Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Nurfika Osman
Jakarta. Analysts and government officials on Thursday accused the environmental group Greenpeace of fabricating its data on environmental destruction in Indonesia, and have called for the group to defend its claims.
In the discussion “Menguak Dusta Greenpeace” (“Revealing Greenpeace’s Lies”), participants said there were strong indications of double standards in the organization’s work, influenced by the political and financial interests of its donors.
The discussion was held to promote a newly published book of the same title, written by Syarif Hidayatullah, a lawyer for plantation and mining interests.
Agus Purnomo, the presidential adviser for environmental affairs, said that while Greenpeace had raised many worthwhile issues, many of its reports of environmental damage “use fake data to harm the target country.”
He cited in particular one of the group’s latest reports, “REDD Alert: Protection Money,” which raises doubts about Indonesia’s commitment to REDD, the UN-backed scheme to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Agus said the report falsely implied the Indonesian government planned to clear more than 63 million hectares of forest by 2030 to make way for pulp, oil palm, mining and renewable energy operations.
He also took issue with another part of the same report in which Greenpeace warned that a $1 billion deal with Norway on REDD Plus initiatives was prone to corruption.
“Where’s the money that has been misappropriated? We know nothing about it,” Agus said.
“All the claims are fake and the writers must clarify them before the House of Representatives and the government.”
Boni Hargens, a political analyst from the University of Indonesia, accused Greenpeace of employing double standards, given that its main donors were major foreign companies.
He questioned why Greenpeace “always fights hard to limit the expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia, but not in other countries.”
He said the organization was also notably silent on the Indonesian operations of foreign firms such as miner Freeport and ExxonMobil, an oil major.
“These are double standards — just another form of modern imperialism imposed on third-world countries like Indonesia,” Boni said.
Syarif said his purpose in writing the book was to “reveal Greenpeace as an agent for multinational companies trying to disrupt local industries.”
He accused the organization of mounting “black campaigns” to harm local industries, such as by lobbying foreign financial institutions and donors to refuse loans to Indonesian-based plantation companies.
Syarif also refuted what he said was Greenpeace data showing that Indonesia was the world’s third-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide after China and the United States.
He cited the World Bank’s World Development Indicators 2010 report that he said showed Indonesia was 19th overall on the global list.
However, the WDI 2010 clearly puts Indonesia a solid fourth, behind China, the US and Russia. The country is also in the top 10 for emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, two other greenhouse gases.
Syarif said his book featured several statements criticizing Greenpeace made by Indonesian politicians, activists, businesspeople, academics, and even Patrick Moore, an early member of the group.
“There are strong reasons for the government to ban Greenpeace from entering Indonesia, and even suing them for their black campaigns,” Syarif said.
Basuki Eka Purnama, a legislator from Bangka-Belitung province, said that while he was a district head there, he frequently saw Greenpeace protest against legitimate local logging and mining firms, while ignoring the illegal operations.
“They only bark when there’s a local company with the potential to compete against a large foreign firm,” he said.
“Local palm oil, pulp and mining companies: those will always be their targets.”
Greenpeace on Thursday denied all the accusations, calling the book an attempt to discredit the organization.
“They’re trying to discredit us in a ridiculous way,” said Yuyun Indradi, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia forest campaigner.
“Our reports are based on research with clear references that they can check.”
He said his group was not driven by any political or financial motivation in carrying out its various campaigns.
“We’re not financed by any companies or governments,” Yuyun said.
“We’re not linked to any political party. We’re driven purely by our mission, which is to help save the environment.”
He said Greenpeace was preparing a rebuttal to the allegations raised in Syarif’s book and considering further actions.
“We’ll respond as soon as possible, by next week at the latest,” he said.
“While we can rebut them, maybe we should just ignore them. Our people are smart. They know what’s been going on so far regarding environmental degradation and what’s behind it.”