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Charcoal and aquaculture in Indonesia, Lao PDR and Vietnam

Curbing EU-driven emissions from mangroves

Key message

Rising charcoal and aquaculture production, in part driven by increasing imports of the European Union (EU) of these products, is likely to lead to significant impacts on mangroves and emission increases in producing countries. Preliminary research shows that including charcoal under the scope of legal timber trade initiatives and adopting measures to encourage ‘mangrove-friendly’ aquaculture production and trade could reduce EU-driven emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Summary

Fuelwood collection and charcoal production constitute the second most important driver of forest degradation in Asia, behind timber extraction and logging (Hosonuma et al. 2012). Indonesia is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide from deforestation and degradation. Approximately 25 per cent of its emissions from forest degradation are estimated to come from woodfuel use (Pearson et al. 2017). In Vietnam, the figure is estimated at around 14 per cent.

Wood harvesting has caused mangrove degradation across Southeast Asia, and charcoal is often derived from mangrove wood, which produces a high quality product. With respect to deforestation, aquaculture is the primary driver of mangrove conversion in Indonesia followed by oil palm. In Vietnam, the main drivers are urbanisation and aquaculture (Richards and Friess, 2016). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), mangrove area in Indonesia fell by 600 000 hectares between 2010 and 2015, while mangrove area in Vietnam increased by 8 000 hectares as a result of major planting schemes.

Mangrove forests contain some of the highest carbon stocks of any forest type. In the Indo-Pacific region, mangrove carbon stocks in mature forest average 1 023 tonnes per hectare, which is on a similar level to peatlands (Donato et al, 2011). Their loss through forest degradation and deforestation has therefore significant impacts on climate change.

This brief explores charcoal production as a driver of deforestation and degradation in Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) and Vietnam. It also addresses the role of charcoal and aquaculture production as drivers of mangrove loss in Indonesia and Vietnam. 

Key findings include:

Charcoal production and trade in Indonesia, Vietnam and Lao PDR are increasing rapidly

  • In Indonesia, Vietnam and Lao PDR, woodfuel, namely fuelwood and wood for charcoal, respectively accounts for an estimated 24, 48 and 40 per cent of total roundwood production. 
  • In 2015, charcoal exports from Indonesia, Vietnam and Lao PDR accounted for 8, 23 and 6 per cent of wood products exports in roundwood equivalent terms respectively. In all three countries, while charcoal exports have been increasing rapidly,[1] fuelwood exports are minimal.
  • Indonesia’s exports of charcoal reached 2.6 million cubic metres of roundwood equivalent in 2015, exceeding those of wood-based panels. Vietnam’s charcoal exports amounted to 236 406 m3 in 2015, tripling since 2010, while Lao PDR’s reached 432 000 m3, almost quintupling 2010 levels.[2]
  • Charcoal exports from Lao PDR to China have increased sharply in recent years, reaching 284 657 m3 of roundwood equivalent in 2015.
  • Charcoal exported from Indonesia and Vietnam is often manufactured from mangrove wood. A survey of all companies in Indonesia and Vietnam selling mangrove charcoal on Alibaba.com indicated that none use wood derived from certified sustainably managed sources.

EU charcoal imports are increasing

  • EU charcoal imports reached 613 261 tonnes (3 679 568 m3 of roundwood equivalent[3]) in 2015.[4] The main exporters to the EU in 2015 were Nigeria, Ukraine, Cuba, Paraguay, Russia, Indonesia and Namibia.
  • EU imports of charcoal from Indonesia increased by 58 per cent between 2010 and 2015 to reach 201 605 m3 of roundwood equivalent. Imports of charcoal from Lao PDR and Vietnam were minimal.
  • Trade statistics do not indicate from which types of trees charcoal is derived. However, available information suggests that coconut is a major source, followed by a range of species, including mangrove.

