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Greenpeace Activists: Obama Must Address Climate

Auckland, 13 November 2009 - An international team of Greenpeace activists, in the heart of Indonesia's threatened rainforests, has called on United States President Barack Obama to take urgent action on climate change.

The call has been made as Obama arrives in Asia for his first visit to the region as President and while the United States continues to block progress ahead of the critical UN climate negotiations at Copenhagen next month.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate campaigner Simon Boxer reiterated the call to stop rainforest destruction.

"We're continuing to ask John Key to stop Fonterra importing unsustainable palm kernel animal feed which is one of the products driving rainforest destruction," he said.

One group of activists unfurled a 20 x 30 meter banner in a freshly destroyed area of rainforest that read "Obama: you can stop this", urging him to take strong leadership and work closely with other Heads of State to help avert a climate crisis by ending global deforestation, responsible for about a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. (1)

Another group of activists locked themselves to seven excavators, owned by Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL - RGE), one of Indonesia's biggest pulp and paper producers (2), to prevent it destroying the rainforest to make way for tree plantations (3), grown to make pulp and paper for international customers, including UPM Kymmene. The action took place two days before Obama joins 20 other Heads of State in Singapore to discuss Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and just weeks before leaders must agree an historic deal to avert a climate crisis at the climate at December's UN climate summit.

"Greenpeace is sending President Obama an urgent call to action from the frontline of climate and forest destruction. He has promised to take decisive action on climate change, yet with just weeks left before December's critical UN climate summit, his administration is actively undermining and stalling global climate change negotiations," (4) said Rolf Skar, Greenpeace USA Forest Campaigner. "It is vital that Obama and other world leaders attend the UN climate summit and agree to an ambitious, fair and effective deal that includes ending the destruction of the world's rainforests."

Greenpeace estimates that ending global deforestation requires industrialised countries to invest $42 billion US dollars (E30 billion) annually in forest protection. This is less than the US gave to individual banks during the financial crisis last year.

Yesterday's action took place on the Kampar Peninsula on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where Greenpeace has set up a 'Climate Defenders' Camp'. Rainforest and peatland destruction in Indonesia emits huge quantities of CO2 and has driven it to become the world's third largest climate polluter after China and the US.(5) Activists at the camp are constructing dams across the canals - built by paper companies to prepare the land for plantations - in order to prevent them from draining and destroying the rainforest's carbon-rich peat soil. The peatland in this area alone stores approximately 2 billion tonnes of carbon, which will be released to the atmosphere when it is destroyed. (6) The activists will continue to protect the rainforest and its peatland in coming weeks as the UN climate summit approaches.

"President Yudhoyono of Indonesia recently pledged to reduce emissions from deforestation and Greenpeace is here in the heart of the rainforest to help him turn his promise into action," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Bustar Maitar. "Indonesia is climate change's 'ground zero'. Stopping forest destruction here and around the globe is not only one of the quickest and most cost effective ways to combat climate change but is essential in order to avert runway climate change in our lifetime."

Notes to Editors:
(1) Calculated from: IPCC (2007). IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group III, Final Chapter 1. Page 104. Figure 1.2: Sources of global CO2 emissions, 1970-2004 (only direct emissions by sector).

(2) Most of the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests and peatlands for pulp and paper is caused by two main pulp and paper giants; Asia Pulp & Paper (APP - Sinar Mas) and its main rival, Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL - RGE). Combined, these two companies control over 73% of Indonesia's total pulp capacity, and control two of the world's largest pulp mills.

(3) The 'conversion' of forested peatland is a three-stage process:
- Usually, the most valuable trees are logged for timber.
- A network of canals is built in order to remove logs and drain the peat so that it is suitable to grow plantations of oil palm for vegetable oil or acacia trees for pulp and paper.
- The remaining forest is cleared, which causes the peat to dry out further and to release more CO2, (especially in El Nino years).

(4) The short-term target of the US House of Representatives climate and energy bill is a paltry 4% reduction of 1990 levels by 2020. The IPCC recommends that developed countries slash emissions by at least 40% of 1990 levels by 2020. The massive offsets in the bill (2 billion annual tonnes) means that the US can continue at its current emissions level for years and huge giveaways mean a new generation of nuclear and coal plants."

(5) WRI 2008. Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) Version 6.0 (Washington, DC: World Resources Institute)

(6) Greenpeace calculation based on Wahyunto, S. Ritung dan H. Subagjo (2003). Maps of Area of Peatland Distribution and Carbon Content in Sumatera, 1990 - 2002. Wetlands International - Indonesia Programme & Wildlife Habitat Canada (WHC).

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