Booming EU demand for biofuels could kill Indonesian forests

Press release - January 19, 2007
Greenpeace today warned about the spectre of increased forest-related calamities in Indonesia, where plantations for palm oil are expected to expand rapidly into forest areas due to demands for bio-fuels in the European Union. The Indonesian government’s recent approval of palm oil operations in large areas of Papua and Kalimantan closely followed the EU directive of increasing Europe’s bio-fuel use.

"Given the indiscriminate approval by the Indonesian government for oil palm plantations, the large demand from the EU could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for our remaining forests. Greenpeace supports the use of bio-fuels to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but trying to solve one environmental problem by wiping out Indonesian forests is not only senseless but could further put the lives of Indonesians in danger. Greenpeace calls on European consumers to demand stringent measures on bio-fuel supply from their governments, otherwise they will be responsible for driving our forests to death," said Hapsoro, Forest Campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: Biofuels Progress Report (released on January 9, 2007) specifies Indonesia among the list of countries for cheap bio-fuel production saying: "To achieve the greatest security of supply benefit, it is desirable to keep the range of raw materials wide. A product mix that includes domestically produced bio-fuels as well as imports from a variety of regions will contribute more than one that relies entirely on the lowest cost producers (Brazil for sugar cane, Malaysia and Indonesia for palm oil)." Since 2003, European countries have agreed to declare targets for bio-fuel consumption of 2% by 2005, increasing to 5.75% by 2010, and will continue to increase to 10% by 2020.

Following the EU's announcement of increased bio-fuels for its transport needs this month, the Indonesian government signed 58 agreements, valuing US$ 12.4 billion, to develop bio-fuels. The said developments were linked to the planned exploitation of one million hectares for plantation in Papua and Kalimantan. So far, there is no confirmation from the government and companies that these projects will not further destroy Indonesian forests.

Indonesia has not fully recovered yet from a series of catastrophes related to massive destruction of its forests - which it loses at a rate of 2.8 million hectares per year, the world's fastest. In 2006, a combination of floods, landslides, droughts and forest fires resulted in thousands of deaths and crippling economic activities.

"The Indonesian government must realize that massive forest degradation in Indonesia is responsible for major disasters that killed a lot of Indonesians. In fact, a state of emergency must be declared to stop these forest-related disasters from happening year in year out. Forest degradation must immediately be put to an end!" emphasized Hapsoro.

While Greenpeace supports the use of bio-fuels and acknowledges that these can make a contribution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, Greenpeace stresses that these should be limited only to those produced within the framework of sustainable agriculture, does not directly or indirectly lead to the destruction of intact ecosystems, and do not hinder the ability of any nation to achieve food security and sovereignty.

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organization which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force solutions essential to a green and peaceful future. It is committed to protecting the world’s last ancient forests and the people and animals that depend upon them.

Other contacts: Hapsoro, Regional Forest Campaigner, +62 815 857 19872 Bustar Maitar, Forest Campaigner, +62 813 44 666 135 Ann Sjamsu, Media Campaigner, +62 855 885 1121 Arie Rostika Utami, Media Assistant, +62 856 885 7275