Aquaculture production in Asia and exports to the EU are increasing

  • Aquaculture is the primary driver of mangrove conversion in Asia.
  • Indonesia’s marine aquaculture production increased by 39 per cent between 2010 and 2015, while Vietnam’s jumped by 59 per cent.
  • EU imports of crustaceans from Indonesia more than doubled between 2010 and 2015, while those from Vietnam increased more than fivefold.
  • Certification schemes for aquaculture, although not broadly implemented or required by EU importers, commonly require 50 or 60 per cent mangrove cover. Similar regulatory requirements have been issued in Vietnam (Stanley et al. 2015; Beresnev et al. 2016).

The potential role of the EU

  • To reduce EU-driven emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, consideration should be given to include charcoal under the scope of the EU Timber Regulation. Its inclusion should also be considered under the Voluntary Partnership Agreements on forest law enforcement, governance and trade between the EU and Indonesia and between the EU and Vietnam, as well as the one that Lao PDR and the EU are negotiating. Thought should also be given to the implementation of measures to encourage ‘mangrove-friendly’ aquaculture production and trade, including support for zero-deforestation supply chain initiatives, low emissions development strategies and sustainability certification schemes.

Source: CIFOR

Source: CIFOR

Woodfuel production and trade

Woodfuel includes fuelwood and wood for charcoal.[5] According to FAO, in Indonesia, Vietnam and Lao PDR, woodfuel respectively accounted for an estimated 24, 48 and 40 per cent of total national wood products production in roundwood equivalent terms in 2015.[6] However, FAO woodfuel production estimates may be inaccurate.[7] For example, the high ratios of charcoal export to production in Indonesia and Lao PDR suggest that charcoal production was underestimated in these countries.[8]

In roundwood equivalent terms, charcoal exports from Indonesia, Vietnam and Lao PDR in 2015 accounted respectively for 8, 23 and 6 per cent of total wood exports. In all three countries, exports increased significantly between 2010 and 2015 (Figure 1). Fuelwood was not exported in large quantities.

Figure 1: Indonesia, Lao PDR and Vietnam charcoal exports in 2010 and 2015 (in thousands of m3 of roundwood equivalent).

Figure 1: Indonesia, Lao PDR and Vietnam charcoal exports in 2010 and 2015 (in thousands of m3 of roundwood equivalent).

Source: FAOSTAT

Figure 1: Indonesia, Lao PDR and Vietnam charcoal exports in 2010 and 2015 (in thousands of m3 of roundwood equivalent).

Source: FAOSTAT

In 2015, the EU imported 33 601 tonnes of charcoal[9] (201 605 m3 of roundwood equivalent) from Indonesia (Figure 2). This represented a 58 per cent increase in comparison with 2010. Negligible amounts of charcoal were imported by the EU from Lao PDR and Vietnam.

China, Japan and the Republic of Korea also imported significant amounts of charcoal from Indonesia, with imports increasing rapidly between 2010 and 2015. Charcoal exports from Lao PDR to China also increased exponentially. In 2015, they reached 299 878 m3 in roundwood equivalent terms, showing a 15 fold increase from 2010. The role of the United States in charcoal trade with all three countries was limited.

Figure 2: Charcoal exports to the EU, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (R. Korea) and the United States from Lao PDR, Indonesia and Vietnam in 2015 (in thousands m3 of roundwood equivalent).

Figure 2: Charcoal exports to the EU, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (R. Korea) and the United States from Lao PDR, Indonesia and Vietnam in 2015 (in thousands m3 of roundwood equivalent).

Source: UN Comtrade

Figure 2: Charcoal exports to the EU, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (R. Korea) and the United States from Lao PDR, Indonesia and Vietnam in 2015 (in thousands m3 of roundwood equivalent).

Source: UN Comtrade

At 3.7 million m3 in roundwood equivalent terms, imports of charcoal to the EU in 2015 greatly exceeded those to other major global consumers. EU charcoal imports rose by 7.7 per cent between 2010 and 2015 (Figure 3). 

Figure 3: Charcoal imports into the EU, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (R. Korea) and the United States in 2010 and 2015 (in thousands m3 of roundwood equivalent).

