’s development fund.

“Terengganu is making a sacrifice for the nation,” he said in reference to the construction of the two dams to generate hydroelectric power for the country.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Letter: Stop deforestation

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 The Jakarta Post

Letter: Stop deforestation

Wed, 11/19/2008 Opinion

Of course the deforestation of these valuable forests should stop! And this is why:

Manufacturers are sourcing their palm oil from suppliers who aren't picky about where they site their plantations. As the volunteers at the Forest Defenders Camp in Sumatra have seen, this includes tearing up areas of pristine forest and then draining and burning peatlands.

Indonesia's peatlands act as huge carbon stores, so replacing them with plantations them not only threatens the amazing biodiversity, including the rare Sumatran tiger, it also releases huge volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. They only cover 0.1 per cent of the land on Earth, but thanks in part to the activities of the palm oil industry they contribute 4 percent to global emissions. If expansion of the palm oil industry continues unabated, that figure can only rise.

All this is a little unnerving as the three companies mentioned above are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a group of retailers, manufacturers and suppliers who also include multinational suppliers Cargill and ADM. The group aims to create clear standards for producing sustainable palm oil but at present those standards are far too weak to ensure that forests and peatlands are not destroyed to meet growing demand for palm oil.

Global problem, Global solution?
What's to be done? The Indonesian government must urgently introduce a moratorium on forest and peatland destruction, which will provide a chance to develop long-term solutions and prevent further emissions from deforestation.

With deforestation accounting for up to a fifth of global emissions, financing for forest protection must be a core part of the plan to tackle climate change.

The international scientific consensus on climate change is that avoiding the worst impacts of climate change demands global warming be kept as far as possible below 2 degrees Celsius. Emissions of greenhouse gases need to have peaked globally by 2015 and then begin a rapid decline.

We need governments to agree to negotiate a new funding mechanism to protect the world's remaining tropical forests as a critical component of the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol. The resulting reductions in emissions from deforestation must be additional to cuts in emissions from burning fossil fuels.

I. WOUDSTRAUtrecht, the Netherlands

Minister defends expansion of oil palm plantations

Minister defends expansion of oil palm plantations

Hyginus Hardoyo, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar 19th November

Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono on Tuesday defended Indonesia's drive to expand oil palm plantations, despite a demand by environmentalists for a moratorium on deforestation.

Speaking in his keynote address at the opening of the sixth annual meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali, Apriyantono said any moratorium, including that recently called for by Greenpeace, was beyond the control of the Indonesian government.

The four-day meeting will discuss issues such as the certification program for members, palm oil small-scale growers, the RSPO and the government, and market standards for biofuel.

The RSPO was established by NGOs and business operators involved in the production, processing and sale of palm oil, in response to criticisms that oil palm plantations were causing rapid deforestation.

"The government has its own program of preserving our forests; we aim to keep 60 percent of our forests in addition to allocated protected forests," the minister said.

He said Indonesia still had 23 million hectares of protected forest.
"Out of 133 million hectares of land, only 6.3 million hectares, or about 5 percent, have been planted with oil palms -- arguably a very small area compared to what other countries have done with their natural forests," Apriyantono said.

But data from independent monitor Sawit Watch shows that in addition to the land already planted, another 18 million hectares have been cleared for plantation expansions.

Sawit Watch deputy director Abetnego Tarigan said development programs by regional administrations were targeting oil palm plantation expansions -- especially in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua -- of up to 20 million hectares.

"Another new plan still under negotiation deals with the development of the world's largest oil palm plantation, covering 1.8 million hectares in the heart of Kalimantan," he said.

Tarigan suggested that instead of expanding plantations, it was time to intensify existing estates and improve current yields of only 10 to 15 tons of palm oil per hectare per year -- far less than the 25 tons per hectare per year recorded in Malaysia.

