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Tackling Land Conflict Should Be a Priority in Stopping Deforestation

Submitted by: Ian Lifshitz

Posted: Feb 03, 2016 – 06:00 AM EST

Tags: environment, deforestation, csr


Land conflict is a pressing issue facing many natural resource-based, agri-businesses and communities around the world. The success of addressing major global issues, such as deforestation, largely depends on land conflict approaches. Prioritizing effective land management and defining clear land ownership and control are two key focus areas for tackling deforestation. However, without control of the forest, there will be no control over deforestation. As the need to tackle global emissions intensifies, it is right that the management of the world's forests, and the role of land conflict within this, receives more attention.

We have experienced this first hand at Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). Those who follow our business will likely recall a recent independent evaluation by the Rainforest Alliance (RA), which recognized us for making moderate progress in the implementation of our Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), also widely known as our Zero Deforestation policy, an effort launched with the support of The Forest Trust and Greenpeace back in February 2013. The RA report found that APP and our suppliers had been successful on our critical commitment to halt deforestation.

The RA, however, also noted that clearance by unauthorized external parties continues. Several factors contribute to this: among them, overlapping concession rights with other businesses, encroachment, illegal activity or the actions of communities living close to our concessions. At APP, we believe more must be done and because of this, our FCP implementation plan for 2015 and beyond addresses unauthorized clearance as a key priority.

But we cannot do it alone.

The Need for Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration

Ultimately, the success of our zero deforestation policy relies on collaboration with everyone involved in the landscape - government, NGOs, other businesses and local communities. This is especially the case where there are fundamental disagreements over land-use rights and even conflicting maps and claims of ownership. We need better spatial planning to develop effective policies on addressing land conflict around the world. In Indonesia, we have in the past called upon the government to extend and enhance the Indonesian Forest Moratorium to give more time to finalize the development of Indonesia's One Map program to provide legal clarity on ownership.

Resolving land conflict will benefit everyone. Knowing their rights will empower local communities. Clarity on land boundaries means that businesses can make long-term, sustainable decisions.

Implementing Zero Deforestation Policies to Aid in Land Conflict Resolution

Nowhere should this impact be greater than in our efforts to tackle deforestation. It is clearly very difficult to address deforestation if it is not even clear who has the legal right to the land in the first place, and this is an issue that applies as much in Indonesia as it does in many other countries around the world.

Deforestation accounts for up to 25 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. If the world fails to tackle deforestation, we miss a golden opportunity to tackle climate change. To echo Neeraj Prasad of the Climate Change Practice at the World Bank, the world cannot meet a 2C target and avoid the prospect of potentially catastrophic climate change if it does not manage a quarter of emissions.

The implementation of REDD+ is a promising sign that forest emissions are being taken seriously. Yet, even with billions of dollars already pledged for REDD+, the vast majority of the money pledged remains unspent, and a world where trees are worth more standing than they are cut down is still some way from being realized. Working out a fair way of pricing and verifying emissions reductions is a significant challenge, but the other major obstacle is land tenure. With poor mapping and weak controls over ownership, it is very difficult for businesses and communities alike to prove ownership of land, and consequently be compensated for protecting forests on that land or even have the legal right to protect them from development. This is an urgent issue that needs to be resolved.

The big lesson from our three years of zero deforestation is that the natural landscape does not adhere to lines drawn on a map by humans. We need more dialogue and transparency from every actor in the forest. No one can go at it alone and resolving land conflict must be at the heart of all our efforts to tackle deforestation.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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