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  • Archive for August, 2016

    Indonesian government arrests 454 individuals over current fires

    2016 - 08.29

    Indonesia has arrested 454 individuals it says caused the recent fires in the country. The arrests come after police had announced they had closed the criminal cases against 15 companies linked to the fires caused last year due to a lack of evidence.

    Environmental groups are concerned at that while arresting individuals is relatively straightforward in Indonesia, police are not so eager when it comes to bringing companies to charge. While the number of people arrested due to the fires is set to increase according to Ira Dono Sukmanto, head of the police criminal investigation, the arrests, and cases against companies just aren't there. It took the police force three months to investigate 15 companies to no avail. With no evidence, the police were forced to drop all cases against the companies. NGO group, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has responded by preparing a trial suit against the decision to drop the cases against the companies.

    Current fires have not quite reached the same heights as last year’s fires, however, the air quality has come to an unhealthy range in four of the five areas on the pollutant standards agency. In one of the worst affected regions, Sumatra, local authorities had been forced to build shelter to care for people with respiratory and health issues. Last year over half a million people suffered from health problems surrounding the smoke caused from the fires.

    Neighbouring countries Malaysia and Singapore have already offered air support to tackle the fires. With the fire season set to peak in September, six Indonesian provinces have declared states of emergency in order to get more disaster management resources.

    As a company with a focus on sustainable forestry, Greenwood Management is concerned at the lack of bringing companies that cause these great wildfires to justice and urges the Indonesian government to do more to bring cases to court.

    Small-scale deforestation can have a significant impact on climate, study finds

    2016 - 08.24

    According to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, it has found that deforestation levels have been as much as 30 per cent in the region of New England in the United States. The region which includes the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, has faced decreasing levels of forest covered areas since 1990.

    The study, led by Pontus Olofsson of Boston University, wanted to highlight that deforestation doesn’t just happen in the rainforest regions of the Amazon, or the palm oil plantations of South East Asia. The research found that between 1985 to 2011, forest area had declined across the New England region and that small-scale deforestation was mainly to blame. These include cutting down small wooded areas to make way for a car park. What makes these small scale deforestations difficult to track is these are not recorded in the same way as large-scale deforestation methods are.

    The results of the study found that more than 385,000 hectares of forests had been lost since 1985. This accounts for over five per cent of New England’s total forest area. Olofsson said in a statement that this is down to residential and commercial properties. He said: “As affluence and commerce increase, more people are looking for secondary homes, single family homes, and larger homes.”

    While Olofsson acknowledged that small-scale deforestation on the surface might seem insignificant, particularly compared to the large-scale deforestation taking place in the Amazonian rainforests, for example, if left alone and no reforestation is planned, this all adds up. “With no forest expansion to counter the deforestation, it turns out that even a small-scale rate of deforestation will have a large impact over time.

    “I think we need to understand that it’s not just the tropics that are experiencing a net loss of forest but also parts of the Western world, and that the kind of patterns that we are witnessing have an adverse impact on the terrestrial carbon balance in the long run,” he concluded.

    Indonesian task force established to investigate companies alleged to have started fires

    2016 - 08.22

    The Indonesian government plans to set up a task force to look into why 15 previous investigations of companies alleged to have started fires in the Riau region, Indonesia’s top palm oil producing province, were cancelled.

    It comes after reports last week emerged stating that none of the 15 companies were to be prosecuted for their part in the worst wildfires the country has seen. Legislators made the announcement late last week as fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan have spread, which has forced emergency responses by government officials. Wildfires are a common occurrence in Indonesia thanks, in part, to the illegal slash and burn clearings both farmers and companies do to construct oil palm and timber plantations.

    Fires this week have been mostly concentrated on the Indonesian island of Borneo island with 158 fire alerts reported on Friday. This is up by 52 from the previous day. In the province of Sanggau district alone, satellites have detected 21 fire alerts on land managed and maintained by Asia Pulp and Paper, the country’s leading timber company. The government has sent in two water bombing helicopters to help combat the fires while funding is set up to provide further assistance.

    According to a statement made by the secretariat of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) the Borneo fires are characterised by “dense smoke plumes, persisting dry weather and prevailing winds blowing towards ASEAN countries.”

    In response to the fires, Malaysian environment minister, Wan Junaidi, is planning discussions with his Indonesian counterpart, Siti Nurbaya Bakar, to forewarn them that the “effects of the haze is already having an impact on Malaysia and can already be seen in Peninsular Malaysia as well as some areas in Sarawak.”

    As a company with a focus on sustainable forestry, Greenwood Management is concerned at the companies who are creating these wildfires in Indonesia and hopes the Indonesian government and the companies can come together to resolve this issue.

    United Nations REDD+ programme has pledged nearly $6 billion, report finds

    2016 - 08.17

    The UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) programme has pledged nearly $6 billion to initiatives in key forest countries, according to a report by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Forest Trends.

    The NGO's report showed that the REDD+ programme had pledged money to conservation initiatives in Latin America, Africa and Asia-Pacific, with a particular focus on areas that have a high level of deforestation or where degradation has occurred the most. The funding is also specifically targeted at countries who want to cut back on deforestation and have been seen trying to enforce deforestation rules. For example, countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Peru receive a lot more funding, not only because they have greater forest areas than other countries, but also because the respective governments are playing a role in attempting to cut down deforestation and emissions. Conversely, countries such as Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana receive less.

    The report used data taken from the REDD+ finances from 2009 to mid-2016 as well as deforestation and emissions data covering the period of 2001 to 2014 to assess the success of the funding. Forest Trends’ Brian Schaap said in a statement: “Our findings show that donors and REDD+ country governments are successfully targeting forest conservation finance to reach the places most in need of assistance in tackling deforestation.