Figure 3: Charcoal imports into the EU, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (R. Korea) and the United States in 2010 and 2015 (in thousands m3 of roundwood equivalent).

Source: UN Comtrade

Figure 3: Charcoal imports into the EU, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (R. Korea) and the United States in 2010 and 2015 (in thousands m3 of roundwood equivalent).

Source: UN Comtrade

Indonesia was the sixth largest source of EU charcoal imports, accounting for 5.5 per cent of the total (Table 1).  Trade statistics do not indicate the extent to which charcoal is derived from trees of different types. However, information below suggests that coconut is a major source, followed by a range of species, including mangrove.

Table 1. EU charcoal imports, in 2010 and 2015, and countries accounting for >5 per cent in 2015

Year Partner Tonnes Roundwood equivalent (m3) % of EU imports
2010 World 569 289 3 415 734 100.0
2015 World 613 261 3 679 568 100.0
2015 Nigeria 143 486 860 913 23.4
2015 Ukraine 110 298 661 789 18.0
2015 Cuba 63 735 382 410 10.4
2015 Paraguay 57 995 347 970 9.5
2015 Russia 37 718 226 307 6.2
2015 Indonesia 33 601 201 605 5.5
2015 Namibia 31 005 186 031 5.1

Source: UN Comtrade, EU countries reporting

Charcoal production and producers

A web-based assessment of charcoal vendors suggests that a significant proportion of charcoal in Indonesia and Vietnam is manufactured from mangrove wood. The companies assessed were:

Similarly, searches for ‘charcoal’ and for ‘charcoal made from specific types of wood’ show a predominance of coconut-derived products, followed by a range of other sources, including mangrove wood (Table 2).

Table 2. Number of products listed using different search terms on Alibaba.com on 13 June 2017

Search term Products  
  Indonesia Vietnam
Charcoal 1086 7932
Coconut charcoal 694 1297
Bamboo charcoal 38 852
Mangrove charcoal 49 402
Coffee charcoal 34 211
Acacia charcoal 38 143
Tamarind charcoal 71 0

On Alibaba.com, a platform for global wholesale trade, searches for charcoal from Lao PDR suggest that white charcoal derived from Cratoxylum Formosum dominates charcoal exports.

Of 16 Indonesian exporters advertising on Alibaba.com, four responded to enquiries regarding the sustainability of mangrove charcoal production. Three indicated that production was sustainable, but none reported using wood from certified sustainably managed sources. Of 16 Vietnamese exporters, two responded to enquiries regarding the sustainability of mangrove charcoal production, but neither reported using wood from certified sustainably managed sources. 

Mangrove area

FAO’s 2015 Forest Resources Assessment shows a rapid decrease in the extent of mangroves in Indonesia over recent years and a gradual increase in Vietnam. Between 2005 and 2015, figures suggest 1.2 million hectares of mangroves were lost in Indonesia (-4.2 per cent per annum compared to -0.7 per cent in forest area as a whole). For Vietnam, an increase of 208 000 hectares was reported (15.9 per cent per annum compared to 1.2 per cent in forest area as a whole).

Figure 4: Mangrove area in Indonesia and Vietnam (thousands of hectares).

Figure 4: Mangrove area in Indonesia and Vietnam (thousands of hectares).

Source: FAO Forest Resources Assessment 2015

Figure 4: Mangrove area in Indonesia and Vietnam (thousands of hectares).

Source: FAO Forest Resources Assessment 2015

Richards and Friess (2016) reported that between 2000 and 2012, conversion of mangroves in Indonesia was driven mainly by aquaculture, followed by oil palm. In Vietnam, urban development was the biggest driver, followed by aquaculture and rice (Table 3).

Table 3. Percentage of total deforested mangrove between 2000 and 2012 converted to different land uses

Country Aquaculture Rice Oil palm Mangrove Urban Other
Indonesia 48.6 0.1 15.7 22.6 1.9 11.2
Vietnam 21 10.4 0.5 0.6 62.5 4.9

Source: Richards and Friess (2016)

Aquaculture production and trade

Indonesia’s marine aquaculture production increased by 39 per cent between 2010 and 2015 while Vietnam’s jumped by 59 per cent (Table 4).

