Palm oil companies must come clean on Indonesian fire hotspots - Greenpeace

Press release - 22 June, 2013
Jakarta, June 22, 2013 – Greenpeace International analysis of NASA hotspot data in Sumatra over the past 10 days (11-21 June) has revealed hundreds of fire hotspots in palm oil concessions that are owned by Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean companies.

"Fires across Sumatra are wreaking havoc for millions of people in the region and destroying the climate. Palm oil producers must immediately deploy fire crews to extinguish these fires. But really cleaning up their act starts with adopting a zero deforestation policy," said Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace Indonesia's forest campaign.

Many big palm oil producers and traders are driving deforestation and peatland destruction by purchasing palm oil from third-party suppliers or on the open market.

"Greenpeace calls on big palm oil companies such as Malaysia-based Sime Darby and Singapore-based Wilmar International to check whether their suppliers are involved in the burning or not. Fine words only go so far, but can these companies guarantee that they are not laundering dirty palm oil onto international markets?" said Bustar.

Some of the fires in Sumatra are likely to be smouldering above and underground in peat – a rich carbon store, whose destruction has helped push Indonesia into the ranks of the world’s biggest carbon emitters. Emissions from peatland are Indonesia’s largest source of emissions. The drained peat is prone to catch fire, spreading rapidly and uncontrollably. As documented by a Greenpeace International report in April 2013 (Duta Palma: A Dirty Business), some companies appear to operate outside the law for years with little sanction.

To identify the palm oil companies most associated with fire hotspots, Greenpeace International overlaid NASA hotspot data with two sets of concession maps. The data differs dramatically between these two sets – although hotspots are considerable in both.

"The lack of government transparency makes it very hard for independent monitoring: concession maps are incomplete, data is lacking and we clearly have weak enforcement of laws," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia forest campaigner, Yuyun Indradi.

These findings follow Greenpeace International’s earlier revelation that half of the fire hotspots detected between June 11-18 are in areas that should be protected by Indonesia’s forest moratorium. Greenpeace calls on the government to review existing concessions, increase transparency in the way licences are granted, establish a credible database of low carbon land as an alternative to the current destruction of high carbon land and undertake clear spatial and land use planning.

Notes to editor:

1.  There are 814 hotspots according to the palm oil boundaries from BAPPEDA data; and 385 fire hotspots inside palm oil concessions with palm oil boundaries from the Ministry of Forestry map. Data on oil palm concessions are not readily available centrally from the Indonesian government. The datasets used for analysis are based on 2006–2008 data compiled by several sources and partially updated by Greenpeace at regular intervals. The ultimate provenance is central and regional government agencies including the National Land Agency (BPN), the Agriculture Agency (DISBUN) and regional planning agencies (BAPPEDA).

Additionally, the Ministry of Forestry has made available partial data on concessions within the Forest Estate (this includes rubber as well as oil palm plantations). Given the lack of sector transparency, the data used for analysis must be understood as partial, best-available information. Greenpeace would welcome oil palm concession data being centrally and freely available.

Media contact:
Tristan Tremschnig, Communications Coordinator Indonesia Forests, ph: +31 6 43 78 7393 (Netherlands), email: