EoF Report: Riau RKT 2010 natural forest and peat conversion

EoF Investigative Report / 01 December 2010

Applications and Approval of 18 New RKT Licenses to Drain Peat and Clear Natural Forest in Direct Violation of Climate and Biodiversity Conservation Pledges by Companies and Government 

The RKT licenses allow the companies to drain peat soil and clear natural forest in their concessions. The cleared timber, so-called mixed tropical hardwood (MTH), is used to produce pulp for paper. Eleven companies are affiliated with the Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper (SMG/APP) and six are with the Raja Garuda Mas Group’s (RGM) Asia Pacific Holdings Limited (APRIL).

SMG/APP and APRIL are complex, nestled webs of companies involved in the pulp & paper businesses of the SMG and RGM groups, headquartered in Shanghai and Singapore respectively.   14 of the 18 RKT licenses that SMG/APP and APRIL had applied for and that the Ministry of Forestry had approved are on deep peat of more than 3 meters depth. About 90% of the natural forest area where the new RKT licenses allow to clear stand on peat soil, a lot of them on peat with more than 4 meters depth (Map 1).

These RKT licenses should never have been issued as natural forest on peat deeper than 3 meters is protected by Presidential Decree Number 32/1990, Government Regulation Number 26/2008 and Law Number 26/2007. Both clearing of dense natural forest and draining of deep peat to produce pulp undermines the President’s global commitment to reduce the country’s mostly LULUCF and peat drainage-related GHG emissions by up to 41% Some of the companies received their RKT licenses to clear natural forests while other government agencies were investigating issues of legality and corruption regarding permits issued to companies affiliated with them.

In 2009, the Government of Indonesia is committed to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 41% relative to business as usual levels by 2020 with a focus on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests and tropical peatland. Indonesia’s Minister of Forestry stated that since he was appointed in November 2009, he has “not signed a single permit for companies to convert natural forests or peatlands”.

On 26 May 2010, Indonesia and Norway signed a Letter of Intent to form a partnership “to contribute to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and peatland conversion”. Norway committed to support these efforts with $1 billion USD. However, Eyes on the Forest’s July 2010 Investigative Report, and photographic evidence revealed that two pulp & paper giants -- the Sinar Mas Group’s Asia Pulp & Paper (SMG/APP) headquartered in Shanghai, China, and the Raja Garuda Mas Group’s Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (APRIL), headquartered in Singapore -- continue conversion of natural forest and deep peat in Sumatra’s Riau Province.

Riau already is Indonesia’s province with the highest GHG emissions and one of the candidates to become a REDD+ pilot province under the Indonesia-Norway agreement. EoF’s July report documented large-scale natural forest clearance by SMG/APP and APRIL against their own published sustainability policies and commitments to buyers, investors and the general public to protect high conservation value forests, critical species habitats and the climate.

Their actions also challenged our President’s commitment to reduce the country’s carbon emissions. They undermine Indonesia’s commitment to ensure the survival of the critically endangered Sumatran tiger in this Year of the Tiger. These “planned deforestations” were allowed by annual cutting licenses (Rencana Kerja Tahunan or RKT), approved by the previous Minister of Forestry in 2009 after the abrupt and questionable cessation of a police investigation into illegal logging by the pulp industry (EoF April 2010 Investigative Report , EoF July 2010 Investigative Report).

On 2 July 2010, Media Indonesia reported that the Ministry of Forestry issued “17 new RKT licenses” to cut natural forest in Riau. In this investigative report, Eyes on the Forest investigated the location of these licenses to assess their negative impacts to alert those who could take actions to stop the RKTs from being executed.