Table 4. Aquaculture production (in tonnes), including marine fishes and crustaceans

  2010 2015
Indonesia 452 440 629 334
Vietnam 420 621 667 424

Source: FAO Fisheries Global Information System database

Indonesia’s global exports of crustaceans fell by two per cent between 2010 and 2015, while Vietnam’s dropped by 18 per cent. However, exports of crustaceans to the EU from Indonesia more than doubled, while those from Vietnam increased more than fivefold over the same period (Figure 5).

 

Figure 5: Global (left) and EU (right) crustacean imports from Indonesia and Vietnam in 2010 and 2015 (in thousands of tonnes).

Figure 5: Global (left) and EU (right) crustacean imports from Indonesia and Vietnam in 2010 and 2015 (in thousands of tonnes).

Source: UN Comtrade

Figure 5: Global (left) and EU (right) crustacean imports from Indonesia and Vietnam in 2010 and 2015 (in thousands of tonnes).

Source: UN Comtrade

The potential role of the EU

The information presented in this brief calls for further research into the impact of EU consumption of charcoal and aquaculture products on forests and resulting emissions.

As part of its action plan aimed at combatting illegal logging and improving forest governance, the EU adopted the Timber Regulation. The Regulation, which became effective in 2013, prohibits operators in Europe from placing illegal timber and products on the EU market. 'Legal' timber is defined as timber produced in compliance with the laws of the country where it is harvested. There may be an opportunity to reduce emissions from charcoal production by including charcoal within the scope of the EU Timber Regulation. This would impose on European importers of charcoal the obligation to exercise due diligence to ensure that the charcoal was produced in compliance with the laws of the country of origin.

Also under this action plan, the EU entered into a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on forest law enforcement, governance and trade with Indonesia in 2014. VPAs are treaties that the EU makes with timber-producing countries that export timber and timber products to the EU. Under its VPA, Indonesia has developed a system to assure the legality of its timber. If charcoal were included within the scope of the VPA, it would be subject to this timber legality assurance system. This system requires consignments to be covered by a valid legality or sustainable forest management certificate, or a Suppliers Declaration of Conformity. Furthermore, the Indonesia-EU VPA not only covers products intended for export, but also the domestic market. Including charcoal under its realm could therefore lead to greater sustainability in its production and enhance legality and sustainability controls.

In Lao PDR and Vietnam, inclusion of charcoal within the scope of the VPA should also be considered, in particular in relation to forest and mangrove conversion. To better assess the potential role of the EU in reducing emissions resulting from charcoal production, further research on the scale and nature of charcoal production, including from mangroves, and of charcoal supply chains to the EU would be valuable. 

Measures to encourage ‘mangrove-friendly’ aquaculture production and trade, including support for zero deforestation supply chain initiatives, low emissions development strategies and sustainability certification schemes, could also be considered. The adoption of these measures could reduce the role of EU consumption in driving emissions from mangrove clearance. More detailed assessment of the extent to which EU aquaculture imports are driving mangrove conversion would, however, be valuable.

In addition to direct action aimed at reducing emissions embedded in EU imports, efforts should be made to raise awareness of European consumers of the impacts of charcoal and aquaculture production on emissions. These efforts could trigger action to ensure the sustainability of these supply chains, which receive little public attention in comparison with those for timber, palm oil and other major forest-risk commodities.

