Indonesian authorities cancel plan to evict Greenpeace climate defenders in face of overwhelming community support

Media release - November 15, 2009
Mass protest in support of Greenpeace by forest communities led police to cancel plans to forcibly shut down the Greenpeace Climate Defenders' camp in the heart of the Indonesian rainforest today.

Over 300 people from the nearby Teluk Meranti community arrived to stop police removing Greenpeace activists who have been taking direct action in the area to expose and prevent forest and climate destruction. In a surprising move, the district chief of police subsequently revoked an eviction order and permitted Greenpeace to stay.

"We are overwhelmed and humbled by this extraordinary support from forest communities. It confirms our belief that the people of Indonesia want their forests to be protected," said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia forest campaigner. 

"This sends a very important signal to President Yudhoyono, that his people are willing to help him honour his pledge to cut Indonesia's massive CO2 emissions by stopping deforestation. He should take immediate action to prosecute those who are destroying forests and instead protect our forests, as well as the biodiversity and people who depend on them."

Greenpeace opened the camp on the threatened Kampar Peninsula in Sumatra, Indonesia three weeks ago to call on world leaders to end global deforestation, one of the main causes of climate change. The camp has received visits of support by celebrities such as 'Inglourious Basterds' star Melanie Laurent, Indonesian folk-rock star Iwan Fals, as well as a visit from the US Ambassador to Indonesia.

Indonesian police and immigration authorities are also in the process of deporting 11 international Greenpeace activists who participated in a non-violent direct action on Thursday. Several activists unfurled a huge banner in an area of freshly destroyed rainforest that read: "Obama: you can stop this", while others locked themselves to seven digging machines owned by pulp and paper company, Asia Pacific Resource International Holdings (APRIL) (1), to prevent it destroying the forest and illegally (2) draining the carbon rich forest peat soil in order to grow plantations. 

The non-violent direct action was intended to remind world leaders, particularly President Obama who is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting in Singapore today that, as well as committing to far deeper emissions cuts and to a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty at the UN Climate Summit, they must also provide the funds needed to end global deforestation. (3)

Global deforestation accounts for about a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions (4) and has led Indonesia to become the world's third largest climate polluter, after China and the US. Indonesia's rainforest peat soils are particularly rich in carbon; the Kampar Peninsula alone contains some 2 billion tonnes and is one of the planet's largest natural carbon stores. (5) 

"While President Obama blocks progress at the climate talks, we will continue to take action at the frontline of forest and climate destruction. He and other world leaders have just weeks left to avert a climate catastrophe by making far deeper emissions cuts and committing to a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty that includes the funds needed to end global deforestation at December's UN Copenhagen Climate Summit," said Maitar.

VVPR info: Contact: In the US: Daniel Kessler, Greenpeace media office, +1 510 501 1779 In Indonesia: Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest Campaigner: +62 (0) 813 4466 6135 Martin Baker, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Communications Director: +62 (0) 8131 5829513 In Europe: Pat Venditti, Head of the forest campaign, Greenpeace International: +44 (0) 7801212972 Photos, B roll and a video feature package are available from: Maarten van Rouveroy, Greenpeace International video producer: +31 (0) 646197322; John Novis, Greenpeace International photography: +44 (0) 7801 615 889

Notes: (1) Most of the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests and peatlands is caused by two main pulp and paper giants; Asia Pulp & Paper (APP - Sinar Mas) and its main rival, Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL - RGE). Combined, these two companies control over 73% of Indonesia's total pulp capacity, and control two of the world's largest pulp mills. The ‘conversion' of forested peatland is a three-stage process: · Usually, the most valuable trees are logged for timber. · A network of canals is built in order to remove logs and drain the peat so that it is suitable to grow plantations of oil palm for vegetable oil or acacia trees for pulp and paper. · The remaining forest is cleared, which causes the peat to dry out further and to release more CO2, (especially in El Niño years). (2) http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/id/campaigns/melindungi-hutan-alam-terakhir/pembelaiklim/kampar_peatdepth_april (3) Greenpeace estimates that ending global deforestation requires industrialised countries to invest $42 billion US dollars (€30 billion) annually in forest protection. This is less than the US gave to individual banks during the financial crisis last year. (4) WRI 2008. Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) Version 6.0 (Washington, DC: World Resources Institute) http://cait.wri.org (5) Greenpeace calculation based on Wahyunto, S. Ritung dan H. Subagjo (2003). Maps of Area of Peatland Distribution and Carbon Content in Sumatera, 1990 - 2002. Wetlands International - Indonesia Programme & Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC). For further information please see: http://www.greenpeace.org/climatedefenders Background media briefing on Indonesia's forests and climate change is available at: www.greenpeace.org/climatedefenders/rainforests-and-climate-change.