In 2006, Indonesia became the world's largest producer of palm oil. Last year, total production reached 16.9 million tons, and is projected to reach almost 18 million tons this year, or 26.2 percent of the world's vegetable oil production.

Of the 2006 figure, 5 million tons was sold domestically, with 11.8 million tons exported, Apriyantono said.

"In term of palm oil exports, Indonesia managed to substantially raise foreign exchange earnings from only US$745 million in 1998 to $7.9 billion in 2007," he said.

He added some 5 million smallholders were employed in the industry.
"I challenge everyone -- NGOs and stakeholders -- to come up with positive news of benefits as well as successful and positive multi-stakeholder collaborative projects," the minister

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Jambi, Aussie investor sign carbon trade agreement

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jambi, Aussie investor sign carbon trade agreement

Jon Afrizal , The Jakarta Post , Jambi Tue, 11/18/2008 9:52 AM The Archipelago

In a bid to further preserve their area’s forests and increase regional revenue, Jambi’s provincial and municipal administrations signed a carbon trade agreement with an Australian investor last week.

Jambi Governor Zulkifli Nurdin and Mayor Bambang Priyanto signed the contract on Nov. 12 with Australian consultant Peter N. Kene of International Business Network and investor Charles Jackson of Carbon Strategic Global.

Zulkifli said the contract would last indefinitely as long as it was mutually beneficial, in line with prevailing regulations and forests were well preserved.

“So by preserving forests we are making money. We will use the money to improve the prosperity of communities living around the forests,” Zulkifli said.

The contract covers the carbon value of some 200,000 hectares of forests across the province with a price set at US$10 per ton per year during the first phase, Zulkifli said.

“The price will be reviewed periodically according to market developments,” he said.

At the current price, Jambi expects to gain credit for some 100,000 tons of carbon per year, meaning it will earn US$1 million from the forest’s preservation, Zulkifli said.

“Imagine if the price rises to US$20 or even US$30 per ton per year.”
Zulkifli was confident the contract would guarantee the protection of the forests because the local community would benefit directly from it.

He gave his word that the money would be spent to benefit the communities living around the forests, adding that they would no longer need to cut down trees to make a living but preserve them instead.
“As long as the forests are preserved, carbon is produced. And as long as the carbon is produced, money is also earned,” he said.

Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) executive director Arif Munandar said the contract was a step in the right direction.
On the one hand, he said, forests and whole ecosystems will be well preserved. On the other hand the local administrations will earn rewards from their preservation efforts.

Arif reminded the local administrations to keep their word regarding the use of money earned from the carbon trading, and to make certain it was for communities living around the forests and not other purposes.
“It is they who contribute the most to the preservation of the forests ... So, don’t ever forget them,” Arif said.

He further reminded the local administrations that they needed to work out what they would do with the money, especially to improve the livelihoods of communities.

Among other means, he suggested, was the establishment an economic institution to help communities become economically independent.
Arif said local administrations needed to change people’s perspective of forests, so that they see forests as not just a timber resource but having myriad other advantages also.

“This way we will be able to maintain the beauty of the forests while the community also benefit economically,” he said.

First certified palm oil shipment just a bit of public relations lubrication?

First certified palm oil shipment just a bit of public relations lubrication?

Posted by tracy on 18 November 2008. Greenpeace

The first shipment of certified sustainable palm oil is due to arrive in Rotterdam any day now for a company called United Plantations. But our investigations on the ground in Indonesia reveal that Universal Plantations' operations are far from sustainable.

In fact, they fail to meet the already inadequate criteria established by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO - its a bit of a mouthful), and the certification, in this instance, looks like little more than a bit of marketing lubrication for the industry.

We've been pushing the RSPO for some time now to implement its currently weak standards and to make standards tougher moving forward - not least by ensuring that its members stop clearing vast areas of forest and peatland.

For example, the criteria of this voluntary initiative is weak at preventing the development of plantations on peatlands even though these same peatlands are one of the largest carbon stores on earth and their protection is crucial in the fight against climate change.

