Why Finnish bio-fuels are not so 'green'

Indonesian partners of two large Finnish companies are accused by civic groups of promoting the destruction of rain forests in Indonesia.

Two NGO representatives, Don K. Marut and Rivani Noor said at a press conference in Helsonki on Tuesday that April, a partner of the forest concern UPM-Kymmene, is using rain forest wood as raw material for wood pulp. They also said that the Malaysian company that delivers raw material for the bio-diesel production of Neste Oil is clearing rainforest land and replacing it with oil palms. Marut and Noor were in Finland as guests of Greenpeace.

Neither of the two claimed that the Finnish companies themselves would be taking part in the destruction of rain forests, or that they would get their raw material from areas where rain forest destruction had taken place.

The rate of destruction of Indonesian rain forests is estimated at 3.8 million hectares a year, said Marut, executive director of INFID - the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development. "If the felling continues at this rate, rain forests in low-lying areas will disappear in 10 to 15 years", Marut warned.

The question of preserving rain forests is significant from the point of view of climate change. In 2004 the destruction of forests caused 17 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions of human origin, according to information collected by the International Panel on Climate Change.

Rain forests, and especially those located in peat bogs, tie down large amounts of carbon. When the forests are cleared, carbon dioxide is released, accellerating global warming. Indonesia has the third-largest rain forests in the world, after Brazil and Congo, according to figures of the Global Forest Watch organisation.

Marut says that 80 per cent of the felling in Indonesia takes place illegally, and that pulp manufacturer April is involved with illegal felling. April has the legal right to cut down a million tonnes of raw timber a year, but it uses about twice that amount in its production.

April deliveries pulp manufactured from acacia trees to the UPM paper factory in Changsu, China.
Acacia is grown on plantations, so it is not from trees felled in natural rain forests.

Felling of rain forests is accellerated by the increased demand for palm oil. Indonesia and its neighbour Malaysia account for about 90 per cent of the world's palm oil production.

As Malaysia is starting to run out of land appropriate for cultivation, Malaysian companies are clearing new land for oil palms in the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, Marut says.

The Finnish oil company Neste Oil is manufacturing diesel fuel from palm oil. The company says that it will only buy palm oil that has been produced according to the principles of sustainability. Neste Oil gets its palm oil from the Malaysian IOI Group.

Marut says that IOI's partner Surya Dumai is expending its operations - and in practice, is felling forests in Kalimantan.He adds that the increase in demand for the oil is reflected in occasional shortages of palm oil used for food, even though Indonesia is the world's largest producer of it.

On Wednesday morning a group of about ten activists from Greenpeace locked the biodiesel fuel pumps of a Neste filing station in Helsinki. The activists placed locks on the pump nozzles at about 10 in the morning in such a way that they did not give out fuel.

Police arrived to remove the locks before 11 and detained the activists who were there, some of whom had dressed up as orangutans.Greenpeace says that the establishment of palm oil plantations destroys rain forests where the orangutans live.

The action was timed to coincide with the introduction of bio-diesel to Neste stations in Finland. Bio-diesel is replacing regular diesel at all manned Neste filling stations.