Tuesday was one of the most significant days of my time working for Asia Pulp & Paper Group.
At a press conference in Jakarta, I joined several of my colleagues and distinguished government officials to announce our new policies on protecting High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF).
Indonesian and international media representatives gathered to hear us reveal the new policies, which include an immediate suspension of natural forest clearance on APP’s own pulpwood plantation concessions. You can read the press release and statement here.
Following the announcement, there was a lively question and answer session which certainly kept us on our toes. There is a huge appetite on behalf of the world’s media for more news and information about Indonesia’s rainforests. We believe it is important to open ourselves up to scrutiny when making a major new commitment like this one. And we will continue to answer questions from all stakeholders around the world as the HCVF policies are rolled out. I invite you to send them to me now!
A few questions have arisen since we made the announcement, which I would like to address in this blog.
But before I do that, I’d like to try to explain what we are doing in a completely jargon-free way. This is one of the biggest challenges that we have in communicating to the world on different aspects of sustainable forest management, certification, wood legality and so on. The subject matter, unfortunately, is inherently technical, and we believe it is important to be 100% accurate in everything that we say. That’s why our press releases and other statements tend to be weighed down with various acronyms (HCVF, for starters!) that are important but tend to make for quite a dull read.
So here is my description of what we announced yesterday, in’ jargon-lite’ terms:
The whole of Indonesian society, from our President on down, is committed to protecting our precious rainforests from further degradation. APP is no exception. This commitment is vital for our future as a nation rich in natural resources and biodiversity, but also for the global community as we struggle to limit the impacts of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
For many years now, the Indonesian government has laid down strict rules regarding which areas of land can be converted for pulpwood plantations and other agricultural uses. Vast areas are protected as conservation forests under laws, which were introduced here in 2004. Macro-Micro Delineation Assessments were introduced as the national protocol to identify and protect high conservation value forest.
In the eloquent way it was described during our press conference by Mr. Darori, Indonesia’s Director General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation:
“A conservation forest has a function to preserve all flora and fauna within it, and this is the reason why we have dedicated forests for our national parks and game reserves. I believe it is our duty to preserve all of our endangered species such as the elephant, tiger and rhino.”
Although Indonesia can rightly be proud of this conservation framework, everyone accepts that the rules should become even stricter over time. Quite simply, we want to protect as much natural forest as we possibly can. That means looking at new standards, new ways of working and new science.
That’s what our announcement was about yesterday.
APP has been committed to preserving the high conservation value natural forest areas for many years, as defined by the national protocol. We have improved our systems as the regulations have increased, and try to go beyond them in many important ways. And now we believe it is the right time to make the next move – to the internationally-accepted standard of HCVF.
HCVF? What does this complicated jargon phrase actually mean? It is, in essence, a standard of forest protection which has been developed by a group of environmental innovators in the late 1990s. It has been adopted by the widely-respected Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and revised by the HCV Network.
HCVF provides greater protection for ecologically important forest areas, through the application of six principles that cover everything from biodiversity to the needs of local communities. Crucially, it also contains a management process that allows the high value areas to be not just identified, but protected over the long term.
APP is applying the HCVF principles to the pulpwood concessions that it owns – covering some 1,082,934 hectares – immediately, and suspending any further natural forest clearance until we identify those critical conservation areas. The assessments will especially be focusing on the undeveloped land in these concessions – approximately 50 per cent of the total gross area. Then we are also asking our independent suppliers – who control a total area of 1,558,731 hectares – to accept the new HCVF principles. Inevitably, given their independent status, this will take a bit longer, and we have given them until the end of 2014 to comply. The independent suppliers often operate in very deprived parts of Indonesia, so it’s really important we assess the impact of any changes in policy on the people in those areas.
We have made a host of other new commitments in our policy update, which you can read in full in the press release. I’d just like to highlight one here: the pledge to lead new research into the concept of High Carbon Stock (HCS), which is designed to define the value of HCS applicable for pulpwood plantation developments and to provide a scientific framework for protecting areas that could be important for biodiversity and to address climate change. Very little science has been done in this area, and we are happy to take a lead on it.
So that’s a summary of what we announced yesterday. We will be posting more videos from the presentations over the next few days so you can view them for yourself. I would particularly like to thank our two distinguished guests from the government: Mr. Darori from the Ministry of Forestry and Mr. Bachrul Chairi from the Ministry of Trade. We were very touched by their kind words of support, and will be doing everything we can to live up to their hopes and expectations.
It was such a packed event that we couldn’t let all members of the public into it. We are sorry if anyone felt they were left out. But as I said before, keep the questions coming. We want to be as open as possible with all stakeholders as we progress further along this exciting journey.
You can read some independent media reports from our press conference here:
- The Wall Street Journal: “Asia Pulp & Paper Tightens Forest Conservation”
- Radio Australia: “Logging Company says it’s protecting Indonesia’s forests”
- Australia Network News: “Asian company suspends natural forest logging”