Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Climate Defenders Camp established to preserve Indonesian Rainforest Peatlands

Photo: Greenpeace/ Ardiles Rante. Greenpeace activists and local volunteers attempt to halt drainage by constructing dams on the peatland canalsFifty members of Greenpeace and members of the local forest community have set up a Climate Defenders Camp on the Kampar Peninsula, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. They have spent the last week constructing a dam across one of the many canals built to drain the rainforest and peat soils in order to make way for plantations. This forest destruction emits huge quantities of CO2 and has led Indonesia to become the world's third largest climate polluter after China and the US. Global deforestation is responsible for about a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions.

"We are taking action to stop climate change right here at the frontline of forest destruction. To pull the world back from the brink of a climate crisis, we need Obama, Merkel, Sarkozy, Brown and other world leaders to commit to much deeper cuts in emissions from fossil fuels and to provide the critical funds needed to end deforestation. If they fail, we will face mass species extinction, floods, droughts and famine in our lifetime," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Bustar Maitar. See Photos of the Climate defenders Camp | Youtube Video: Greenpeace - Saving Sumatra's Peatland Forests

The action was taken to coincide with negotiations in Barcelona, Spain for the final round of talks before December's critical UN climate summit in Copenhagen. Negotiations in Bangkok have resulted in Copenhagen Climate treaty may Subsidise Forest Destruction

According to the Greenpeace report the Kampar Peninsula "is home to one of the largest tropical peat swamps in the world and is one of the largest natural carbon stores on the planet. Covering an area of more than 700,000 hectares, the peat in this area is particularly deep. It stores about 2 billion tones of carbon, more per hectare than any other land ecosystem, so is one of the key global defences against climate change."

The indigenous Akit people live on the peninsula and engage in predominantly sustainable activities through fishing, hunting and small scale horticulture on its borders and waterways. Villagers in the south of the Peninsula have taken action to protect their land by building dams to prevent industries operating in the area from draining the peat soil and destroying the environment they depend on.

Photo: Greenpeace. Smoke from man made forest fires in the RAPP concession in Giam Siak Kecil area to clear land for palm oil plantations.
Greenpeace says that 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:

  • 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).

A 2007 study of the Kampar Peninsula said that the "Largest single threat is currently pulp and paper company APRIL's Kampar Ring conversion
plan that would directly clear nearly half of the remaining forest cover."

South East Asian forests store at least 42 000 Million metric tonnes (Mt) of soil carbon. According to a scientific paper published July 2009 - Current and future CO2 emissions from drained peatlands in Southeast Asia - of the 27.1Million hectares (Mha) of peatland in Southeast Asia, 12.9 Mha had been deforested and mostly drained by 2006. The extent of carbon emissions released by destruction of these peatlands "makes conservation of remaining forested tropical peatlands, and rehabilitation of degraded ones, a significant opportunity for carbon emission reductions. The concentrated nature of these emissions, they are produced on less than 0.1% of the global land area, makes them potentially easier to manage than many other emissions caused by multiple types of land conversion. Improved water management planning for whole hydrological units (peat domes) is the basis for conservation of peat resources."

The report concludes "A post-Kyoto treaty after 2012 which includes carbon credits from Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is one of the most important opportunities for tropical peatlands to be valued for their environmental importance. This development will largely determine the opportunities for improved management, rehabilitation and conservation, and consequently the magnitude of ghg emissions in the future."

Mélanie Laurent, star of Quentin Tarantino's new film Inglourious Basterds, helped with the daming and said "Forest destruction is one of the main causes of climate change. That is why I came here to the frontline of forest destruction with Greenpeace, to call on world leaders to end deforestation both here and around the globe. It is key to preventing a climate catastrophe,"

Greenpeace estimates that ending global deforestation requires industrialised countries to invest $42 billion (EUR30 billion) annually in forest protection. Greenpeace is releasing an Indonesian Forest Fund plan at the climate meeting in Barcelona.

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