Surging international demand for commodities such as oil palm, sugar, timber, pulp, paper and, increasingly, for biofuels and feedstocks, is driving massive plantations expansion in the planet’s last remaining tropical forests.
While many plantations are legal, many are illegal. A 2010 government study of Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province revealed that 80 per cent of plantations and mining companies were operating illegally.
During the past decade, 5.5 million hectares of forest on the Indonesian islands of Kalimantan and Sumatra have been cleared. Of this, 350,000 hectares (3,500 sq km / 1,350 square miles) was within biodiversity conservation and watershed protection areas which should, by law, not be converted.
In recent years, increasing efforts to reduce forest conversion have spawned a range of responses from NGOs, governments, industry, and international stakeholders. EIA’s work on forest conversion is focused on:
- Documenting forest clearance, particularly illegal forest conversion, in frontier regions of Indonesia
- Drawing links between destructive plantations expansion and demand for biofuels
- Monitoring climate change-related forest conservation schemes, such as REDD+, for ’perverse incentives‘ which encourage conversion of natural forests for monoculture carbon