In August, United Plantations was the first company to be certified by the RSPO. While the certification only applies to their Malaysian operations, all of their operations, including those in Indonesia need to meet certain minimum standards, through the so called 'partial certification' process.

Environmental groups pushed for this condition so that big companies couldn't certify a showcase plantation to woo buyers, while trashing forests and peatlands on their other lands.

And lo and behold, our investigation team discovered United Plantations doesn't comply with the key standards around partial certification on its Indonesian estates.

Our evidence shows that the company is embroiled in illegal practices, including deep peat conversion and land disputes to name but a few issues.

You can read our full 12-page report here (pdf), but I've summarised the highlights for you below to give you an idea how much further we have to go to get sustainable palm oil - and why we are calling on the RSPO to support a moratorium on forest and peatland clearing.

Failed - compliance with local law. Our field investigations found that a subsidiary of United Plantations has been clearing peatlands, including some as deep as three metres in Runtu village.

Indonesian law doesn't allow development or degradation of peatland any deeper than two metres. Operations have also failed to respect conservation areas around lakes and additionally there are irregularities in their planning permits and documentation.

Failed - mutually agreed resolutions where land disputes existFour community members from Runtu village in Kalimantan have been jailed allegedly for their opposition to land clearing activities by a United Plantations subsidiary.

The RSPO rules for partial certification require that a mutually agreed resolution takes place when such disputes happen - their imprisonment indisputably shows that significant land conflicts still exist in palm oil concessions owned by United Plantations. Failed - speedy plan for full certification

The RSPO requires companies that go for partial certification to have in place an "adequately ambitious and realistic" plan for certification of all their operations.

While other companies such as New Britain Palm Oil have committed to achieving full certification in one to three years, United Plantations are working towards much longer timelines.

All in all it's not a good start for certified palm oil. The case shows that there are fundamental flaws within the RSPO if certified members are failing to comply with the minimum standards, and certifiers are missing key issues like land conflict and breaches of Indonesian law.

Moreover, all members of the RSPO - certified or not - should not be allowed to keep clearing forests and peatlands. The RSPO's going to have to take a tougher line if it wants to save the forests, the climate and its reputation.

Hundreds of Species in Kalimantan Threatened with Extinction

Hundreds of Species in Kalimantan Threatened with Extinction

Tuesday, 18 November, 2008 TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:

Forest clearing is threatening 236 plant species and 51 animal species in Kalimantan with exctinction. Orangutans, owl monkeys and tarsius are the most endangered animals.

"They are losing their sources of food and water," head of the Center of Orangutan Protection, Hardi Baktiantoro, told reporters yesterday.

He said cutting down forests to clear areas for palm oil plantations is the biggest threat because it changes the total structure of the area. Hardi views the plummeting crude palm oil prices in the international market has not given any significant impact because forest clearings are still being carried out.

Companies also profit by the sale of logs resulting from the clearing. "This is a long-term business. They keep opening the lands while waiting for prices to go up again," he said. The number of animals, especially orangutans, is declining as fast as 9 – 10 percent a year.

According to Hardi, if nothing is done to prevent this, around 8.400 orangutans outside the protected forest will disappear within three years.
Vennie Melyani,20081118-146748,uk.html

Illegal logging web site

A web site some may find interesting and/or useful.

(Palm oil) Industry faces fresh calls to stop forest conversion

Industry faces fresh calls to stop forest conversion

Astrid Wijaya, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 18th November

Palm oil companies are facing increasing pressure from green groups who fear the conversion of forests into plantations could cost the country its rich biodiversity.

The Center for Orangutan Protection (COP) said Monday that in Kalimantan alone, at least 236 plant species and 51 animal species were facing extinction due to the massive conversion of forests into oil palm plantations.

These comments came just a day before the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) holds its sixth annual meeting in Bali. Oil palm growers, processors, traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, investors and Environmental and developmental NGOs will meet to discuss the various issues affecting the palm oil industry during the Nov. 18-20 meeting.

