Protecting Papuan forests important to help avert climate catastrophe

Feature story - August 21, 2007
Keeping Papua’s intact forests standing and free from conversion and industrial logging is of vital importance in the global efforts to avert catastrophic climate change, according to the international environmental group Greenpeace and the leading Papuan NGO network, FOKER LSM.

Greenpeace campaigners Hapsoro (left, from Indonesia) and Ginger Cassady (from San Francisco, California) displays a banner that says “Stop Forest Crime” at a logging operation along the coast of Papua. Greenpeace flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, sailed into Papua to highlight the destruction of Paradise Forests, the last ancient forests in Asia-Pacific. The ancient forests of Indonesia are being destroyed faster than any other forest on Earth, fuelled by demands from the European Union, USA, Japan and China.

The groups jointly underscored the significance of keeping Papua's forests intact, saying that doing so would translate in the provision of important ecological services and benefits not only for the people of the province, but also for the rest of the world.

"At this time when the world is being threatened with the calamitous impacts of climate change, protecting the largest remaining intact forests in the Asia Pacific region becomes a matter of critical importance. For humanity's collective survival, the world must help ensure that these 'lungs of the earth' are kept standing," said Bustar Maitar, Forests Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Indonesia is currently the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide trailing only to China and the US (1) and this is mainly due to deforestation, land conversion and forest fires. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has put Indonesia on the global spotlight when it said that about 50 percent of the world's total mitigation potential could be achieved by reducing emissions from deforestation (2).  Indonesia has the largest intact forests in the Asia-Pacific region, but these are being destroyed faster than anywhere else on the planet.

"We support the Papuan government and the local communities in their desire to protect the forests for their continuing and lasting benefit. The world is also set to gain from making sure these forests are protected from threats which include logging and clearing for oil palm plantations. It is imperative that the international community support Papua in its efforts to

steer clear of  destructive investments and development projects that imperil the forests on which our collective survival now depends," adds Bustar Maitar.

Up to 9 million hectares of forests in Papua and West Papua have been identified by the Ministry of Forestry for conversion to oil palm plantations. From experience elsewhere in Indonesia, the conversion of forests into oil palm plantations creates major social and environmental impacts including land tenure and labour conflicts, loss of important foods, medicines and building resources, pollution, and poisoning from pesticides, as well as the permanent and irretrievable loss of the natural forests.

"We are very concerned about the social and environmental impacts of oil palm development and logging, and the lack of benefits to local communities. We believe Papua has the opportunity to take a new path that allows the communities to manage their forests for the future," said Septer Manufandu, Executive Secretary of FOKER LSM Papua.

In December this year, Indonesia is playing host to the most important international meeting on climate change.  About 180 countries will be meeting in Bali to decide how the world can help mitigate the climate crisis by setting more ambitious targets to drastically cut down greenhouse gas emissions especially on the part of industrialized economies, and protecting globally important tropical forests such as Papua, Amazon and the Congo, among other issues. 

Notes to Editors: (1) "Indonesia and Climate Change - An assessment of the environmental impacts of climate change across a range of sectors including health, food security and employment" by Agus P. Sari (ed) Rizka Elyza Sari, Ria N Butarbutar and others for DFID & the World Bank (June 2007). (2) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 4th Assessment Report 2007.