APP retires commercial plantations to restore peatlands

Signal of change / APP retires commercial plantations to restore peatlands

By Juliette Aplin / 25 Aug 2015

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has announced it will be retiring 7,000 hectares of its active plantations to restore carbon-rich peatlands in Indonesia.

This will be the first time a commercially profitable peat plantation has been retired and restored by its owners for conservation purposes.

The peat forests would have reportedly generated US$50 million in revenue for Asia Pulp & Paper if pulp production had continued.

Peatland areas are critical for carbon storage, but are often drained for development, which releases carbon into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. APP will block its drainage canals and flood the land in order to revive the peatland.

Aida Greenbury, Managing Director of Sustainability at APP, explains the company’s decision:

“the retirement of active plantations is not an easy decision for any business to take, but we believe that taking urgent steps to protect remaining areas of peatland forest, as well as reducing and avoiding climate emissions from peatlands, must be a priority. While there is still a long way to go, and we have much to learn, this announcement today represents a major breakthrough.”

So what?

APP has acted without legal requirement to stop commercial activity in the peatlands. In doing so, APP seems to have chosen long-term sustainability over short-term financial gain.

This decision illustrates the tension faced by industries whose business is predominantly dependent on non-renewable resources, and their increasing need to transition to a more sustainable growth model.

Some question whether the decision is sufficient in restoring the tropical peatlands. Marcel Silvius, Head of Wetlands International’s programme on Climate-smart Land-use commented, "We welcome APP's statement that the retirement of 7,000 hectares is just a first step in a long process. However, this is only a small step to address an enormous problem.”

Image credit: Rainforest Action Network / Flickr

Sources

Eco-Business (August 13, 2015) APP takes big move to restore forests ahead of profits

APP (August 13, 2015) Press release: Asia Pulp & Paper commits to the first-ever retirement of commercial plantations on tropical peatland to cut carbon emissions

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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