Earlier this morning, under a blistering tropical sun, the Greenpeace ship the Esperanza slid slowly in to dock in Jayapura harbour. About 100 people were waiting on the dockside to welcome the crew, including the mayor and a troupe of colourful dancers. I was also waiting, not just to see the ship arrive but to join the crew as we set out on the next stage of our Forests For Climate tour.
Today marks the halfway point in the tour, a three month project to demonstrate that chopping down what little forest areas we have left is making a huge impact the on climate, and not in a good way. It began six weeks ago in Papua New Guinea where the focus was on illegal logging and the damage it’s doing not only to the environment, but also to the communities who live in the forest.
Now the Esperanza moves into Indonesian waters. Over the next six weeks, we’ll be touring the archipelago to do a number of things. We’ll be showing you the incredible wonders of the majestic forests and peatlands in Papua and Sumatra, which will also serve as a reminder of what we stand to lose if the current rates of deforestation continue. We’ll be collecting evidence about companies who are causing the devastation as they expand their operations – the focus will be on the growth of the palm oil industry, but there are plenty of other factors, including industrial logging and mining. And we’ll also be providing solutions to the crisis both long and short term so these forests can be permanently protected.
So why Papua? As one half of the remote and mountainous New Guinea island, it contains the largest area of remaining forest in Indonesia – with those of Sumatra and Kalimintan on the island of Borneo largely gone or degraded, this really is the last frontier. New Guinea as a whole is home to hundreds of distinct tribes and clans with a corresponding range of cultural diversity. And of course the biodiversity is second to none, with animals and plants new to science being recorded on a regular basis.
That alone makes the forests worth protecting, but as we now realise they’re also vitally important when it comes to climate change. Not only do the trees and soil act as huge carbon stores, cutting them down also releases that carbon in the form of greenhouse gases. Indonesia is the third largest emitter on the planet, largely due to deforestation, so if we’re going to beat climate change we have to save the forests, including those in Papua.
The way to do this is to place a moratorium on all deforestation across Indonesia, which will provide the breathing space necessary to work on plans to safeguard the future of these forests. The Indonesian government is the one to lay down a moratorium, but it also needs the palm oil industry to provide ministers the space to do so.
Over the course of the coming weeks, we’ll be filling in the details on this blog – the problems we face, the companies and people involved on both sides of the argument, and what we can do to fix it. You’ll also be introduced to the current crew of the Esperanza, and there’s a similar blog in Indonesian Bahasa running alongside this one.
So come and join us. It’s going to be an exhilarating expedition for all of us, but also a very urgent one. The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world and we don’t have long to prevent the worst predictions becoming inevitable. We still have time if we act now.
by Jamie on board the Esperanza