    “The evidence also suggests that countries and provinces with a higher capacity to put this funding to effective use are receiving more funding than comparable regions with similar deforestation problems but lower governance capacity.”

    The report by Forest Trends also has a number of recommendations for REDD+ to improve upon in the future. One of these is that future analysis should combine the financial and forest data with government data to help narrow and pinpoint areas of conflict and levels of risk for countries. Finally, the report suggests a system set up to be able to track how finances flow between the private and public sectors once funding from REDD+ is given.

    Data reveals illegal gold mining to be behind recent surge in Peruvian deforestation levels

    2016 - 08.15

    As gold prices worldwide increase, so illegal gold mining also increases, particularly in parts of southern Peru. Recent analysis from the Global Forest Watch has shown that as a result, hundreds of Amazonian hectares have been cut down.

    With gold prices at a two-year high, illegal gold mining in Peru has increased. Satellite data has shown large amounts of forest destroyed near Puerto Maldonado. Just south of this is Tambopata National Reserve where researchers from the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) showed evidence of several points of encroachment by mining deforestation activities. They found that over 350 hectares of the rainforest have been cleared since late last year.

    In addition to the livelihood and devastation of the ecosystem in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, the illegal mining also ruins the rivers and animals around the area. According to a study by the Duke University, mercury deposits were found in fish 350 miles downstream from where the illegal mining takes place, which exceeded the World Health Organisation’s safe for eating levels. It has also degraded the water quality and has affected the surrounding rivers ecosystem.

    The Peruvian government has attempted to tackle the issue of the illegal mining taking place. In January this year, an intervention occurred which destroyed mining equipment and thousands of gallons of fuel. However, the MAAP has recently seen a number of new mines set up in the wake of this intervention. To counter this, the Peruvian government set up a control post in the area. However, this has since been abandoned.

    As a company with a focus on sustainable forestry, Greenwood Management is concerned at the recent uptake in deforestation taking place in Peru. It urges the government to take action against the illegal miners to ensure the wellbeing of the Amazonian rainforest.

    RSPO lifts suspension on IOI group, allows production of ethical palm oil

    2016 - 08.08

    Disgraced Malaysian company IOI Group has been allowed the right to sell “certified sustainable” palm oil, after the world’s largest association for the ethical production of palm oil, the RSPO, removed the suspension from the group.

    The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) had suspended IOI’s certification back in the spring over growing concerns regarding the company's abuse of forests where its palm oil plantations were based. Several conservation groups had raised concerns over deforestation levels on the Borneo island of Indonesia, and as a result, the RSPO suspended the group from ethical productions.

    With the suspension, IOI lost key clients such as Kellogg, Unilever, Mars and Nestle, who cut palm oil supplies from the group. At this stage, it is currently unclear whether these customers will come back in the wake of the lifting of the suspension.

    RSPO said it was lifting the suspension, citing IOI’s progress on tackling the issues and putting in place an action plan. This plan still needs to be verified by an independent group of experts, however, and it does not mean IOI won’t face legal action over its previous activities. The lifting of the suspension has been strongly criticised by conservation groups and suggested the RSPO should have waited until the IOI had cleaned up its operations.

    In a statement, Deborah Lapidus, the campaign director at the Center for International Policy, which wanted the suspension to be maintained, said: “It is naive in the extreme to trust a company that has broken virtually every commitment it has made and been suspended by RSPO twice, until it delivers lasting change on the ground.”

    As a company with a focus on sustainable forestry, Greenwood Management is cautiously optimistic about the lifting of the suspension and hopes the IOI will follow up on its promises of ethically producing palm oil.

    Australia reaffirms its pledge to protect world's rainforests

    2016 - 08.03

    Australia has re-emphasised its commitment to protect the world’s rainforests. The pledge was made in a speech by the environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, to the Asian Pacific Rainforest Summit.

    In the address, Mr Frydenberg said that protection of the forests was key in the fight against climate change and that countries worldwide needed to value the rainforests both in monetary but also in social terms. By giving monetary value to the rainforests, Mr Frydenberg says in his address, markets would be given the ability to respond appropriately to the rainforest cause.

    “We cannot forget the important role of markets, strong institutions, and governance to drive and sustain these changes. We must recognise, welcome and encourage the critical role of the private sector in scaling up these efforts to improve outcomes in our forests,” he said.

    After electricity, deforestation and the carbon emissions associated with it account for 10 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Between 1990 and 2010, in South East Asia (SEA), deforestation accounted for 3.32 million hectares. For context, this is an area greater than the size of Vietnam, and Mr Frydenberg urged regional leaders to come together to drive country-owned action on protecting forests in the SEA region.

    “While my department and many others are working on new ways to value biodiversity, and use this to mobilise private sector investment, I see this as a shared problem for our region,” he said.

    As part of the pledge, Australia is already working with Indonesia on solving the carbon emissions problems caused by clearing peatlands, and collaborates with the country on its second phase of the National Carbon Accounting System. It is also working with the Global Forest Observations Initiative to assist other countries in the SEA region.

    In concluding his speech, Mr Frydenberg urged governments in the region to work together with companies to reach common ground in investing in actions and activities that help lower greenhouse gas emissions and promote forest protection. This, he says, was a key part of the Paris Agreement, signed by 195 countries in 2015, and would help the fight against climate change.

    “We are on the cusp of significant opportunities. But as a region we need to be better prepared by creating the right conditions for well-functioning markets to develop and better facilitate large-scale private sector investment in activities that conserve forests,” he said.