Source: CIFOR

Source: CIFOR

References

  • 1 Beresnev, N., Phung, T., Broadhead, J.S., Mangrove-related policy and institutional frameworks in Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam, FAO and IUCN Bangkok, 2016
    http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/d99b8f9e-2e4e-4ec8-863d-d48a97806e37/
  • 2 Broadhead, J.S., National statistics related to woodfuel production and consumption in developing countries, survey-based woodfuel studies, and international recommendations on woodfuel surveys, Report prepared as part of the FAO Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics, 2016, FAO, Rome.
    http://gsars.org/en/tag/forestry/
  • 3 Crooks, S., von Unger, M., Schile, L., Allen, C. & Whisnant, R., Understanding Strategic Blue Carbon Opportunities in the Seas of East Asia, Report by Silvestrum Climate Associates for Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, with support from the Global Environment Facility and United Nations Development Programme, 2017.
  • 4 Donato, D. C. et al., Mangroves among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics, Nature Geosci, 2011, 4, p. 293-297.
  • 5 Giri, C. et al., Status and distribution of mangrove forests of the world using Earth observation satellite data, Global Ecology and Biogeochemistry, 2011, 20: p. 154-159.
  • 6 Hamilton, S. and Casey D., Creation of a high spatiotemporal resolution global database of continuous mangrove forest cover for the 21st century (CGMFC-21), Global Ecology and Biogeochemistry, 2016, 25: p. 729-738.
  • 7 Hosonuma, N., Herold, M., De Sy, V., De Fries, R. S., Brockhaus, M., Verchot, L., Angelsen, A. and Romijn, E., An assessment of deforestation and forest degradation drivers in developing countries, Environmental Research Letters, 2012, 7(4), p. 1-12.
  • 8 Pearson, R.H.T., Brown, S., Murray, L., Sidman, G., Greenhouse gas emissions from tropical forest degradation: an underestimated source, Carbon Balance and Management, 2017, 12(3), doi:10.1186/s13021-017-0072-2
  • 9 Richards, D.R. and Friess, D.A., Rates and drivers of mangrove deforestation in Southeast Asia, 2000-2012, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016, p. 113, 344-349.
    http://www.pnas.org/content/113/2/344.full.pdf
  • 10 Spalding, M., World atlas of mangroves, Routledge, 2010.
  • 11 Syvitskiet, J. et al., Sinking Deltas Due to Human Activities. Nature Geoscience, 2009, 2:681-686.
  • 12 Stanley, L., Roe, S., Broadhead, J.S. and Parker, C., The Potential of Voluntary Sustainability Initiatives to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, USAID Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (USAID LEAF) program, Bangkok, 2015.
    http://www.leafasia.org/library/potential-voluntary-sustainability-initiatives-reduce-emissions

Endnotes

  • 1

    [1] FAOSTAT database, available at: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/FO

  • 2

    [2]FAOSTAT database, available at: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/FO

  • 3

    [3]Conversion factor of six used to convert between tonnes charcoal and cubic metres of wood.

  • 4

    [4]Source: UN Comtrade database, available at: https://comtrade.un.org/data/

  • 5

    [5]The UN Comtrade figures used in this brief are for HS 440290 - Wood charcoal of wood other than bamboo (including shell or nut charcoal), whether or not agglomerated. FAO production and trade figures do not distinguish wood charcoal amounts including/excluding bamboo. However, a comparison of trade data from UN Comtrade including and excluding bamboo charcoal shows that the volume of bamboo charcoal is not very significant in the countries covered in this brief.

  • 6

    [6]FAOSTAT database accessed 20 April 2018.

  • 7

    [7]See Broadhead 2016 and Pearson et al. 2017.

  • 8

    [8]Indonesia’s charcoal exports for 2015 reported in FAOSTAT account for 66 per cent of total estimated production. For Lao PDR and Vietnam the figures are 77 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. A broad comparison between 2015 charcoal export figures from Indonesia (436 510 tonnes) reported in FAOSTAT and charcoal imports reported by all trading partners to UN Comtrade (361 282 tonnes) suggests that charcoal production may be underreported in Indonesia. Lao PDR charcoal export quantities reported in FAOSTAT for 2015 closely coincide with import figures reported by trading partners to UN Comtrade, suggesting that charcoal production may also be underreported in this country.

  • 9

    [9]UN Comtrade database (HS 440290 - Wood charcoal of wood other than bamboo (including shell or nut charcoal), whether or not agglomerated) accessed on 20 April 2018: https://comtrade.un.org/data/