Some issues include the role of small-scale palm oil growers, the RSPO and the government, market standards and biofuels.

"The ignorance and questionable morality of the oil palm industry and the government have put Kalimantan forests in danger. They already know the impacts of forest conversion, but do not consider the long-term effects they may have," COP executive director Hardi Baktiantoro said.

Indonesia allegedly has 1,170 native species facing extinction, the highest number of any country in the world. Environmental damage in Kalimantan largely stems from the activities of the palm oil industry.

The land conversion, Hardi said, was worse than illegal logging, because palm plantations destroy the original natural landscape.

One of a few remaining Dayak ethnobotanists -- people who benefit from plants for food, medicine, dyes, raw materials and cultural rituals -- in Central Kalimantan, Christopel Sahabu, joined the outcry.

He said land conversion in his village, Tumbang Koling, had reduced the forest coverage from 10,000 hectares to 6,000 hectares.

"This massive destruction of our trees has extinguished many original plants and herbs. Those herbs are important to support our lives," he said.
COP Habitat Program Manager Novi Hardianto said he signed an agreement with local governments to curb forest exploitation, but the outcomes were far from adequate.

Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) executive Derom Bangun declined to comment on the COP allegations, saying he was busy preparing for the roundtable meeting in Bali.

The palm oil industry has opposed any moratorium on forest and peat land conversion, saying it would slow the country's economy, cause further job losses and increase poverty.

GAPKI strongly rejects any forest conversion moratorium due to the allegedly inevitable impacts on the country's economy.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Federal, state authorities to help oil palm smallholders

Published: Monday November 17, 2008 The StarOnline, Malaysia

Federal, state authorities to help oil palm smallholders


KOTA KINABALU: Help is on the way for thousands of oil palm smallholders in the state who are facing financial dire straits because they have difficulty selling their produce amidst plunging crude palm oil prices.

State and federal authorities are embarking on a five-pronged strategy to help these smallholders ride out the global economic recession that has caused the drop in demand for crude palm, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said.

Replying to a question from Datuk Ramlee Marahaban (BN-Buggaya), he said these strategies include getting related government agencies such as Sawit Kinabalu, the Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB) and Felda to buy oil palm fruits at a price not less than the smallholders’ production costs.

He said biodiesel derived from palm oil and regular diesel would also be used as power generation fuel in Sabah.

This was being undertaken jointly by the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), Tenaga Nasional and Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd, he added at the Sabah state assembly.

Musa said the Government had also directed the Sabah Development Bank, the Sabah Credit Corporation and Agro Bank to reschedule the smallholders’ loans.

He said the Government was also encouraging smallholders with trees older than 25 years to take part in a re-planting programme using higher-yielding oil palm clones.

Noting the importance of the palm oil sector to the state economy, Musa said the Government had also set up an action committee to closely monitor any developments or problems faced by the industry.

Palm oil prices to plunge due to oversupply, lower demand: report

Palm oil prices to plunge due to oversupply, lower demand: report

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Palm oil prices could fall by 46 percent next year due to oversupply and waning demand for biofuels, despite measures to cut production in Southeast Asia, a brokerage group has said.

CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets has slashed its forecast for palm oil prices by 46 percent in 2009 and 32 percent in 2010, from current levels of about 1,455 ringgit (405 dollars) per tonne.

In a report released last week, the brokerage said it expects the commodity to trade at 1,000 ringgit (278 dollars) per tonne next year and 1,250 ringgit in 2010.

Prices of palm oil have plummeted by 68 percent since a March high of 4,486 ringgit per tonne due to the financial crisis and the falling price of crude oil -- which reduces demand for palm oil to supply the biodiesel industry.

Malaysia's palm oil inventory in October hit a record 2.1 million tonnes -- a 14 percent increase from the previous year -- due to a production surge and a slowdown in exports to China and the Netherlands.

