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WWF responds to criticism of environmental policy in Indonesia

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A new protectionist threat: Anti-growth environmentalism


*Alan Oxley* , Washington | Mon, 08/03/2009 1:16 PM | Opinion


President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had a seat of honor at the last meeting

of the G20, where leaders solemnly promised they would not use protectionist

measures during the greatest economic crisis in 70 years.


Nevertheless, the European Union (EU) has quietly proceeded to implement a

strategy which it settled on six months earlier to use protectionism to

achieve its climate change ambitions. This strategy threatens exports from



The instrument is the " Renewable Energy Directive " . Its purpose is to

encourage consumption of renewable fuels instead of those derived from

fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas.


The EU measure is cagey. It welcomes renewable fuels, such as those based on

vegetable oil. They replace fossil fuels which generate high carbon



But the rules change if the renewable fuel is imported. This is because the

EU policy also serves two other goals, one protectionist, the other



The first is to limit the more carbon-friendly imports because they are

cheaper than European products. The second is to threaten to block imports

of biofuel from Indonesia and other developing countries unless these

countries manage their forests in the way Europe approves.


In a nutshell, the broad goal is to pressure exporters not to reduce the

size of their natural forests. This policy pays no regard to how much

forestry is set aside for conservation. In Indonesia, about one quarter of

the country is reserved for that purpose - roughly the same share of Europe

that remains forested.


Today, the total natural forest estate in Indonesia and other developing

countries is even larger than that. Some forest is converted to other

productive purposes - to create sustainable plantation forests to supply

pulp and paper, to grow crops for food and to provide space for settlement

for rapidly growing populations: in short, to support economic development

and reduce poverty. This is opposed in Europe, hence the effort to coerce

compliance through the trade measure.


The anti-development forestry policy stems from environmental NGOs. The

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is the leader in Indonesia and is

influential in Brussels. It is wealthy. Its turnover is around US$500

million. It also draws funding for its forestry programs from the World

Bank, aid agencies in the Netherlands, UK and Germany as well as US-based



It has been aggressive in Indonesia, using conservation campaigns on tigers,

rhinoceros, orangutans and now climate change to attack forestry. It is not

on strong ground, as research by World Growth, a US-based free market NGO,

has shown.


The UN's climate change advisory body has observed that expansion of

forestry is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions. Forests,

natural and plantation, which produce pulp for paper and employ thousands of

Indonesians are very effective at taking carbon dioxide out of the

atmosphere. Yet environmental activists like WWF and Greenpeace oppose this.

They insist that emissions should be reduced in only one way - quickly

cutting back production of energy from fossil fuels.


This strategy comes at a price. Cheap energy is essential for economic

growth. China opposes such strategies because they undermine efforts to

raise living standards. It argues that such policies should only be

considered after poverty has been eradicated.


Unfortunately, groups like WWF only pay lip service to the development

imperative. Even aid agencies which fund them have criticized them on this

score. It is also reflected in their projects in Indonesia. In a

well-publicized project in the Kampar Peninsula in Sumatra, WWF collaborated

with a major Indonesian paper producer to propose a conservation area which

would be surrounded by plantations. It endorsed the company's paper product

of the company on the strength of its collaboration.


Yet the project never eventuated. Local communities objected to the proposal

and the national Government did not approve it, demanding the conservation

area be reduced.


WWF has also recently backed a program by an Australian zoo to return an

orangutan bred in captivity to Sumatra in an area which was zoned for

forestry - and then attacked forestry operators in that area.


In both cases the environmental lobby misread the priorities of the

Indonesian government and people - and has wasted the time and resources of

Indonesian businesses in the process.


It is not accidental that the EU should seek to use trade barriers to

restrict imports of timber products from Indonesia and other developing

countries. Groups like WWF have advocated such measures for a long time.

They are now urging the EU to expand the use of trade controls to pressure

timber exporters to restrict commercial forestry.


The Yudhoyono government is entitled to be sore about this. It has taken

important action to curtail the incidence of illegal logging in Indonesia

and is acting to bring better order into forestry administration.


It is bad enough that the EU and environmental NGOs would seek to use

measures to tackle climate change as a veil to exert trade leverage to

change forest policies. To do this when the global economy faces the worst

recession in memory and after signing on to commitments not to create new

trade barriers shows just how little regard both have for the economic needs

of developing countries. *The writer is a former Ambassador of Australia to

the GATT, the predecessor of the WTO, and is Chairman of World Growth which

produced the report " Winners All: How Forestry Can Reduce Both Climate

Change. Emissions and Poverty " (www.worldgrowth.org).*





Clarification from WWF


Fri, 08/07/2009 1:56 PM | Opinion


I am writing in response to Alan Oxley's Aug. 3 article, which misrepresents

WWF's position on forest and climate issues. Oxley is so opposed to

conservation efforts that he can't see the forest for the trees.


WWF is not " anti-development " or opposed to responsible forestry practices.

We work with forest industry partners around the world to foster sustainable

production and procurement practices. Currently, in Indonesia alone, 38

companies are members of WWF's Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), which

promotes sustainable production practices that provide economic and social

benefits to businesses and people that depend on forests.


As a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), WWF

also recognizes the important contribution of the palm oil industry to

Indonesia's foreign exchange earnings and employment opportunities.


WWF is, however, opposed to reckless logging or indiscriminate clearing of

forests to make way for plantations and the associated negative impacts on

biodiversity, water sources and the livelihoods of forest-dependent peoples.



We are also acutely aware that such destructive practices are the reason why

deforestation accounts for roughly one fifth of global greenhouse gas



WWF advocates a new global climate deal that creates incentives for forestry

practices that prevent deforestation and sequester carbon. If the Republic

of Indonesia can halt rampant deforestation, it could reap billions of

dollars in overseas investment under such a deal.


Even the Government of Indonesia has recognized this opportunity by

launching " Indonesia Menanam " tree planting initiative and President Susilo

Bambang Yudhoyono, through his official website (www.presidensby.info) has

also called on the nation to halt deforestation, and said, " Forest resources

and the environment are integral parts of economy, social and cultural

development of Indonesia. "


Ian Kosasih

Program Director

Forests, Freshwater and Species Program






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