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Indonesian company to halt forest destruction

New Delhi, Feb 9 : Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), the palm oil arm of Indonesia-based Sinar Mas, on Wednesday announced a plan to halt the destruction of Indonesia's forests previously caused by their operations.

Approximately 30 percent of the palm oil imports in India are believed to come from Golden Agri-Resources. India is the world's biggest importer of palm oil, most of it from Indonesia.

Destroying forest and peat land for cultivation of palm oil as well as paper and pulp is the main reason why Indonesia is ranked as the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases and is endangering species such as the orang-utan and Sumatran tiger.


Responding to the news, Ashish Fernandes, campaigner for environmental organisation Greenpeace India said: "If implemented on the ground, this will be good news for the forests, endangered species like the orang-utan and for the Indonesian economy.


"Indian players such as Godrej, Hindustan Unilever, VVF and Ruchi-Soya have already communicated their discomfort with purchasing palm oil linked to Indonesian deforestation. This is an important signal that the rest of the Indian industry, and Indonesian producers, need to take note of."

Golden Agri's announcement on Wednesday has given a huge boost to the Indonesian President's pledge to protect forests and tackle climate change. Now the Indonesian Government must support this initiative by stopping any more licences being granted for forest and peatland clearance, and by reviewing activities in areas where licences have already been handed out.


In recent years, Greenpeace revelations showing the destruction caused by Golden Agri-Resources have led to international corporations such as Unilever and Nestle cancelling their contracts with the Indonesian palm oil company.


However, today's move could signal the start of a shift throughout the industry, and eventually lead to full forest and peatland protection.

A key commitment by Golden Agri-Resources is a pledge not to clear 'High Carbon Storage' forest.

Under the company's new plans, they have set a provisional threshold and will not be developing land which contains over 35 tonnes of carbon per hectare. Importantly, this provisional figure is in line with figures for low carbon development recommended to the Indonesian Government by their own advisors.


CAMPAIGN TIMELINE:

November 2007 - Greenpeace release report "Cooking the Climate" exposing the role of the palm oil industry in the destruction of Indonesia's forests.

April 2008 - Greenpeace launch campaign against Unilever for buying palm oil from rainforest destruction.

May 2008 - Unilever undertakes to clear up supply chain and support moratorium on rainforest destruction.

December 2009 - Unilever drops Euro30 million contract with Sinar Mas' palm oil arm Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) following a new Greenpeace report showing GAR's involvement in the destruction of peatland, rainforests and orang-utan habitat.

March 2010 - Greenpeace launch campaign against Nestle for buying from GAR. Nestle, Kraft and Mars drop GAR contracts.

April 2010 - Nestle commit to new "no deforestation" policy.

August 2010 - GAR publish audit of own practises.

September 2010 - Burger King drops contract with GAR as a result of the audit.

September 2010 - The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) criticizes GAR for its environmental and social practices. It will report on its progress to address the issues raised in March 20101.

February 2011 - GAR commit to "Forest Conservation" Plan. (IBNS)

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