CLSA said that the inventory build-up is much worse in Indonesia.
"The biofuels story is waning, providing less demand support. We are also sceptical about effectiveness of government initiatives to boost CPO (crude palm oil) prices," it said.

Malaysia and Indonesia, which account for 85 percent of global palm oil output, plan to replant old trees and mandate biodiesel use to cut supply and bolster prices.

However, Buddhika Piyasena from Fitch Ratings was less gloomy, saying that prices had "pretty much bottomed out" at current levels and that the risk of further losses was limited.

"We might see these levels continue in the 450 dollars per tonne range for a while," Piyasena told AFP, noting that both the world's top producers, Indonesia and Malaysia, are implementing measures to push up prices.
Deputy commodities minister Kohilan Pillay said Malaysia aims to fell some 200,000 hectares of old palm oil trees and all government vehicles will start using biofuel in the next few months.

The replanting scheme will involve trees of more than 25 years old as the yield from these trees is low at about 17 tonnes per hectare annually.
Smallholders will be given a 1,000 ringgit incentive by the government for each hectare replanted.

"A good price for CPO is at the 2,000 ringgit range and this is what we are aiming for," he told AFP.

Fitch's Piyasena said that if the measures to mandate the use of biofuel in both countries are fully implemented, it could absorb up to 1.0 million tonnes of palm oil.

First sustainable palm oil shipment beset by controversy

First sustainable palm oil shipment beset by controversy

17 November 2008 - Issue : 808

The arrival in Rotterdam of the first shipload of palm oil certified as “sustainable” was celebrated on November 11, despite the release of a report by the environmentalist group Greenpeace that claimed the producer had violated sustainability standards.

The palm oil from Malaysian producer United Plantions had been certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in September. But Greenpeace claimed in a report that the company does not meet all criteria set for an environmentally friendly product as laid down by the roundtable, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.

Companies that subscribe to RSPO standards promise to help reduce deforestation, preserve biodiversity, and respect the livelihoods of rural communities in palm oil-producing countries. Jan Kees Vis, president of the RSPO and the sustainable agriculture director at Unilever NV, called the arrival of sustainable palm oil “a small but significant step.”

United Plantations was the first company to receive a RSPOcertificate for plantations in Malaysia, confirming the company’s production methods and social policies meet the RSPO‘s standards of sustainability.

By the end of 2008 certified plantations are projected to produce 1.5 million tonnes of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil on an annual basis, about four percent of current global palm oil production. Palm oil is the world’s most important category of vegetable oil.

In 2007, palm plantations yielded more than 38 million tonnes of oil, making it one of the world’s biggest commodity products. In Europe, palm oil is now used as an ingredient in a large variety of consumer products, including margarine, ice cream, chocolate, detergents, soap and biscuits. Greenpeace claims United Plantations, which sells oil to Nestle and Unilever and has plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, is cutting down trees in the Indonesian territory that is home to orangutans, an endangered species of great ape.

It says United Plantations would also be entangled in land conflicts with the local population. United Plantations responded furiously to the Greenpeace report on November 11.

In a 12-page statement, the company spoke about “serious and unwarranted allegations” by Greenpeace and rebutted the group’s claims, which it said were based on “misconceptions and misunderstandings.”

Meanwhile, RSPO, the organisation responsible for setting the standards of the sustainable production certificate, said it “welcomes input from NGOs aimed at strengthening its control and certification systems.”

RSPO said United Plantations had already agreed to fully cooperate with an investigation into the “additional information” provided by Greenpeace. RSPO has approved several independent organisations to perform certifications for sustainable palm oil production.

Gerben Stegeman from Control Union Certification, which certified United Plantations, told dpa that on November 7, three days before Greenpeace released its report, his company had received information about possible violations of RSPO standards by United Plantations. “We immediately dispatched two investigators to research the situation,” he said. According to Stegeman, companies requesting a certificate regularly do not meet all criteria.

