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What's Hot: David Fogarty's take on the Paris climate talks

Old rivals, new friends?

PARIS - I witnessed a bit of history in the making during the Paris climate talks on Tuesday (Dec 1). Indonesia's two main pulp and paper firms, usually fierce rivals, pledged to work together on conservation issues.

Mr Anderson Tanoto, the young and enthusiastic 26-year-old US-educated director of Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (April), had just announced a S$141 million, 10-year peatland conservation project in Sumatra covering an area twice the size of Singapore. I was at the back of the room speaking with Ms Aida Greenbury, managing director of Sustainability for Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), when Mr Tanoto approached us with a smile and said to Ms Greenbury: "Promise we'll work together and share information".

She agreed and turned to me with a smile and said: "See, you're a witness".

The moment might have been light-hearted but if the agreement leads to meaningful collaboration on conservation issues in Indonesia, it could propel the country's corporate efforts towards much more responsible land use management.

Both April and APP have made significant conservation pledges and this is key because both have large land holdings on fragile peatlands. Large areas of their peatland concessions have been drained and this makes them vulnerable to subsidence and increases the risk of fires during the dry season.

Both companies have a total land bank of 3.6 million ha and both have set aside large areas for conservation. So what they do matters.

Joint collaboration on better peatland management and forest restoration can only be good for their reputation and customer base. It can also serve as an example for other plantation firms to follow and help Indonesia cut its huge emissions from agriculture.

Tomorrow: Climate and croissants

dfogarty@sph.com