UN Environment Programme Statement on Southeast Asian Fires Fri, Nov 6, 2015

UNEP stands ready to assist in the implementation of the ASEAN agreement on transboundary haze pollution and achieving the vision of Haze-free ASEAN by 2020 if not before.

Firefighters battling the fire at night outside Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/ CIFOR

Nairobi, Kenya, 6 November 2015 - UN Environment Programme Executive Director Achim Steiner issued the following statement today regarding the ongoing fires on the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Papua:

"UNEP has observed with increasing alarm the spread of forest and peat fires on the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Papua. We are deeply concerned about the effects these fires are having not only on the health of local populations, ecosystems and wildlife, but the global climate as well.

"Reports that the fires are emitting as much carbon into the atmosphere in a day as some countries are in a year reflects the global ramifications of this disaster. Locally, one-third of the endangered wild orangutans on Borneo are threatened by the fires, and biodiversity hotspots such as the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra are under extreme threat.

"While the fires this year are particularly damaging, this is an annual, systemic issue that will need to be addressed with an integrated approach over the long term. This issue spans human health, climate change and sustainable use of ecosystem services. It is important that any solution take into account the multifaceted nature of the problem.

"Of immediate need is the issuance of a national moratorium on using fires for clearing any type of forest land until fires have stopped, rains have re-appeared and, most importantly, Indonesia has rethought how to allocate and manage peatland and its forests resources. Large-scale land owners and companies will need to be held accountable for damage caused. At the same time, there must be a major effort given over to promoting sustainable business practices, including in procurement and supply chains, and raising consumer awareness of unsustainable palm oil products.

"UNEP stands ready to assist in the implementation of the ASEAN agreement on transboundary haze pollution and achieving the vision of Haze-free ASEAN by 2020 if not before. We will continue to offer our support to the Government of Indonesia in its efforts to deal with the immediate and long-term impacts of the fires, including long-term sustainability initiatives that can help reduce the encroachment of agriculture on forests. We will also support any UN system wide efforts initiated through the 7th ASEAN-UN Summit later this month. We will also continue to engage in efforts such as the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation initiative (UN-REDD) and the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), which can help to address the issue of deforestation directly and offer our extensive networks and mechanisms, including the Asia Pacific Clean Air Partnership and the Asia network of judges and judiciary working on the environmental rule of law, to help find a lasting solution."

Background on UN-REDD

The UN-REDD Programme is the United Nations collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries. The Programme was launched in 2008 and builds on the convening role and technical expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The UN-REDD Programme supports nationally-led REDD+ processes and promotes the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders, including Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities, in national and international REDD+ implementation.

The Programme supports national REDD+ readiness efforts in partner countries spanning Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, in two ways: (i) direct support to the design and implementation of UN-REDD National Programmes; and (ii) complementary support to national REDD+ action through common approaches, analyses, methodologies, tools, data and best practices developed through the UN-REDD Global Programme.

Background on Other Initiatives in Indonesia

The GAMBUT project is a UNEP-supported initiative that aims to ensure forest and peat land fire risk management is fully mainstreamed in the development planning processes of high-risk areas in Indonesia, leading to a reduction in hotspot incidence and consequently, reduced haze impacts and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the land-use sector. More information can be found here

UNEP's Partnership for Action on the Green Economy (PAGE) has been working in Indonesia since 2010, in an effort to make agricultural practices more sustainable. More information can be found here

The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) is a unique alliance of 100 national governments, conservation organizations, research institutions, United Nations (UN) agencies, and private companies, committed to ensuring the long-term survival of chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, and bonobos and their habitats in Africa and Asia. GRASP has operated in Southeast Asia since 2001. More information can be found here

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