“Companies with minor non-compliances are given a certificate provided they will and can solve these problems within a year,” Stegeman said. He emphasised his company, which is based in Zwolle in the eastern Netherlands, always checks afterwards whether manufacturers have improved their standards.

In case major non-compliances are discovered, certificates are simply not given, Stegeman said. He added certificates are always given for a five-year period only. Suzanne Kroeger from Greenpeace said her organisation had not join other environmental organisations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) at the RSPO to discuss the definition of sustainable production because “there is no time to talk endlessly with companies that meanwhile continue the deforestation process.”

“If Indonesian peat forests continue to be cut down at the current speed, they will disappear within the next 15 years,” she said. Kroeger said two things should change before RSPO becomes a credible certificate. “RSPO has to ensure the companies that receive its certificate will comply with all of its criteria. And it should raise its standards.”

Certify palm oil producers for sustainable development

Certify palm oil producers for sustainable development

Edi Suhardi, Jakarta

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) will hold its sixth annual meeting Nov. 18 to 20, 2008, in Bali to discus issues ranging from the certification program for members, palm oil small-scale growers, RSPO and government, market standards, biofuel, and other issues the palm oil industry faces looking forward.

Considering its urgency, perhaps the certification-program issue will draw the most attention among meeting participants and international observers, including NGOs.

There are pros and cons to such a certification program, which ensures the members are complying with voluntary standards RSPO has set out.
Those who support it have said it is a positive initial step to instill green practices in palm oil industries. They note the industries should be given a chance to put in place such environmentally sound principles in the field.
Opponents, especially NGOs, have criticized the step calling it a "greenwash", a public-relations gimmick designed only to give the public the impression they conduct their business according to environmentally sound principles.

Critics have accused palm oil plantations and industries of contributing to global warming, destruction of forest, biodiversity loss and conflicts with adjacent communities.

It is indeed difficult to align the differing interests of NGOs such as Greenpeace -- which once blockaded a ship carrying crude palm oil (CPO) in Riau -- with the palm oil industries. NGOs are often biased against any kind of initiative from the business sector because they only see the extractive nature of the capitalist system.

Some industries do consider their corporate social responsibility (CSR) as only a tool for controlling stakeholders and risk. However, some industries are committed to more authentic CSR initiatives and implement principles and practices of sound environmental management.

Against the backdrop of such contradictory streams of discourse, RSPO emerged to bridge differing and sometimes conflicting opinions and misconceptions about palm oil plantation development held by an array of stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society and government agencies.

This multistakeholder organization, set up cooperatively by a number of NGOs including World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and palm-oil industries, initially aimed to persuade all stakeholders, especially the palm growers, to comply with generally accepted sustainability principles and criteria.

To realize such a goal, RSPO set out eight principles: namely commitment to transparency, legal compliance, long-term economic and financial viability, application of best practices, commitment to biodiversity conservation, care for employees and local communities, responsible development of new palm-oil plantations, and commitment to continuous improvement in their operations.

On the basis of those principles, RSPO is currently in the process of certifying members in Indonesia and elsewhere. RSPO will only certify members that strictly comply with the eight principles and their associated criteria.

Such certifying will prove to the general public that their commitment to the environment and to communities is in line with their commitment to earning a profit.

Critics have also pointed out that implementing these principles could not proceed as expected since they were voluntary, not legally binding. Keeping in mind that even laws have been breached in several countries, especially Indonesia, they consider such voluntary compliance destined to fail.

Currently, however, palm oil businesses tend to prefer voluntary guidelines amid the absence of comprehensive government regulations regarding corporate governance and corporate social responsibility.

It should be noted as well that for certain issues voluntary compliance is very often more effective than government regulation.

RSPO has showcased voluntary initiatives from concerned stakeholders to advance green principles in palm oil commodity development. The organization itself also models sustainable stewardship as demonstrated both by the institutional arrangement and by how it has carried out its agenda.

