Greenpeace blocks the destruction of Indonesian peatland forests to limit greenhouse gas emissions

Press release - 29 October, 2007
Greenpeace volunteers today halted the destruction of an area of peatland swamp forest held by the PT Duta Palma palm oil company in the Riau province of Sumatra, Indonesia. They are building five dams across three-metre deep canals used in logging and draining peatland for conversion into a commercial palm oil plantation which would breach Indonesian regulations for forest protection and release large quantities of greenhouse gases.

More than 30 volunteers will work for a week with people from the nearby village of Kuala Cenaku to construct the dams. By halting drainage operations, the dams will prevent the peatland from drying out and releasing carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas. (1) The dams will also prevent the palm oil company from illegally burning the currently waterlogged peatland, prior to planting palm oil saplings, which would further add to global warming.

"Palm oil companies are breaking the law and draining the very life out of Indonesia's remaining peatland forests," said Hapsoro, Greenpeace South East Asia forest campaigner. "And they are adding substantially to the problem of global warming."

PT Duta Palma and its subsidiaries are flagrantly violating Indonesian regulations on forest management, and a decree by Indonesia's President, which are designed to protect peatlands, according to investigations conducted by Greenpeace at its Forest Defenders Camp in Riau, located close to palm oil plantations. (2)

Greenpeace has set up the Forest Defenders Camp in the run up to international negotiations on the Kyoto climate treaty being hosted by Indonesia in Bali, in December, to show how forest destruction contributes to global warming. The organisation is pressing for an end to deforestation to be included in the treaty in addition to winning tougher legally-binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy use. Greenpeace also wants the Indonesian government to immediately introduce a moratorium on peatland forest destruction and ensure implementation of an effective action plan against forest fires.

Deforestation accounts for around one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Destroying peatland swamp forests is the main contributor to Indonesia's high CO² emissions (2) which, according to recent estimates, makes the country the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States. (3)

Avoiding severe global impacts from climate change requires deep cuts in energy-related emissions of greenhouse gases and a complete halt to deforestation, according to the findings of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body which was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work.

"Governments must stop deforestation and enshrine this in the next phase of the Kyoto Protocol," said Sue Connor, Greenpeace International forests campaigner. "Protecting what remains of the world's forests will significantly reduce climate change, plain and simple. It will also safeguard millions of people who depend on forests for their livelihoods and protect a huge amount of the world's plants and animals."

Greenpeace believes it is possible to keep the worst impacts of climate change - such as extreme weather events, water crises and increased hunger - from putting millions of people at risk. This will take a revolution in the way we use and produce energy, and a strong commitment to halt deforestation worldwide. In order to do so, more Governments must commit to bigger emissions reduction targets in the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol. This is what must be agreed at the coming climate conference in Bali.

Other contacts: Hapsoro, Greenpeace South East Asia forests campaigner (currently at the Forest Defenders Camp). Tel: +62 8158 5719 872 or +62 813 784 89 700Chris Nusatya Greenpeace South East Asia media officer. Tel: +62 812 107 050Sue Connor, Greenpeace International forests campaigner. Tel: +62 8131 765 3644Suzette Jackson, Greenpeace International communications. Tel: +62 81 315 829513 or +64 21 614 899

VVPR info: Video of protests, recent aerial footage of deforestation and of the Forest Defenders Camp in Riau, Sumatra:Footage preview at: broadcast quality MPEG2 versions of these clips, please or +31 6 5350 4721 in Amsterdam (GMT +1)Photos of recent deforestation and forest fires in Indonesia and of the Forest Defenders Camp:John Novis, Greenpeace International picture desk. Tel: +31 6 5381 9121

Notes: (1) Wetlands International estimates that 1,400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted by peatland fires across south-east Asia each year between 1997 and 2006, with an additional 600 million tonnes per year being emitted from peatland decomposition caused by drainage.(2) The Presidential decree on Management of Protected Area - No 32/ of 25 July 1990 specifies that "upstream swamp and peatlands deeper than 3 metres should be protected”. The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, criteria for choosing areas for Palm oil plantations, No 376/1998 of 8th April 1998 is a regulation on "Criteria of Forest Allocation for Oil Palm Plantation" and states "plantation developments on peat soils deeper than two meters are not allowed". Greenpeace’s own peatland surveys, conducted in conjunction with peatland experts, show that the peat in PT Duta Palma’s palm oil concession is up to eight metres deep.(3) Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) Version 4.0. (Washington, DC: WorldResources Institute, 2007).A briefing on the Forest Defenders Camp is available at: