Ulet Ifansasti, Greenpeace

Indonesia’s progress towards zero deforestation undermined by peatland impacts

Insight / 25 Feb 2021

New Trase data shows Indonesia’s substantial success in reducing deforestation rates in the pulp sector is undermined by the climate and air pollution impacts of developing pulpwood plantations on peatlands

In recent decades, Indonesian wood pulp production has been associated with extensive social and environmental problems. Much of this has been driven by the clearing of over two million hectares (ha) of forest for wood fibre plantations to supply the country’s pulp mills. Many of these plantations are located on drained peatlands.

Pulp-related deforestation in Indonesia reached its peak in 2011 when 150,000 ha were cleared. But following the adoption of zero-deforestation commitments (ZDCs) in 2013-2015 by leading producers, the sector achieved an 85% reduction in deforestation through 2019.

This success has generated much optimism, showing the potential for what can be achieved with concerted efforts to drive down deforestation rates. Nevertheless, 170,000 hectares were deforested in pulpwood concessions in 2015-2019 despite the ZDCs.

The story behind this significant progress is one of the findings of Trase’s new Indonesia wood pulp supply chain map, available at trase.earth. Trase is a groundbreaking data-driven initiative led by the Stockholm Environment Institute and Global Canopy which provides data at scale, free-of-charge, mapping supply chains for key commodities from entire countries and regions.

The dataset was developed by Trase in collaboration with Indonesian non-governmental organisation Auriga, US-based nonprofit Woods & Wayside International and the Conservation Economics Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Concerns over peatland impacts

The development of pulpwood plantations on drained peatlands was a major cause of Indonesia’s catastrophic fires during 2015 and 2019. In 2019, nearly 100,000 ha burned inside the wood fibre concessions that supply Indonesia’s pulp mills; in the 2015 fire and haze crisis 342,000 ha of pulpwood were alight. Trase provides innovative tools for analysing the impacts of fires within specific pulpwood plantation concessions.

Trase can track pulp exports back to the specific plantations that contributed most of the pulpwood. This provides the unique ability to link deforestation and peat fires to specific exports of pulp and its final destination. This unprecedented level of transparency provides a tool for improved management of Indonesia’s pulp sector in the future, including by identifying the supply chains most connected to remaining deforestation hotspots.

Globally peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store. The Indonesian peat swamp forest fires in 2015 emitted nearly 16 million tonnes of CO2 a day, more than the daily emissions from the entire US economy. Damage to peatlands also results in biodiversity loss, and further damage to vital ecosystem services like regulating water flows.

Although the pulp sector has made corporate commitments to manage peatlands in a responsible manner and to have no new development on peatlands in their supply chains, Trase data shows that companies continue to source from plantations established on drained peat. To date, none have committed to phase-out their existing plantations on peatlands.

Urgent protection of peatlands is crucial if Indonesia is to meet its obligations under the 2015 UN Paris Climate Agreement. The unprecedented level of detailed data transparency now available on the Trase platform provides a new tool to tackle this challenge.

Further analysis of Indonesia’s pulp sector is available on Trase Insights. For more updates on the work of Trase, follow us on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

Image: Peatland forest clearance in Kalimantan // Ulet Ifansasti, Greenpeace

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