The RSPO certification standard is expected to provide credibility for the management practices of the member companies, and bolster public confidence. It should also convince peripheral agents, such as banks and regulators, to act as a risk-management tool, strengthen relationships with stakeholders, and assure the quality of compliance to the sustainability principles.

To best implement the principles, RSPO needs to consider a transition period with a guiding mechanism of comply or explain. While all RSPO signatories are obliged to implement all the principles and criteria, during this transition period, the enterprises will have to provide reasonable explanations for why they had not yet complied with the principles and the steps they are taking to get to full compliance.

RSPO also needs to set up a mechanism for reporting on the implementation of its principles among members. Like the signatories of the UN Global Compact, which are required to adhere to the reporting format outlined in the Global Reporting Initiative, RSPO could also adopt and replicate something similar so that progress on implementation could be compared among palm oil industries and related industries.

The writer is CSR manager for Agro Harapan Group. This article reflects his personal view. He can be reached at or edis@agrohold

View Point: A national environmental consciousness is needed

Monday, November 17, 2008

View Point: A national environmental consciousness is needed

Tasa Nugraza Barley , Maryland Mon, 11/17/2008 Opinion
The Jakarta Post

Everyday I read in the news that corruption is being fought by people who still care about this country's future. As a young Indonesian I feel proud of today's achievements; a few years ago we wouldn't have seen corrupt officials being scared to death of possible prison terms handed down by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

But no one is talking about our environment; no one is talking about how its destruction is being done every single day by irresponsible citizens, foreigners and, sadly, government officials.

These people should be punished as severe as those who are corrupt with people's money; what they are doing is also considered corruption, i.e., endangering our ability to face the future as a strong country. We have to talk more about the future of our environment, and young Indonesians have to be on the front line.

The latest issue of National Geographic shows how we are losing Kalimantan (Borneo) due to our greed. Along with Malaysia and Brunei we have killed thousands of animals and destroyed countless trees. We have, without shame, transformed Kalimantan into a greedy palm oil industry.
Being the world's largest palm oil producer is definitely not a sinful thing. We Indonesians should be proud of that fact. But if turning ourselves into the number one palm oil producer also means that trees and animals are killed, then we need to think about a better way to boost people's welfare and preserve the environment at the same time.

Our yearly celebration of Jakarta's flood crises is another example of how we have become an ignorant society when it comes to our environment.
We continue to blame the local government for not giving us a solution; every year we receive the same promise from them (that new facilities will be built to prevent floods next year). I think that's a legitimate accusation, but we need to realize that at the same time we are not being respectful to our environment -- we throw trash everywhere as if this earth was just a big trash dump.

It seems to me -- I hope I'm wrong on this -- that our people, including my fellow young Indonesians, don't care about this issue. They speak loudly about economics and politics, but when issues on environment arise they choose to be silent and passive. They think the earth will fix its problems by itself like it has been doing for centuries.

If that's the mind-set we all have, then I think it's just completely wrong.
We need to understand that our lives depend so heavily on our natural resources. Thus, maintaining the environment is an obligation that should be exercised not only by the government but also by all of us. We need to understand that global warming is no longer a myth.

Al Gore through his documentary film An Inconvenient Truth has made the green movement a trend since 2006, and we also need to be a part of this global movement.

It's a shameful fact that last year this country was ranked as the world's third largest carbon producer due to deforestation. The government tried to give some excuses and different arguments, but we all know that it is true. But sadly, until now we haven't done much to improve the condition.
If the government is not willing to talk about environmental issues, then it's the people's duty to speak the truth. It's the duty of young Indonesians, people like you and me, to spread the word of wisdom on how to treat the environment better.

We should remind other people that the economy and the environment can go hand in hand; that politics and the environment are beneficial for each other. We should remind other people that the environment is crying for help, and it's time for us to take action.

As we have recently celebrated Indonesia's 80th Youth Pledge, I believe that the environment should be included among the most important issues that this younger generation needs to discuss.

I believe when we meet and try to formulize new strategies to improve the economy, we need to formulize economic strategies that can be advantageous to both the people and the environment. When we formulize political policies, we need to formulize policies that are not harmful to the environment. And we need to do that now.

The writer is a postgraduate student in Washington D.C. His personal blog is

SMS: Greenpeace blocked Indonesia palm oil shipments

Monday, November 17, 2008

SMS: Greenpeace blocked Indonesia palm oil shipments

Mon, 11/17/2008 Reader's Forum The Jakarta Post

Yes, you should stop forest clearing! IRMA BRAATAmsterdam

Congratulations to Greenpeace for their palm oil action! Clearing rainforests not only affects wildlife and the climate system, but also makes the world less livable for humans. Let's hope that the actions of ordinary people can overcome the vested interests of industries and governments.JONATHAN MOYLANNewcastle, NSW, Australia

I totally support Greenpeace in their effort to block palm oil shipments because palm plantations are a horrible natural catastrophe for our sacred forests and our lovely and holy mother land. Stop forest clearing for oil plantations and for any other purposes. Remember we only have one earth and outside this world there is no salvation. Remember also that the cry of the earth is also the cry of the poor, to quote the theologians Paul Knitter, Edward Schillebeckx and Leonardo Boff.FRANS EFBE Bandung

I dare say, from a European view, it is crazy to sacrifice old growth forests in Indonesia and elsewhere in Southeast Asia for a growing and unsustainable demand for fuel (mainly in other parts of the world). Therefore I agree with the present Greenpeace action.

Indonesia is not Saudi Arabia, and its palm oil does not equal the fossil oil reservoirs of the Arabian Peninsula. And so there is no hope for a even a medium-term oil rent from former Sumatran peatland forests.

The costs of degrading the environment, creating social strife, causing a lack of food and disconnecting people from the experience of a healthy natural environment will hit Indonesia just as hard as it has hit Germans, Americans and others in overdeveloped countries who are presently caught in a trap of hastily defended artificial growth and mobility.

At present, the absence of sereneness and wisdom are the highest prices we must payfar worse than climate change, because the latter hits others!
Instead of creating a greenwashed roundtable for an impossible sustainable use of palm oil, industrialized countries including their food and petrol industries ought to invest all intellectual energy in an effort to reduce their need for combustion energy and set an example of a sustainable wind and solar post-industrialized world. Indonesia: Don't do it our way. Try long-term sustainable development instead!RALF DUNKERHamburg

Things are getting out of hand. Even now all the facts are on the table and the threats to the environment and human kind are clear, yet still people keep going to destroy our planet. Stop it! NOW!ILONA STOKERUtrecht, the Netherlands

This action is very good because by preventing the palm oil from being sent to other countries, we will be able to protect our environment.PUSPA Y.S.Metro, Lampung

Greenpeace is right, deforestation should be stopped. LIZ VAN TONGEREN Amsterdam

I totally agree with Greenpeace. Forest clearing for palm oil plantations should stop immediately! I don't want this palm oil in my soap or other daily products.JACQUELINE SCHUILING Amsterdam

My opinion is that the Greenpeace blockade of several palm oil shipments was a brilliant idea. They were really creative in expressing their demands and showing their protest.

My concern is that Greenpeace is an international organization whose presence in Indonesia is to help us sort out environmental problems, but I as an Indonesian am unable to do anything or even contribute something to help save the environment.

I love my country and I really want Indonesia to be number one in palm oil exports but please don't destroy forests. Don't cut down any more trees. I want my children one day to still be able to know about forests, not just history like here in Jakarta.

Thank you to the people around the world who have represented Greenpeace here in Indonesia to help save our forests.ZAHRAJakarta
Please stop deforestation for palm oil plantations!SJOUKJE DE GRAAFAmsterdam